By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
A LARGE number of representatives of reputable publishing outfits in Nigeria turned up for the stakeholders’ forum for the development of textbooks in line with the new Senior Secondary Education Curriculum (SSEC) which held in Lagos on Thursday last week at the behest of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council.

Publishers at the roundtable that enthusiastically expressed interest to develop the textbooks on public-private partnership deal  include Africana First Publishers, University Press Plc, Nelson Publishers, Pacific Publishers Ltd, HEBN, Suntos International Services Ltd among others.

The roundtable was, however, a follow-up to an earlier meeting with the publishers that took place in Kaduna where it was unanimously decided that the expression of interest by publishers on the development of the SSEC text books be done in writing and that it would be treated on the basis of first come, first serve.

Thus, the Lagos stakeholders’ forum was meant to be a re-affirmation of such interest. However, the publishers are again to express their interest in writing and it is to be considered in sequential order of their arrival at the NERDC headquarters in Abuja.

Although each publishing company is expected to provide the lion share of the fund for executing the text books project or may even fund it 100 per cent, and will thereafter recoup their investment in royalties, the Executive Secretary of NERDC insists that final agreement will be reached with the publishers during the bilateral talks to be held with each of them.

Prof. Obioma explained that NERDC is most willing to partner with the publishers since the parastatal is statutorily mandated to provide the enabling  environment under which book publishing will thrive in the country, adding that the agency will provide the publishers with institutional supports.

But, apart from providing the NERDC the opportunity to interact with these publishers on the public – private  partnership arrangement, it also enabled it to sensitize the publishers to the contents and structure of the new curriculum, with a view to familiarizing them with the type of books they are expected to write based on the new curriculum.

The Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof. Godswill Obioma, who attended the roundtable in company with the parastatal’s Head of Language Development Centre, Dr. Chinyere Nwagbara and Head of Book Development Centre, Dr. Imaobong Nsehe as well as the National President of ANCOPSS, Chief Adeniyi Falade who is also a member of NERDC Governing Board, told the publishers that the new SSEC comprises of a group of five compulsory cross-cutting core subjects including English Language, General Mathematics, one Trade/Entrepreneurship Studies, Computer Studies/ICT and Civic Education, and that a student is to take three or four subjects from any of the four fields of studies Humanities, Science and Mathematics, Techrology, Technology and Business Studies, adding that a student can also choose an elective subject from any field other than his/her own chosen field of study or from the 35 trades with the compulsory core trade/entrepreneurship selected from the group of 35 trades.

He explained further that there are 35 trade/entrepreneurial subjects out of which each Senior Secondary School is to  choose the ones it can effectively teach.

His words: “The curriculum is designed in such a way that by the time the students complete their senior secondary education, they will not be looking for white-collar jobs as they would have been taught one trade/entrepreneurial subject. For those of them who are not interested in furthering their studies, they can learn the trade further by going to Innovative Enterprise Institute.

“There are 34 trade subjects but every secondary school is expected to start teaching the trade subjects that they have enough resources for. A secondary school is also expected to teach a trade subject which is in consonance with the culture of the community where it is located”.

On why computer/ICT, trade/entrepreneurship and Civic Education are made core compulsory for all students, Obioma said, “Computer/ICT knowledge, management now drives global development, and that all students therefore need to be ICT literate for their world of work and global competitiveness. Civic Education will make the students better citizens to be able to contribute maximally to national development and that trade/entrepreneurship provides the required skills for job creation and poverty eradication”.

But, given the fact that the implementation of the new Senior Secondary Education Curriculum will commence in SS1 from September 2011, a question was fired at the NERDC boss by this writer on how senior secondary schools across the country that presently do not have workshops and equipment will successfully teach some of the trade/entrepreneurial subjects which require practical teachings.

His reply: “By the time the implementation of the curriculum starts in September next year, it would have been the fourth year since the curriculum structure was approved by the National Council on Education, and indeed by all stakeholders. So, school owners at state level must make equipment available to ensure an effective implementation of the SSEC. Development can only come when there is accountability. Nigerians should not be docile, we should not compromise our voting power.

Nigerians should hold state governors and government officials accountable for the provision of the equipment for the teaching of the trade/entrepreneurial subjects in our schools”.

In producing some of the textbooks for the 9-year Basic Education Programme, NERDC had earlier entered into  public-private partnership with four publishing companies including Longman Nigerian Plc, HEBN Publishers Plc, Evans Nigeria Plc and West African Book Publishers Plc through which it saved N20m public funds.

Some of these 9-year Basic Education textbooks produced through PPP and are already being used at the basic level across the country are Basic Science and Technology, Civic Education, Primary Mathematics, Primary English and Social Studies as well as their workbooks and Teachers’ Guide.

The PPP method of books production is in line with some of the Federal Government’s reform policies. For instance, one of its initiatives in funds and resource mobilisation is the strategy of PPP.

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.

In fact, the speedy production of school textbooks in compliance with the new curricula for Basic and Senior Secondary Education is to form part of the actionable plans for the administration of the present Minister of Education, Prof Ruqayyatu Rufa’i.

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