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Nigeria @ 50: Milestones of Nigeria Education

By Dayo Adesulu

MANY milestones heralded Nigeria’s education before 1960. We would step back 17 years before independence to take the report.

1943 – The Elliot Commission was significant in the Nigerian educational system in the pre-independence era. The Commission was established to look into the organisation and the facilities of higher education in British West Africa.

Two reports (a majority and a minority) were submitted by the commission. While the majority report recommended the establishment and upgrading of three higher institutions in West Africa, the minority report recommended only one. The British Parliament however accepted the majority report and paved the way for the establishment of then University College at Ibadan, affiliated to the University of London.

1945 – Education Ordinance introduced of Education Boards in the three regions, the appointment of a deputy director of education for each of the regional boards and the establishment of local educational authorities. It did not permit the establishment of schools without the consent of the deputy director of education. It also allowed the award of financial assistance based on usefulness and efficiency.

1959 – The Ashby Commission advised the Nigerian government on her needs in the field of post-school certificate and higher education in the country over ‘the next 20 years’. The report of the commission showed that the estimated needs for both intermediate and high-level manpower in the next decade outstripped not only the actual supply rate but also the estimated capacity of the existing institutions.

The Commission made far-reaching recommendations which did not only cut across the length and breadth of the Nigerian educational system but which have also had great impact on the development of education in the country today. Among the recommendations were the production of an output of 2,000 graduates a year by 1970, a proposal on the establishment of a National Universities Commission and the fact that enrolment in the universities should reflect national needs in terms of technical and non-technical fields.

The commission also recommended teacher certificate grades one and two crash programmes for teacher
s in order to meet the acute shortage of qualified teachers, an enrolment of 7,500 students in the universities by 1970 and a substantial growth beyond this figure by 1980.

1969 – The Curriculum Conference gave birth to the National Policy on Education, NPE, that housed the Universal Primary Education, UPE, scheme.

1976 – The Universal Education scheme was launched by Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. The planning of the whole of NPE itself was shallow, hasty, ill-informed and disjointed. 1988 – The 6-3-3-4 replaced the 6-5-2-3 system. It did not pass through a “try-out phase” before implementation and therefore the system was collapsed into 6-6-4.

1999 – Universal Basic Education was launched restructured into 9-3-4. The UBE scheme happened to be launched by the federal government under the Obasanjo administration. The scheme was launched as a result of the deplorable and appalling state of education that Obasanjo administration met on ground. The objectives of UBE scheme include among others, the following:

(a) to provide free and compulsory education universally from the first year in the primary to the third year of the junior secondary school, i.e., the first nine years of schooling;

(b) to provide functional literacy for adults, i.e., 15 years and above;

(c) to drastically reduce drop-outs in the primary level by enhancing quality, relevance and effective education; and

(d) to serve as a necessary starting point for curing the ills of the educational system, Lawal 2006.

Apart from the launching of UBE, other education reforms of Obasanjo administration include:

(i) support for Education for Development and Democratic Initiative (EDDI) funded by the United State of America. This programme is meant to help female students from economically disadvantaged homes, orphans and disabled;

(ii) liberalisation of opportunities for higher education. The establishment of National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, private institutions of higher learning especially universities, these are aimed at giving opportunities for higher education;

(iii) boosting budget on education. This has enhanced and attracted better funding to all tiers of educational system. Funding of university are directly under the Federal Ministry of Finance rather than through NUC. Educational Task Fund, ETF, has also been repositioned for efficiency and effectiveness;

(iv) institution of quality control mechanisms: Benchmarks have been established to guide practices and ensure higher quality of tertiary education especially universities. NUC has encouraged universities to mount Education Fairs for ranking the research products of universities;

(v) consolidation of tertiary institutions – In November 2006, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation inaugurated the Presidential Technical Committee for the consolidation of the tertiary institutions. The consolidation shall convert all federal polytechnics and federal colleges of education to campuses of proximate federal universities. This was to eliminate the HND/Bachelor degree dichotomy in the labour market and increase the volume of academic space for admission into tertiary level education by over 500,000 extra candidates per annum.


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