Educational System In Nigeria

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Education is an investment that pays off any time anywhere. And in a world of crumbling economies and turbulent times, where investors spend sleepless nights trying to figure out how their stocks are doing, investing in education becomes even more paramount. By investing in education, governments, corporations, communities, NGOs and individuals can help prepare the youths for the challenges ahead. If children are really the leaders of tomorrow, then it is time we started investing in them!

Regrettably, Illiteracy has come to stay in many developing countries of the world, including Nigeria, and has continued to pose a threat to many such nations. On this Web site, you will learn more about education in Nigeria and the future of those pupils who are not opportuned to further their education after leaving primary school.

Education in Nigeria is based on a 6-3-3-4 system, which involves three levels of institutional learning processes:

    at the primary school level
    at the secondary school level
    and at the tertiary level

Actually, nursury education forms the first stage of the learning process in Nigeria. Unfortunately, a lot of families still can’t afford to send their todlers to nursery schools. Since the 6-3-3-4 system of education does not include education at this stage, this write-up will concentrate on the three levels mentioned above.

In Nigeria, children start attending primary schools (elementary schools) when they are 6 years old and spend the next six years there, graduating at the age of 12. However, most children who attended nursery schools prior to primary schools have an edge over those children who didn't have the privilege to do so. Therefore, they usually finish earlier. At graduation, primary school pupils are awarded the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC), which, in combination with the common entrance examination, fulfils the formal requirements for secondary school education.

Primary education in Nigeria is compulsory,  but free under the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme introduced by President Olusegun Obansanjo on September 30, 1999. However, it may be an exaggeration to speak of free primary education here because in reality parents still have to pay school levies imposed on pupils, buy school uniforms and so on. Admittedly, education at this level is mainly financed by the government. But after the primary school education, parents and guardians are made to bear the full costs of sending their children/wards to secondary schools or tertiary institutions.

At primary school level, pupils have to put on school uniforms throughout the country. Every school has its own uniform as a way of distinguishing its pupils from the other school pupils within the same locality. Some primary schools, expecially those ones in big cities, require their pupils to wear sandals as part of their outfits.

Starting from 1998, those wishing to teach at primary school level are required to possess a National Certificate in Education (NCE), which is awarded by Colleges of Education. Due to lack of teachers, however, holders of the Teacher's Grade 2 Certificates (TC 2) are still allowed to teach in some remote primary schools.
Successful pupils at the primary school level – those in possession of FSLC and who have passed the entrance examination to secondary schools, the Common Entrance Examination, can then proceed with the secondary school education, usually at the age of twelve. Secondary School Education, which used to last for five years, now takes 6 years to complete. The language of instructions at this level of education is English. Like primary and nursury schools pupils, secondary school students have to wear school uniforms. But while at the nursery and primary school levels, pupils, irrespective of their sex, attend mixed schools, boys and girls at the secondary school level are often sent to separate schools (boys' schools or girls' schools). However, mixed secondary schools are no longer a rare sight in Nigeria today.

The first phase of the secondary education, which lasts for three years, is provided at the Junior Secondary Schools (JSS). At the end of these three years, students sit for Junior Secondary School Examination (JSSE) and the successful ones are awarded the Junior Secondary School Certificate (JSSC). A successful completion of the JSS is a prerequisite for the second phase – the Senior Secondary School (SSS), which also lasts for three years. At the end of this period, students obtain the Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSSC) after writing and passing the final examination, which is the Senior Secondary School Examination. The SSSC is equivalent to the former West African School Certificate (WASC). As is the case at the primary school level, brilliant students who wish to skip a class may be allowed to do so after due consultations with their parents/guardians and their respective school authorities.

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At the secondary school level, there are also the technical secondary schools and commercial secondary schools which also offer courses lasting up to six years. Both academic and specia- lised subjects are taught here. There is also the vocational education offered at technical colleges. Students who want to acquire specialised skills at the end of their studies may choose to attend the technical/commercial schools. Mostly due to financial contraints, however, a lot of poor children are forced to pursue their education at private business centres and commercial schools, which offer low quality education and are far from being government approved.

