By Our Reporters
“They say I’m in Basic One, but all I know is that I’m in Primary One,” the little boy who spoke to Vanguard Learning said.
It doesn’t seem far-fetched that a six-year-old should be confused because of the mumbo-jumbo of half baked policies that our educational system has been at the mercy of, over the years. As it is, stakeholders on both sides of the classroom, as well as those who built the classrooms are perplexed.
The 6-3-3-4 system of education, which was introduced in 1982 to replace the 6-5-4 system, according to experts, was designed to inject functionality into the Nigerian school system, by producing graduates who would be able to make use of their hands, head and the heart (the 3Hs of education).
The idea was to have six years of primary education, three years of junior secondary education, another three years of either technical education for those who were more interested in learning a trade or three years of senior secondary school for those who were more academically inclined. The last four years of the 6-3-3-4 system is for tertiary education.
Enter 9-3-4 system
The policy was changed about 24 years later when the then Minister for Education, Dr. Obi Ezekwesili heralded the 9-3-4 system coupled with the privatization of unity schools, hitherto known as Federal Government Colleges. The effect of this change, apart from the havoc wreaked on the already unstable unity schools, was in name only.
It was the 6-3-3-4 system in short form, and the earlier synonym soon replaced the former. A system that even President Goodluck Jonathan, in October 2010, while speaking at a national stakeholders’ meeting on the education sector, said had failed and called on its proponents to apologise to Nigerians.
According to the Policy Advisor, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), Mr. Wale Samuel: “The problem of implementation of 6-3-3-4 is partly due to non-availability of personnel, materials, funds and administrative will. This programme has failed to achieve much not solely because of lack of human and material resources but largely due to poor implementation.”
Education Minister comes with1-6-3-3-4
However, taking a second look at the system, incumbent Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i proposed to the National Assembly (NASS), the need to revert to the old system of 6-3-3-4, but with a modification that would include Early Childhood Education (ECE). In the manner of her predecessors, she also christened the system hence the name 1-6-3-3-4.
However, without relevant structures and facilities to back up such renaming ceremonies, the education system is naturally taking a turn for the worst. Visits to many technical colleges around the country will reveal students who have gone through senior secondary schools enrolling in technical colleges, as an alternative means to get entry into tertiary institutions. Even those interested in the actual technicality complain of the lack of infrastructure to do much practical learning.
All sorts of curricula have come out to play on the field of education, which many wealthy Nigerians, combining their quest for quality with a touch of anything Western, have embraced on behalf of their children. Some students in such schools even bypass the standard entrance examination organized by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), and the National Examination Council (NECO), and write international examinations only.
‘They’re all the same’
For the Chairman, State Universal Basic Education, (SUBEB) Mrs. Gbolahan Daodu, there is really no difference between the 6-3-3-4 and 9-3-4 because the 9-3-4, which is Basic 1-9 is the same thing as Primary 1-6 and JSS 1-3.
“What government is emphasising is that by the time a child has gone through those nine years of schooling and is still not academically sound, then that child would proceed for vocational or technical studies. Government is doing its best in the provision of quality education by supplying textbooks in over five core subjects to both primary and secondary schools. The only problem is the inconsistency in our policy implementation.”
Blaming the inconsistency in implementation of policies for the confusion over what system to practice, the Principal, Caleb International College, Mrs. Julie Falodun, said the implementation of the 6-3-3-4 system would go a long way in lifting the standard of education in Nigeria.
“What the 6-3-3-4 system is meant to do, if implemented, is help guide a child such that if a child is not academically sound after the JSS3 class, such a child would be guided to go for technical or vocational studies. This way, he would have a brighter future. This is one of the reasons a lot of school children are confused and don’t do well academically, and if not for some good private schools that help guide them, only God knows what would become of them.”
‘We are confused’
Mrs. Fola Oluyide Ukachi, proprietress and educationist said that we Nigerians spend time on things that are not relevant or important. According to her, “We are distracted, confused and disorganized so much that we don’t anything work and that is the problem we have as a nation take for example the United State of America they have had their grade system in place for years.
“They are not changing it and it’s working and so it is in other developed countries of the world. But in our nation we adopt a system today and after like five or seven years later we want to dump and pick another one instead of consolidating it..”
Mr. Festus Ogunmola, who teaches in a private school in northern Nigeria had this to say: “The curriculum thing is just a name, they still use the same books and materials. The government is not consistent in this policy change, and many schools cannot afford to keep on restructuring every time a new policy is in place.”
Ogunmola continued by saying that “Policy makers don’t do any in depth assessment before they arrive at their decisions.” He also advised them to research on what kind of policy is most workable on the Nigerian terrain, and to stick with it.
The effect of this disparity hits the educational system where it hurts the most: on the children of Nigeria. Many of whom cannot define 6-3-3-4 or 9-3-4, but on whom the effects of constant policy change will speak for a long time.