By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
In the last one year, teaching and learning activities in the nationâ€™s primary and secondary schools went on largely uninterrupted.Â This relative peace is a big boost to the effective implementation of the Universal Basic Education programme and a positive development for the 9-year Basic Education Curriculum, the test-running or implementation of which commenced in Primary One and Junior Secondary One in September last year.
The 9-Year basic Education Curriculum is a child of the UBE programme as the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Education, was directed by the National Council on Education (NCE) in December 2005 in Ibadan to develop a school curriculum that will facilitate an effective implementation of the UBE programme through which Nigeria will achieve the goals of NEEDS of value re-orientation, poverty eradication, job creation and wealth generation as well as the international goals of Education For All and the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The kind of curriculum that would do justice to all these foregoing expectations and make it possible for Nigeria to compete with advanced nations technologically must be an encompassing and all-embracing one.
The NERDC realized this fact right from the onset; and painstakingly developed a curricular that would ensure that learners would have acquired basic numeracy, literacy and life-long skills, basic skills in science, technology mathematics and ICT, the basic rudiments for creative thinking, high moral and ethical values as well as the spirit for entrepreneurship skills.
This new 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum structure has the following components:
Lower Basic Education Curriculum for Primaries 1 â€“ 3, Middle Basic Education Curriculum for Primaries 4 â€“ 6 and Upper Basic Education Curriculum for Junior Secondary 1 â€“ 3.Â For the first component, core/compulsory subjects include English Studies, one major Nigerian Language (Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba), Mathematics, Basic Science and Technology, Social Studies, Civic Education, Cultural and Creative Arts, Religious Studies, Physical and Health Education and Computer Studies.Â There are also three elective subjects of Agriculture, Home Economics and Arabic Language out of which pupils at this level must offer one or two subjects at that level.
The same subjects are offered at primary 4 â€“ 6 with the addition of French language; while the subjects are the same from JSS 1 â€“ 3, although Basic Science and Basic Technology are now offered at this level as two separate subjects.Â It should be noted that the Basic Education Curriculum Structure was done in a way to ensure a systematic connection between primary and junior secondary school subjects contents, in order to form building blocks for the learning of future contents.
Curriculum development process at NERDC
Following the approval of this Basic Education Curriculum Structure by the NCE, the highest policy making body in the education sub-sector, the NERDC constituted and chaired a High Level Policy Committee on Curriculum Development (HLPC) in 2006.Â This committee, which was made up of critical stakeholders, took the initiatives of providing the guidelines for re-structuring the curriculum.
NERDC, the Think Tank of Nigerian Education, knows that curriculum revision process is a team work and this informed the inclusion of a large number of stakeholders in the High Level Policy Committee (HLPC).
The committee composed of representatives from relevant parastatals at the Federal and State levels, including representatives from the Federal Ministry of Education, State Ministries of Education, National Commission for Colleges of Education, West African Examinations Council, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, National Examinations Council, National Teachers institute, National Board for Technical Education, Parents Teachers Association, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Civil Society, National Orientation Agency and other relevant bodies.Â The HLPC managed and directed the curriculum development process.
The first phase of the curriculum development process is the planning to which teachers of the various school subjects, made valuable inputs into the curriculum derive from their expertise and wealth of experience garnered in teaching over the years.Â Experts, based on teacher trainers, policy planners and those from the industry also brought their robust participation to bear on the contents and schemes of the curriculum.
At the writing workshop, which was the second stage of the curriculum development process, members of the subject panels were expanded and they diligently wrote the objective, contents, instructional materials classroom activities and evaluation method of all the school subjects at the primary and junior secondary school levels.
Next is the critique workshop made up of teachers and policy experts who were markedly different from those who wrote the curriculum.Â The critiqued panel, which evaluated the curriculum, had a chairman who was independent of the subject panels.Â The editorial workshop was the last stage of the curriculum development where experts in the subject areas were brought in to edit the final draft of the curriculum.
