Education in Nigeria

Education in Nigeria

Nigeria provides free, government-supported education, but attendance is not compulsory at any level, and certain groups, such as nomads and the handicapped, are underserved. The education system consists of six years of primary school, three years of junior secondary school, three years of senior secondary school, and four years of university education leading to a bachelor’s degree. The rate of secondary school attendance is 32 percent for males and 27 percent for females. In 2004 the Nigerian National Planning Commission described the country’s education system as “dysfunctional.” Reasons for this characterization included decaying institutions and ill-prepared graduates. [ Nigeria country profile] . Library of Congress Federal Research Division (June 2006). "This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain."]

Courtesy of the oil boom years of the 1970s, tertiary education was expanded to reach every subregion of Nigeria. The Federal Government and the State Governments were previously the only bodies licensed to operate universities in Nigeria. Recently, licenses have also been granted to individuals, corporate bodies and religious bodies to establish private universities in Nigeria. The National Universities Commission (NUC) is the major accreditation body that enforces uniform standard and sets admissions capacity of every university in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s literacy rate is 68 percent on average, with a higher rate for men (75.7 percent) than women (60.6 percent), according to a 2003 estimate.


Western-style education came to Nigeria with the missionaries in the mid-nineteenth century. Although the first mission school was founded in 1843 by Methodists, it was the Anglican Church Missionary Society that pushed forward in the early 1850s to found a chain of missions and schools, followed quickly in the late 1850s by the Roman Catholics. In 1887 in what is now southern Nigeria, an education department was founded that began setting curricula requirements and administered grants to the mission societies. By 1914, when north and south were united into one colony, there were fifty-nine government and ninety-one mission primary schools in the south; all eleven secondary schools, except for King's College in Lagos, were run by the missions. The missions got a foothold in the middle belt; a mission school for the sons of chiefs was opened in Zaria in 1907 but lasted only two years. In 1909 Hans Vischer, an ex-Anglican missionary, was asked to organize the education system of the Protectorate Northern Nigeria. Schools were set up and grants given to missions in the middle belt. In 1914 there were 1,100 primary school pupils in the north, compared with 35,700 in the south; the north had no secondary schools, compared with eleven in the south. By the 1920s, the pressure for school places in the south led to increased numbers of independent schools financed by local efforts and to the sending of favorite sons overseas for more advanced training. [ Nigeria country profile] . Library of Congress Federal Research Division. "This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.]

The education system focused strongly on examinations. In 1916 Frederick Lugard, first governor of the unified colony, set up a school inspectorate. Discipline, buildings, and adequacy of teaching staff were to be inspected, but the most points given to a school's performance went to the numbers and rankings of its examination results. This stress on examinations was still used in 1990 to judge educational results and to obtain qualifications for jobs in government and the private sector.

Progress in education was slow but steady throughout the colonial era until the end of World War II. By 1950 the country had developed a three-tiered system of primary, secondary, and higher education based on the British model of wide participation at the bottom, sorting into academic and vocational training at the secondary level, and higher education for a small elite destined for leadership. On the eve of independence in the late 1950s, Nigeria had gone through a decade of exceptional educational growth leading to a movement for universal primary education in the Western Region. In the north, primary school enrollments went from 66,000 in 1947 to 206,000 in 1957, in the west (mostly Yoruba areas) from 240,000 to 983,000 in the same period, and in the east from 320,000 to 1,209,000. Secondary level enrollments went from 10,000 for the country as a whole in 1947 to 36,000 in 1957; 90 percent of these, however, were in the south.

Given the central importance of formal education, it soon became "the largest social programme of all governments of the federation," absorbing as much as 40 percent of the budgets of some state governments. Thus, by 1984-85 more than 13 million pupils attended almost 35,000 public primary schools. At the secondary level, approximately 3.7 million students were attending 6,500 schools (these numbers probably included enrollment in private schools), and about 125,000 postsecondary level students were attending 35 colleges and universities. The pressure on the system remained intense in 1990, so much so that one education researcher predicted 800,000 higher level students by the end of the 1990s, with a correlated growth in numbers and size of all education institutions to match this estimate.

Universal primary education became official policy for the federation in the 1970s. The goal has not been reached despite pressure throughout the 1980s to do so. In percentage terms, accomplishments have been impressive. Given an approximate population of 49.3 million in 1957 with 23 percent in the primary school age-group (ages five to fourteen), the country had 21 percent of its school-age population attending in the period just prior to independence, after what was probably a tripling of the age-group in the preceding decade. By 1985 with an estimated population of 23 million between ages five and fourteen, approximately 47 percent of the age-group attended school. Although growth slowed and actually decreased in some rural areas in the late 1980s, it was projected that by the early part of the next century universal primary education would be achieved.

