School System in Nigeria: Improving Standards for Quality Education 

The school system in Nigeria is made up of many factors. If you’re reading this, it’s possible that you attended nursery, primary or secondary school in Nigeria. If not all three, then at least one or the other. Right?

Or maybe you’re just curious. You may have heard a lot being said about the drop of educational quality in Nigeria, including the numerous solutions that have been recommended to fix it. From improving curricula, to sacking incompetent teachers and even changing the whole approach to focus on productivity instead of exam results – the discourse has been ongoing.

One thing is clear:  Over the past few decades, a lot is left to be desired with the output of Nigerian educational system – it’s graduates.

“How can we tell when education standards are falling?”

You don’t even have to go as far as comparing WAEC or JAMB pass-fail rates over the years. Simply take a look at the output. The goal of a formal education is to churn out a well-rounded individual who at the bare minimum is fluent in writing, comprehending and speaking the language (English in this case), with sound numeracy and logical reasoning skills. Additional desirable traits would be a capacity to solve problems and create a positive impact in return on the society.

Unfortunately, many Nigerian degree holders, having passed through secondary and tertiary institutions, still fail to meet up to this standards. In  fact, it has been suggested that a lot of tertiary degree holders of today are comparable to first school certificate degree holders of the past years.

So what went wrong? In this case, We’ll Say it’s the Lack-luster enforcement of Standards

Contrary to widespread use, there is a difference between these two terms – standards and quality – even though they are mostly used interchangeably in conversation. Standards refer to official benchmarks by which quality is measured i.e the guidelines that school systems have to comply with in order to achieve quality. Quality on the other hand is determined by the execution of these processes in each school. For example, if there is a certain standard that each classroom must have at least 1 teacher, then a school with 2 teachers per class may be of higher quality than one with just 1 or no teacher for every class; judging by those standards. As you can see, both terms go hand in hand, as properly enforced standards will ultimately ensure quality.

school system in nigeria

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It has been argued that the problem of the Nigerian Educational system lies in quality, and not standards. But a deeper evaluation will reveal that the issue is both.

In no particular order, these are some of the main factors that influence quality of education in Nigeria today:

1. Teachers 

Not surprisingly, teachers are the main players when it comes to impacting on a child’s education. It has been demonstrated that teacher quality affects a child’s education by as much as 70%. This means that not only does the teacher have to be academically sound, they should be trained in education i.e passing on their knowledge and they should ideally be motivated individuals with a passion for the occupation.

Recently with the news of the 22,000 sacked teachers in Kaduna state, it’s evident that a lot of teachers in Nigeria aren’t equipped with the literacy skills required to stand in front of a classroom, let alone a training in education or sometimes not even a complete university degree. One key reason why this happens is because most qualified people shy away from the teaching profession. Teachers in Nigeria are not highly regarded due to low salaries (sometimes below minimal wage) and working conditions that they are usually subjected to. It then becomes difficult to find a truly qualified person who is  motivated enough to take on this responsibility of teaching.

The result? Unqualified teachers without the drive to actually go out of their way to ensure that their students learn.

Smart Schools Focus on Teachers!

2. Prioritizing resources:

Understandably, most people would say that lack of funding is one of the most serious hindrances to the Nigerian Education sector.  However, according to Dr. Oby Ezekwesili:

When I was the Minister of Education, we discovered that the more the funding for education, the less the success rate by students. That shows the issue was not funding. (source)

Even though public data shows that very minimal funds have consistently been budgeted towards Education over recent years, an even bigger problem may be the allocation of these scarce education resources. This is because even in some private schools where funds are more readily available, they still fail to invest in the right teaching aids and tools that will actually impact learning in this 21st century.

That being said, a lot more can still be done when it comes to subsidizing the cost of education for schools and for students. Overcrowded classrooms, lack of laboratory equipment or even basic writing materials in some rural schools hinder quality learning and resources must be invested into these schools for them to be successful. The truth is that a good education does not come cheap!

3. Outdated Curriculum

Most educators agree that the learning curricula in many of our schools are severely outdated. Some subjects simply do not reflect the times that we live in. For example, History (in most secondary schools that teach the subject) focus more on International History than basic national history. Ask a Nigerian university student questions about the civil war, colonial era or even who was the third president of Nigeria and they would struggle to answer.

Simply put, a high quality curriculum is one that meets the present needs of a society and equips the student for further life and work in that society. With the way the world is going, we definitely need a revised curriculum that scraps some less important areas and emphasizes skills like STEAM thinking, project based learning and other innovative areas

4. Grading & Evaluation Standards

We’ve previously discussed at length about grading standards in our tertiary institutions. More so, the evaluation standards in primary and secondary schools also need improvement and a shift of focus. Students would not feel compelled to cram for exams if they were rewarded instead for proving to have more practical knowledge of what they have been taught. A greater provision should be made in the overall evaluation to prove application of knowledge through hands-on individual or group projects. How else would we know for sure that each individual is actually developing the necessary skills being taught as opposed to cramming notes for an exam?

Many school systems around the world are already having similar debates.

5. Administrative systems

Of course, for all these strategies to come together, there needs to be a strong management procedure in place. The admin is meant to monitor and evaluate processes, enforce standards and relay appropriately to higher authorities for policy making.

Standards should be treated not as a mere suggestion to be flaunted but a necessity to be adhered to as closely as possible. This would require frequent, thorough inspection, record keeping and reporting measures be put in place to track & measure progress and ensure adherence to standards.

A good school management system will tie it all together perfectly.

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