The final draft of the curriculum also went through three approval processes.Â It was first presented to the Joint Consultative Council on Education (JCCE) Reference Committee where it was subjected to further deliberations.Â Those subjects that needed further inputs were referred to NERDC for amendment while those subjects that passed the committeeâ€™s scrutiny were forwarded to the plenary session of JCCE for further consideration.Â It was from here that the final draft went to the NCE after a thorough assessment.
Thus, the process of curriculum development is a long and tortuous one as it involves consultations with a broad spectrum of stakeholders before it can get NCEâ€™s approval.Â The case of the existing 9-Year BEC, which is already being implemented in the country, is not different as the NERDC, in league with other stakeholders, relentlessly laboured for two years, from December 2005 to September 2007, before it secured NCEâ€™s nod for the curriculum.
Since the curriculum represents the total experiences to which all learners must be exposed, the contents, performance objectives, activities for both teachers and learners and evaluation guide are unambiguously articulated in the curriculum.
Relevant instructional materials are also suggested in the curriculum for the teaching of Basic Science and Technology at Primary 4 â€“ 6 levels.Â The curriculum is skills driven in line with its philosophy of imparting marketable and functional skills in the products of the 9-Year Basic Education Programme, thereby making them job and wealth creators rather than job seekers.
Effective implementation of the new 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum however, implies that well equipped workshops are to be provided by the Federal Government for Unity Schools, by state governments for state â€“ owned schools and by private owners for privately-owned schools.
Teachers also need to be trained and retrained for effective delivery of the curriculum contents in the classroom.Â To this end, both the Federal Ministry of Education and NERDC have actually improved teachers capacity in handling the curriculum.Â Last year, the FME picked 41 master trainers from each state of the Federation and FCT, totaling 1,554 and exposed them to rigorous training exercise on the Basic Education Curriculum.
These master trainers are in turn to train teachers in their respective states.
The NERDC has also carried out a series of sensitization and advocacy interactive workshops on the curriculum across the country.
The sensitization and training of teachers by NERDC, in conjunction with top class resource persons, also took place across the country early this year, using Teachers Handbook for the new curriculum for both Primary and Junior Secondary School levels.
On the issue of curriculum dynamism, NERDC has consistently stressed the need for versatility on the part of teachers to enrich the curriculum further in the course of implementation.Â Before presenting the curriculum to the public in 2007, the Executive Secretary of the educational parastatal, Professor Godswill Obioma had hinted on the inexhaustibility of the instructional materials that are prescribed for the teaching of the curriculum.
He said:Â â€œThe prescriptions represent the minimum content to be taught in the schools to achieve the 9-Year Basic Education.Â However, teachers are encouraged to enrich the contents with relevant material and information from their immediate environment, by adapting the curriculum to their needs and aspirationsâ€.
Education stakeholders are also of the view that there is the need for the Federal Government to show more commitment to the idea of Vocational Innovative Enterprise Institutions (VIEI) so that the products of the Nine-year Basic Education programme, who would have acquired professional skills, will still spend additional one or two years, if they are not going into Senior Secondary School, with privately, owned vocational institutions for the purpose of learning more vocational skills.
There is the opportunity of taking the curriculum to this level of sophistication desired as the on-going pilot â€“ testing is meant to bring to the fore areas that need further improvement.Â What is more; the curriculum is to be reviewed periodically with the aim of upgrading it.
The pilot-testing has been faulted by some education stakeholders because, according to them, the implementation ought to be test-run in some selected schools and not in all the Primary one and JSS 1 throughout the country.
But, while experts agree that the pilot-testing of the curriculum in some selected schools is one of the two methods of carrying out the exercise, they opine that the systematic, gradual and stepwise implementation, which commenced in Primary 1 and JSS 1 in September last year, is more plausible for public policy, adding that this year by year implementation will allow for proper planning, teacher capacity development, textbook review, monitoring, evaluation and feedback.Â This method of trial testing, they reason, will also allow gradual phasing out of the old primary school curriculum.
But, in spite of these concerted efforts at ensuring an effective implementation of the curriculum, the monitoring of the implementation process and the rendering of feedback remain a task for all stakeholders, parents, teachers and civil society, policy formulators and so on if we are to assure quality of Nigeriaâ€™s basic education programme.