I am glad that my last week’s article with the above title elicited the kind of reactions it did. I have received emails and Facebook messages from people who are concerned about the neglect of elementary education pedagogy in Nigeria and the long-term consequences this could have for the country. Of the sample responses reproduced here, I find the first one, written by a seasoned educationist and international consultant on elementary and secondary education, the most enlightening and informative. It fills me with hope that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
I have been reading your columns in Weekly Trust and Sunday Trust newspapers with keen interest, especially when I am in Abuja for my consultancy services. I read your Weekly Trust column of 19th January and feel I should share my experience and update you on the current trend and development on Teacher Education Reform.
Many have advocated for a similar call in the past but educationists have been cracking their brains on a way forward. Developed countries have faced similar challenges in the development of a sound educational system that caters to the needs of a large percentage of their children. Kwara State, in collaboration with the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), has examined the issue and a new curriculum has been developed that is implemented at the two colleges of education in Kwara State. Other colleges in the country will start to implement it when the Federal Government directs them to do so.
The new NCCE curriculum will henceforth prepare specialist teachers for Early Childhood, Primary and Junior Secondary Education in addition to Adult, Non-Formal and Special Needs Teachers, although the latter is being reconsidered in the light of Inclusive Education. It may interest you to know that the admission requirements to colleges of education have also been upgraded to five credits, including English and Mathematics. This is to control the risk of garbage in, garbage out.
It may also interest you to know that in developed nations like the U.S and the United Kingdom you must have a first degree, plus additional teacher professional qualification, before you are considered into the teaching profession. In nations like Japan and Korea, you must be a first-class degree holder before you can be employed to teach at the primary level. Nigeria is a nation with many multifaceted problems. Excellent plans and policies are developed in paper but the implementation is always a problem.
Attached is a document for your perusal only. I hope the document will be officially published this year for implementation. However, I may remind you that there are many challenges in the education sector. For instance, the new NCE curriculum met with a serious resistance from Staff Unions of Colleges of Education. In the new curriculum, subjects not taught at the Basic Education level were removed. The Unions saw it as a way to lay off their colleagues from service. (Subjects like History, Political Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, etc. were not included).
I am currently a National Consultant on Institutional Development with the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria, a DFID-funded programe to improve Nigerian Educational system by the U.K. Government. I am hopeful that things will change for better if the new NCE curriculum is implemented with sincerity.
Alhaji Ibrahim Ibn Woru, Ilorin
You have hit the nail squarely on the head once again. It is as you put it. Phasing out teachers' colleges by the military policy makers, is indeed, the most thoughtless and toxic educational policy change, amongst so many others in Nigeria's history, due to its apparent negative chain effects—drop in educational standards, lack of adequate preparation of secondary school students, which leads to the production of half-baked graduates, which in turn results in the production of a legion of 'certified' uneducated workers. This is all largely because good primary education has been jettisoned by our elite at the top. I am sorry for all of us.
I am a constant reader of your highly enlightening and rich columns. Like the meaning of your name, you truly separate the truth from falsehood! More power to your elbows.
Tahir Aminu-Baba, Head of Documents, University Library, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi
You have said it all. If we are to recall and reflect back, most of the intellectuals we have at present in Nigeria were molded by those teachers that had Grade II teacher education training. What you have rightly said is a must for a solution to our educational crises.
Abdulkadir Abubakar Auyo, Kaduna
Nice piece. But I think that the decay of educational standards in Northern Nigerian can be attributed to the lack of coherent approach in policy formulation as well as paucity of funds to the educational sector rather than just the abrogation of Teachers' Colleges.
Aliyu Bashir Bauchi, Bauchi
Yes, I really can't help but to agree with you. It is now left for the government, particularly those of the northern states to act quickly so as to reverse this ugly trend.
Abubakar Algwallary, Kano
You have hit the nail on the head and your suggestions are quite OK. What baffles me is that ministers of education in Nigeria, over the time, have been educationists.
Aminu Isa, Lokoja