Secondary and postsecondary level growth was much more dramatic. The secondary level age-group (ages fifteen to twenty- four) represented approximately 16 percent of the entire population in 1985. Secondary level education was available for approximately 0.5 percent of the age-group in 1957, and for 22 percent of the age-group in 1985. In the early 1960s, there were approximately 4,000 students at six institutions (Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, and the Institute of Technology at Benin), rising to 19,000 by 1971 and to 30,000 by 1975. In 1990 there were thirty-five polytechnic institutes, military colleges, and state and federal universities, plus colleges of education and of agriculture; they had an estimated enrollment of 150,000 to 200,000, representing less than 1 percent of the twenty-one to twenty-nine-year-old age-group.

Such growth was impossible without incurring a host of problems, several of which were so severe as to endanger the entire system of education. As long as the country was growing apace in terms of jobs for the educated minority through investment in expanded government agencies and services and the private sector, the growing numbers of graduates could be absorbed. But the criterion of examination results as the primary sorting device for access to schools and universities led to widespread corruption and cheating among faculty and students at all levels, but especially secondary and postsecondary. Most Nigerian universities had followed the British higher education system of "final examinations" as the basis for granting degrees, but by 1990 many were shifting to the United States system of course credits. Economic hardship among teaching staffs produced increased engagement in nonacademic moonlighting activities. Added to these difficulties were such factors as the lack of books and materials, no incentive for research and writing, the use of outdated notes and materials, and the deficiency of replacement laboratory equipment. One researcher noted that in the 1980s Nigeria had the lowest number of indigenous engineers per capita of any Third World country. Unfortunately, nothing was done to rectify the situation. The teaching of English, which was the language of instruction beyond primary school, had reached such poor levels that university faculty complained they could not understand the written work of their students. By 1990 the crisis in education was such that it was predicted that by the end of the decade, there would be insufficient personnel to run essential services of the country. It was hoped that the publication of critical works and international attention to this crisis might reverse the situation before Nigeria lost an entire generation or more of its skilled labor force.

Current status

Primary school

Primary education begins at the age of six for the majority of Nigerians. Students spend six years in primary school and graduate with a school-leaving certificate. Subjects taught at the primary level include mathematics, English language, bible knowledge, science and one of the three main native languages (Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo). Private schools would also offer computer science, French and art. Primary school students are required to take a Common Entrance Examination to qualify for admission into the Federal and State Government schools. [ "Nigeria Education Profile"] . U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria. "This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain."]

econdary school

Students spend six years in Secondary School. At the end of three years, they take the Junior Secondary School exam (JSS3 exam) which is a qualifying exam for Senior Secondary School. By Senior Secondary School Class 2 (SS2), students are taking the GCE O’Levels exam, which is not mandatory, but most students take it to prepare for the Senior Secondary School Exam. The Senior Secondary School Exam is taken in the last year of high school (SS3). Private organizations, the State government or the Federal government manages secondary schools in Nigeria.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is made up of thirty-six States and the Federal Capital Territory. There is about two Federal Government Colleges in each state. These schools are funded and managed directly by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Education. Teachers and staff are Federal Government employees. Teachers at the Federal Government schools possess a Bachelors degree in Education or in a particular subject area, such as, Mathematics, Physics etc. These schools are supposed to be model schools carrying and maintaining the ideals of secondary education for Nigerian students. Admission is based on merit, determined by the National Common Entrance Examination taken by all final year elementary school pupils. Tuition and fees are very low, approximately one hundred dollars ($100.00), because funding comes from the Federal Government.

State owned secondary schools are funded by each state government and are not comparable to the Federal government colleges. Although education is supposed to be free in the majority of the state owned institutions, students are required to purchase books and uniforms costing them an average of two hundred dollars ($200.00). Teachers in State owned institutions usually have a National Certificate of Education or a Bachelors Degree. Oftentimes these schools are understaffed due to low state budgets, lack of incentives and irregularities in payment of staff salaries.

Private secondary schools in Nigeria tend to be quite expensive with average annual fees averaging from One to Two thousand dollars ($1000.00 - $2000.00). These schools have smaller classes (approximately ten to fifteen students per class), modern equipment and a better environment. Teachers in these institutions all possess at least a Bachelors in a specific course area and are sent for workshops or short term programs on a regular basis.

