By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
The new Minister of Education, ProfÂ (Mrs) Ruqayyatu Rufaâ€™i has urged the parastaltals under her ministry to emulate the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council by adopting the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative in conducting their activities.
This recommendation came on the heels of her discovery that NERDC conserved a whooping N20m for government by entering into a partnership with four Nigerian publishing companies in producing textbooks for the 9-Year Basic Education programme. The publishers are Longman Nigerian Plc, HEBN Publishers Plc, Evans Nigeria Plc and West African Book Publishers Plc.
The minister, who spoke at the public presentation and launching of the textbooks which held at Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers on Friday last week, said the textbooks are developed in line with the new 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum, adding that school texts are central to the successful implementation of a curriculum.
Represented by the Director of Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Research in the Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. A.F. Salami, Rufaâ€™i said the speedy production of school texts in compliance with the new curricula for Basic and Senior Secondary Education is to form part of her administrationâ€™s actionable plans.
She urged the nationâ€™s major curriculum developer to expand its efforts and initiate actions in the production of school texts for the restructured new Senior Secondary School curriculum, the implementation of which is to commence from September next year beginning from SS1.
The new textbooks produced through the PPP arrangement by the West African Book Publishers Plc are Basic Science and Technology for Primary Schools Books 1-6; Basic Science and Technology for Primary Schools Workbooks 1-6; Civic Education for Primary Schools Books 1-6; Civil Education for Primary Schools Workbooks 1-6; and Civic Education for Junior Secondary Schools Books 1-3 and Civic Education for Junior Secondary Schools Workbooks 1-3.
Primary Mathematics 1-6; Primary English 1-6 and Social Studies JSS 1 books were produced by HEBN Publishers Plc while Longman Nigeria Plc published Basic Technology JSS 1. (Studentsâ€™ Book, Workbook and Teachersâ€™ Guide).
Evans Nigeria Plc on its part came up with English JSS 1 (Studentsâ€™ Book, Workbook and Teachersâ€™ Guide); English JSS 2 (Studentsâ€™ Book, Workbook and Teachersâ€™ Guide) and Social Studies Primary 1 (Pupilsâ€™ Book, Workbook and Teachersâ€™ Guide).
The method adopted by NERDC in producing these textbooks is in tandem with some of the Federal Governmentâ€™s reform policies. For instance, one of its initiatives in funds and resource mobilisation is the strategy of Public-Private Partnership.
Also, the Roadmap for the Nigerian education sector has standards and quality assurance as one of its focal areas and the production of high quality school texts is part of the initiatives at ensuring standards and quality assurance.
The Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof. Godwill Obioma in his address at the occasion says much of the organic connection of the efforts at book production to some of the public-policy driven reform planks of the government.
His words: â€œAs its contribution to actualising the ideals of the Roadmap in the context of standard and quality assurance, NERDC embarked upon the renewal of school curriculum for Basis and Senior Secondary Education and the production of curriculum-complaint schools texts. The first phase of this project is the production of high quality school texts in line with the new 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC). The major aim is to provide one of the key instruments for the effective implementation of the BEC.â€
â€œIn order to boost quality assurance in the maintenance of standards in the context of school textbooks production and use, the National Council on Education approved that states should select books from among the books assessed by the NERDC. On its part, the council has been carrying out quarterly assessment of school texts which are forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Education for recommendation to the states and other stakeholders.
It is my intention to affirm therefore that these books have gone through the grind mill of NERDC assessment. Generically therefore, if the Universal Basic Education programme is to succeed, then only school texts that have successfully been assessed by the council should be selected by public and private school proprietors for use in schools.â€
The National President of the Association of Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Chief Adeniyi Falade who chaired the occasion, described the production of the textbooks as timely and auspicious, especially at the time when the nationâ€™s education system is crying for a decisive intervention from government and other stakeholders.
Falade says: â€œThe launching of these basic education textbooks could not have come at a better time given the fact that ANCOPSS is currently calling for a declaration of state of emergency in the education sector due to the yearly poor performances of our children in public examinations. It is sad to note that students from Ghanaâ€™s public secondary schools have, in recent years, been carting away the annual excellence awards for the West African School Certificate Examination. In the 2008 awards which held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, students from Ghana got the prizes for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd position.
The same ting happened last year except in 2007 when a Nigerian student from the highbrow Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja got the prize for the 1st position and that was the only prize that went to Nigeria that year.â€
The ANCOPSS president blames this sorry state of the education sector on the low quality of teachers teaching in schools, explaining that the best brains do not want to teach because government has failed to make teaching very attractive.
According to him, it is high time all stakeholders carry out a radical, decisive overhaul of the nationâ€™s education such as the restructuring and intervention being done by the NERDC.
Falade said: â€œThe NERDC is delivering on its mandate as the engine room of the nationâ€™s education in terms of engineering and re-engineering our school curricula and in terms of book development. I congratulate the council for being at the forefront of giving hope and meaning to the education of the country.â€
The representatives of the four publishing outfits said that the booksâ€™ presentation is a testimony to the fulfilment of the agreement reached two years ago to partner with NERDC in ensuring that Nigerian children have access to quality textbooks and to ensure the attainment of goals of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals.
Giving kudos to the NERDC boss for driving them to deliver the textbooks on time, the publishers said the effort at fostering working relationship with them is a commendable one, pledging to continue to collaborate with the council.
Noting that the collaboration is an investment on the part of the two partners, the representatives of the publishing companies urge the government to support the effort, explaining that since Nigerians find it so easy to buy recharge cards, they should be interested in buying the books which are sold at affordable prizes.
In attendance at the books presentation were representatives of States Universal Basic Education Board from across the country and the Federal Capital Territory, representatives of the National Universities Commission, Education Trust Fund and representatives of other relevant agencies.