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Overloaded curriculum responsible for long hours in schools — Investigations

By Dayo Adesulu

THE average Nigerian student spends a minimum of eight hours in school daily, just as teachers spend minimum of nine hours to ensure they cover the overloaded curriculum of 20 subjects on or before the end of a term, Vanguard’s investigations have revealed.

Our findings further revealed that in a quest for teachers and parents to assist students cover the syllabus within three months, the available options are for class teachers and parents to engage students for additional hours after school, as parents also employ the services of lesson teachers after school. The scenario has since snowballed into students spending the most of the day, moving from one lesson to another, with little or no time for themselves.

Siesta for students is now a thing of the past. This, experts say, will not augur well for students, teachers and the education sector. Thus, a typical Nigerian student wakes up between 5.00am and 6.00am, depending on the school’s distance from home, dresses up and is expected to be in school on or before 8.00am. Because primary and junior schools do twenty subjects as stipulated in the curriculum, classes span from 8.15am to 4.00pm, except in public schools that close at 2.00pm.

Compulsory Literacy and Mathematics

Besides the thirty minutes break students spend for lunch, students are all shut up in classrooms in order to finish the syllabus. Gone are the days when we had short and long breaks in schools and students still excel academically.

Twenty subjects: If you have a child in primary or junior secondary school, check their report sheets, you will discover that your child does 20 subjects which include, Mathematics, English Language, Christian Religious Knowledge or Islamic Knowledge, Business Studies, Building Technology, Social studies, Security education, Civic, Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, Fine art, Music, Agriculture, Home economics. Others are Physical education, Computer, Literature, French and Basic science.

Meanwhile, in primary schools  in England, Literacy and Mathematics are compulsory. Besides, other subjects include: Science, Design and technology (ICT), History, Geography, Art and design, Music, Physical Education, Religious education (parents have the right to withdraw children from these lessons if they choose to). On the whole, in the UK, primary school pupils take nine compulsory subjects as religious knowledge is optional.

In addition, in England, schools are encouraged to teach Personal, social and health education (PSHE), citizenship, one modern foreign language and sex education. It is of note that in the UK, a child is expected to start primary one at age six, but in Nigeria, many children are already in school at age two. If you ever find ages two to five in school in the UK, they are there to play.

Preparations for Junior WAEC

Also, in the junior secondary school which is referred to as ‘Key Stage 3’ in England, that is, years 7 to 9, meant for ages 11 – 14, children are taught the same subjects as in primary school. During year 9, the child is allowed to choose subjects they want to study for their GCSE exams, just as our SS1 to SS3 prepare for the WAEC.

British curriculum: The English style of education does not rush students, but deals with them based on their ages. If  it is discovered that a child cannot cope, he or she is taken to a class for  special attention. In Nigeria, due to the aforementioned number of subjects, students are often compelled to stay behind for extra lessons that span from 4.00pm to 5.30pm, especially during preparations for Junior WAEC.

In many homes, if parents discover that their children or wards are not performing as expected, they get home lesson teachers for them after school, just as parents also shelve their leisure time to  put the children through in some difficult subjects. Our findings further showed   that in some homes, the home lesson teacher starts teaching and ends between 5.00pm and 7.00pm. At the end of the term, it is appalling to note that with the maximum time spent on learning, many students still perform below average, as the child’s brain becomes overloaded, leading to academic poor performance.

Added marks: As stated by a teacher in one of such schools at Ikorodu, for the schools to cover their shame, students are awarded extra marks, if it is apparent that many failed the subject. On the part of the teachers, our investigation revealed that because many school owners cannot afford to employ a teacher for each of the 20 subjects, available teachers are forced to teach four to five subjects, undermining academic discipline.

As if the work load of teachers is not plenty enough, they are still to teach as many as eight arms of the same class. Some classes constiting of 60 to 70 students, particularly in public schools. Some teachers who spoke with Vanguard said that despite the immense work load, they are being paid the salary of one teacher. Meanwhile, according to Mail online news, a teacher in England earns £40 per hour spent teaching.

In Nigeria, a graduate teacher in private school is paid between N15,000 and N20,000 per month, depending on the school. Such a teacher is meant to be in school at 7.30am and closes 5.00pm.

Appointment for extra lesson

Thus, after a Nigerian teacher gets home in the evening, he is already exhausted, if he has an appointment for extra lesson, he proceeds to the venue just to make ends meet.

During weekends, the teachers would be expected to prepare lesson notes. How are such teachers expected to prepare lesson notes of four different subjects and give their best in the class? During examination, a teacher is expected to set questions on the four subjects he teaches, mark the exam scripts and submit same before vacation to enable students get their results.

Our findings disclosed that in many schools, the rate at which teachers resign their teaching appointment every term is alarming. Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Education in conjunction with the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) few years ago said that it was working on reducing the workload of primary and junior secondary school pupils from 20 to maximum of 10 subjects under the nine-year basic educational curriculum in order to align with global best practices.

Basic educational curriculum

However, the policy statement remains a dream yet to come true. When Vanguard contacted the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC,  Professor Ismail Junaidu, he said that the 20 subjects have been compressed into nine subjects. “We don’t have 20 subjects any more. Public schools are not offering 20 subjects, the subjects have already been reduced to nine.