Promotional examinations

With the introduction of 6-3-3-4 system of education in Nigeria, students are required to enter secondary school after spending a minimum of six years of Primary Education and passed a prescribed National Common Entrance Examination. The students must spend a minimum period of six years in Secondary School. During this period, students are expected to spend three years in Junior Secondary School and three year in Senior Secondary School.

The General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE) was replaced by the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE). The SSCE is conducted at the end of the Secondary School studies in May/June. The GCE is conducted in October/November as a supplement for those students who did not get the required credits from their SSCE results. The standards of the two examinations are basically the same. A body called West African Examination Council (WAEC) conducts both the SSCE and GCE. A maximum of nine and a minimum of seven subjects are registered for the examination by each student with Mathematics and English Language taking as compulsory.

A maximum of nine grades are assigned to each subject ranging from: A1, A2, A3 or A1, B2, B3, B4, (Equivalent to Distinctions Grade); C4, C5, C6, or B4, B5, B6, (Equivalent to Credit Grade); P7, P8 or D7, D8, E (Just Pass Grade); F9 (Fail Grade). Credit grades and above is considered academically adequate for entry into any University in Nigeria. In some study programs, many of the universities may require higher grades to get admission.

The Federal Government policy on education is adhered to by all secondary schools in Nigeria. Six years of elementary school is followed by six years of secondary school, divided into the Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary School. Junior Secondary School consists of the JSS I, JSS 2 and JSS 3 which is equivalent to the 7th, 8th, and 9th Grade respectively. The Junior Secondary Certificate Examination (JSCE) is taken at the end of the junior year. Students who pass this exam may proceed to senior school at the same institution or may transfer to an institution of their choice. Senior Secondary school consists of the SS I, SS 2, and SS 3 which is equivalent to the 10th, 11th and 12th Grade. The Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) is taken at the end of the SS 3. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) administers both exams. Three to six months after a student has taken the SSCE examination, they are issued an Official transcript from their institution. This transcript is valid for one year, after which an Official transcript from the West African Examination Council is issued.

Higher education

The government has majority control of university education. The Federal Government of Nigeria has adopted education as an instrument for national development.

In addition to the number of universities, there are 13 Federal and 14 State owned Polytechnic Colleges respectively. These were established to train technical, middle-level manpower. Some of the colleges are beginning to award degrees.

English Language is the medium of instruction. The Academic Year is from October to September.

First year entry requirements into most universities in Nigeria include: Minimum of SSCE/GCE Ordinary Level Credits at maximum of two sittings; Minimum cut-off marks in Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Entrance Examination (JAMB) of 200 and above out of a maximum of 400 marks are required. Candidates with minimum of Merit Pass in National Certificate of Education (NCE), National Diploma (ND) and other Advanced Level Certificates minimum qualifications with minimum of 5 O/L Credits are given direct entry admission into the appropriate undergraduate degree programs.

Duration of undergraduate programs in Nigerian Universities depends largely on the program of study. For example: Social Sciences /Humanity related courses 4 Years (two semester sessions per year), Engineering/Technology related courses 5 Years (two semester sessions per year), Pharmacy 5 Years (two semester sessions per year), Medicine (Vet/ Human) 6 Years (Have longer sessions), Law 5 Years (two semester sessions per year).

Nigeria Universities are generally grouped into:

;First Generation UniversitiesFive of these Universities were established between 1948 and 1965, following the recommendation of Ashby Commission set up by the British Colonial Government to study the needs for university education for Nigeria. These universities are fully funded by the Federal Government. They were established primarily to meet the manpower needs of Nigeria and set basic standards for university education in the country. These universities have continued to play their roles for manpower developments and provisions of standards, which have helped to guide the subsequent establishments of other generations and states universities in Nigeria.

;Second Generation UniversitiesWith the increasing population of qualified students for university education in Nigeria and the growing needs for scientific and technological developments, setting up more universities became imperative. Between 1970 and 1985, 12 additional universities were established and located in various parts of the country.

;Third Generation UniversitiesThe need to establish Universities to address special areas of Technological and Agricultural demand prompted the setting up of 10 additional Universities between 1985 and 1999.

;State UniversitiesPressures from qualified students from each state who could not readily get admissions to any of the Federal Universities continue to mount on States Governments. It became imperative and urgent for some State Governments to invest in the establishments of Universities.

;Private UniversitiesIn recognition of the need to encourage private participation in the provision of university education, the Federal Government established a law 1993, allowing private sectors to establish universities following guidelines prescribed by the Government.

ee also

*List of Nigerian universities
*Schools in Nigeria


External links

* [ OnlineNigeria - Education]
* [ National Association of Nigerian Students]

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