by Modupe Adefeso-Olateju
The noble aim of creating a unified country where each citizen considers and prioritizes the greater good of all has failed. Today, probably more than ever before, the society is fractured, ruptured along socioeconomic, ethnic, religious and political lines.
Examining the philosophy on education
A primary focus of the National Curriculum Conference held in Nigeria in 1969 was to craft a national philosophy of education by querying the role and function of public education as a mechanism for the progress and reconstruction of the nation, as well as the values and attitudes that should be developed in young Nigerians. The discussions birthed five recommendations:
The first recommendation stipulated that the content of Nigeria’s education curriculum should reflect the dynamism of the past, current and future Nigeria by focusing on the role of the individual as an as agent of modernisation. The second focused on four desired objectives of Nigerian education: values and attitudes for the individual and society, expanding the intellectual capacity of the Nigerian mind, acquisition of skill and training for sustainable livelihood, and knowledge of the local and global environments. The third recommendation was drawn from the first two and stated that, ‘Nigerian education should be geared towards self-realisation, better human relationships, self and national economic efficiency, effective citizenship, national consciousness, national unity, social and political progress, scientific and technological progress and national reconstruction[i]. The fourth stated that in order to achieve the third recommendation, emphasis must be placed on equal opportunities for students to each ‘develop according to his own ability, aptitude and interest’[ii]. The fifth recommendation was an affirmation of five key values that were imperative for inclusion at all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary levels:
i. Respect for the worth and dignity of the individual
ii. Faith in man’s ability to make rational decisions
iii. Moral and spirited values in interpersonal and human relations
iv. Shared responsibility for the common good of society
v. Respect for the dignity of labour
vi. Promotion of the emotional, physical and psychological health of all children
What is the thinking behind Nigeria’s philosophy of education and does it reflect our collective desires as a people?
The report of the curriculum conference was a professionally drafted document which reflected months of in-depth consultation and preparation and which represented the desires and aspirations of a broad cross-section of the nation. It highlighted the ability of Nigerian people to envision and determine a focus for their collective future with minimal external support. The enduring impact of the conference is evidenced in much of today’s policy and practice. For example, the report suggested that compulsory basic education should span the first nine years of a child’s education, with the first six being primary level and the next three being junior secondary level. In addition it advocated a departure from the British grammar school model in which the secondary school curriculum prepared students exclusively for academic courses at university level. It was recommended that a comprehensive approach be adopted to cater to the needs of all learners by offering both an academic and a vocational curriculum such that at the completion of junior secondary level, students could head in one of three directions: senior secondary level, technical (or specialist vocational training college) or teacher training college, giving the Nigerian child a choice of career path options. This conference thus produced the idea of the 6-3-3-4 system of education which is still largely operational today.
Although the Nigerian philosophy for education was drafted more than forty years ago, there still exist many similarities between the challenges of 1969 and those of today. In many instances it would appear that societal development has stagnated or perhaps even retrogressed. The noble aim of creating a unified country where each citizen considers and prioritizes the greater good of all has failed. Today, probably more than ever before, the society is fractured, ruptured along socioeconomic, ethnic, religious and political lines. The hope that, ‘every Nigerian child will have full access to quality education at all levels and his or her intellectual or technical ability will be the only limiting factor’[iii] has not manifested. Instead Nigeria is home to the highest number of out of school children in the world and those fortunate enough to be in school learn little. The desire that examination-focused teaching be de-emphasized in favour of genuine cognitive and affective learning has also failed to see fruition as more than ever, society is plagued by the diploma disease characterised by the race to amass qualifications (but not necessarily genuine learning) in a bid to secure employment. Thus the vision for education has not yet been realised nor does it appear that there are satisfactorily strategic plans and feasible implementation strategies to do so. There is therefore need and opportunity to first re-examine the philosophy and then systematically and deliberately re-align it such that it is clearly and appropriately reflected in policy and practice.
Part 3 of this article will examine a number of specific issues which arise from an examination of the Nigerian philosophy of education.
[i] Adaralegbe, A. and Nigeria Educational Research Council. (1972: 212). A philosophy for Nigerian education : proceedings of the Nigeria National Curriculum Conference, 8-12 September, 1969. Ibadan ; London: Heinemann.
[ii] Adaralegbe, A. and Nigeria Educational Research Council. (1972: 212). A philosophy for Nigerian education : proceedings of the Nigeria National Curriculum Conference, 8-12 September, 1969. Ibadan ; London: Heinemann.
[iii] Source: UNESCO. Available at http://www.ibe.unesco.org/International/ICE/natrap/Nigeria_Scan_2.pdf page 36.
Modupe Adefeso-Olateju is an Education Policy Consultant, with expertise in public and private school effectiveness, and the design of Public-Private Partnerships in Education. She holds a PhD in Education and International Development from the Institute of Education, University of London. Modupe sits on the board of the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council London, and is passionate about helping young people fulfil their academic and career potential.
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