On the other hand, there are some private schools which can boast of well-qualified teachers and therefore provide qualitative, but expensive education. And of course, there are also the most sought Government Colleges, Federal Colleges and the Uni- sity Secondary Schools, which are the crème de la crème in terms of secondary school education. But to obtain admission into these schools, students must not only come from well-to-do families, their parents/guardians must also have high and powerful connections. The quality of education here is by far higher than what is obtainable in normal secondary schools. In fact, it is a privilege to attend such schools! All animals are equal, but …

Irrespective of which secondary schools they attended, all students who wish to study at a university level must have at least 5 credits (in not more than two exams) out of the subjects they entered for in the SSS exam(s) or West African General Certificate of Education – Ordinary Levels (GCE O/levels). These subjects must be relevant to the courses they want to study and should include credits in English language (especially in Humanities), Mathematics (especially if one wishes to study a science course) and a science subject. In addition, they have to pass the Universities Matriculation Examination (UME), which is conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

However, due to limited number of admissions – the so-called numerus clausus – some applicants who did well in the UME are not offered admissions: their scores are said to be below the cut-off mark set by their prospective departments. The UME includes a compulsory paper for all the candidates – the almighty Use Of English, and three other subjects which are relevant to their proposed courses. All these subjects have to be passed with acceptable results. Although each of the 36 states in Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, now has at least one institution of higher learning, tertiary education has continued to elude many secondary school leavers.

Institutions of higher education, or the tertiary institutions provide the last stage of formal education, which takes a minimum of 4 years, completing the 6-3-3-4 educational system mentioned earlier in this article. Professional courses, however, last longer; Medicine and Dentistry, for instance, last for 6 years. Institutions offering higher education include universities (both Federal and State universities), polytechnics (both Federal and State poly- technics), universities of technology (owned either by the Federal or State governments), universities of agriculture and numerous colleges of education.

Provided that the candidates have fulfilled the formal entrance requirements mentioned above, and depending on whether or not their parents/guardians can afford to sponsor them, they can continue their education at a tertiary level. Direct entry candidates for degree programmes spend three instead of the usual four years for first degree courses in Arts, Social Sciences and Pure Sciences. There are three stages of education at the univeristy level:

    First Degree Programme
    Master's Degree Programme
    Doctorate Degree Programme

The first degree programme leads to the award of a Bachelor's Degree, which can be a Single Honour or Combined Honours. Students who graduate from the faculty of Humanities are awarded B.A. (Single or Combined Honours) while graduates in science courses are awarded B.Sc. The Master's degree programme takes one or two years after the first degree while the PhD Programme lasts for two or three years after the Master's Degree. Thereafter, Master's respectively Doctorate degrees are conferred on successful students.

Polytechnics and some other institutions of higher education provide education in two phases of two years each. After the first two-year full-time programme, successful candidates are awarded the Ordinary National Diplomas (OND). With these diplomas in their pockets, students can now proceed to the second stage, which leads to the award of the Higher National Diploma (HND). Apart from a successful completion of the OND-programme, students are also required to do at least one year industrial attachment before being admitted to the HND-programme.

Colleges of Education award the Nigerian Certificate of Education (NCE) at the end of a 3-year programme. Most NCE-holders seek admission into univeristies with a veiw to obtaining bachelor's degrees in education, the BEd, which could increase their chances of teaching at the senior secondary schools or becoming headmistresses/headmasters at primary schools. The higer institutions of education also run sandwich courses to enable the working population further their education or obtain the qualifications necessary for their present jobs.

It has become a well-known phenomenom that young university graduates in Nigeria don't always find life easy, especially when it comes to securing jobs. But having acquired a university education, they are better equipped to take their destiny in their own hands. But what happens to those poor children who have zero opportunity of going beyond primary school level? This section focuses on the ordeals such kids are made to go through after leaving primary schools.

As has been pointed out before, the educational system in Nigeria today allows only a compulsory primary school education of six years for all children under the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme. With the introduction of the Universal Free Primary Education (UPE) in 1976, the afore-mentioned UBE and the State Primary Education Board (SPEB) in each state to liaise with the UBE, the Nigerian government has continued to demonstrate its interest in reviving the primary school education in the country. However, while some people laud government's efforts to the skies, others, especially the critics, are still very sceptical about these educational programmes and their set objectives.

Well, be that as it may, the fact still remains that after the primary school education, sending children to secondary schools, and later to institutions of higher learning, becomes the sole responsibility of parents and relatives. For children from poor families and poverty-stricken villages, their hopes and aspirations to attain a reasonable academic standard in life are often dashed. Having thus been forced to abandon the idea of going to school, some of them take to street hawking and other menial jobs while the more desperate ones among them resort to stealing and other misdemeanours as a means to an end. Catering for themselves and their families early in life becomes a way of life.

In most cases, this untold hardship leads to frustration and helplessness, and having no one to turn to, these poor creatures, may end up committing felonies, thus exposing themselves to more dangers. Such Juvenile delinquencies, which are now becoming very rampant in Nigeria due to hopelessness, pose a serious threat to the entire society.

Children with bleak future abound in many Nigerian villages. Better Future Foundation Amodu was set up to help create a better tomorrow, through education, for the poor children from Amodu. BFFA relies on your donations to give these children a better future.

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