Schools disparity: “You find all kinds of things happening in private schools, but not in public schools. That is why I am surprised that you said 20 subjects are being offered in both private and public schools. If you are talking about private schools, it is a different ball game, you find all kinds of things happening in private schools.” He, however, added, “State governments are supposed to monitor private and public schools to ensure schools comply with the directive. I would advise that you go to public schools and see how many subjects they are really offering.”

When Vanguard visited some public schools in Lagos and spoke with some of the teachers, it was discovered that though students have received the mandate to offer nine subjects, in practical sense, they are still offering between 18 and 20 subjects. According to some teachers who spoke with Vanguard on condition of anonymity, teachers are assigned to teach about 18 subjects in class, but fuse the 18 subjects into nine during examinations.

Maximum capacity for storage of information

Vanguard went further to intercept some public school students after close of school, and many of the students confirmed that they are taught between 18 and 20 subjects in the class. They said that during examination, they sit for only nine subjects.

Over saturated brains: In his reaction, the Head of Department of Psychology, University of Ibadan, Professor Benjamin Ehigie, warns teachers and parents to desist from overloading children with information their brains are not capable of processing, adding that such information or learning will do them more harm than good. The psychologist who noted that every human being has stages of development, disclosed that every child has a maximum capacity for storage of information.

According to him, when an underaged is overloaded with information, it results in redundancy because such child is receiving information that is beyond the capacity that his brain can process. He explained that redundancy in learning will set in because the sensory organ will not be able to manage the information based on his age, which will lead to poor academic performance.

Advantageous lessons: He said: “When you consider the present school curriculum, it is overloaded beyond the capacity  students should learn. The basic things that they are supposed to learn at their early stages are not learned. At the end, we discovered that what was taught at lower class level need to be retaught at higher class level. Primary school pupils are learning what they are supposed to learn in the secondary school.”

For parents who think engaging their children in multiple academic activities will help their academic performance, Ehigie maintained that the advantages are less than disadvantages. He said: “The advantages of these multiple lessons for a child are less than the disadvantages. For learning whatever, you will gain one thing or the other, but what you will be gaining for being overloaded will be less. Children have individual differences in capacity. For some children, overloaded information may add to their knowledge, while for some children, they may be badly affected.”

Looking at children between ages two to five, a psychiatric medical consultant, Dr. Obayage, urged parents to know what their children need at the pre-school age. According to him, what the children actually need at those ages are not what is being taught in school.

Explaining why many parents can afford to leave their children at that age from morning till evening in school, he pointed out that many parents have it in mind that they have to go to work and come back late at night.

Children in extra lessons

Obayage lamented that many parents enrol their children in extra lessons and in most cases are not what these children really need at that time in school.

Forced learning: He said, “Teachers teach them a lot of things they don’t need at that age. Most of these schools are not being handled by professionals who have knowledge in the area of children. Psychologically there are things you engage a child in to develop him for his future engagement. There are lots of things a child is not ready to take in at that age, but because the parents are not at home, they enrol them in lessons after school.

“When we were growing up, we learnt things from people older than us to help us build up our brain. But now, all focus is now on academic work without interaction between parents and children. If this downward trend is not checked, it could result into a lot of psychological problems.” Junior secondary students now go to school in the morning and come back home at 5.00pm to continue home lesson till 7.00pm, he said.

Learning capacity: “Whatever you do to children that doesn’t allow them rest, at the end, you will discover that they are not learning any thing because the brain has learning capacity duration. There must be a break sometimes, all those multiple lessons do not  help or make the child come out the best.”

Speaking in the same vein,  Professor Babatunde Solagberu, a professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Provost of Lagos State University College of Medicine, LASUCOM, said that parents should focus on all round development of their children.

He said, “Parents should try not to only expose their children to just books, because the child would be too much of a dullard. No matter what you learn in school, if you are not exposed to sports and going for sight seeing, it’s useless.”

According to him, when you talk about a child development, the development should be in different strata like mental development, psychological development, emotional development and physical development.

“Physical development is what you see in the growth of the child, mental development is about the schooling and psychological development is the mind of the child, who is exposed to different events in this life that develop how the mind works. There are some categories of people that focus on just one aspect of development like mental development and leave others which bring about no exposure to sports and no exposure to sight seeing.”

Overloaded information

Meanwhile, Dr Oluwafemi Adebukola Esan, a medical doctor listed five negative present or future effects that overloaded information could cause for pupils. He said that if cautions are not taken, such students are liable to behavioural disorder due to limited opportunity to interact with people which will allow them learn how to conduct themselves properly while in public. “Social phobia- This is the fear of scrutiny by others. This will lead to avoidance of social gathering because they will be afraid of behaving in an embarrassing way. Anxiety disorders can develop latter in life, adding, It could lead to substance abuse later in life as the child could also develop depression.”

NUT silence

When the President of Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Comrade Michael Alogba was contacted on phone for his reaction, he declined comment, as he continued to give excuses on why he could not speak. Also, when the NUT Chairman, Lagos State chapter, Comrade Segun Raheem, was contacted on phone and through text messages, he neither picked his calls nor responded to the text messages.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.