The Environment of Crises in the
Nigerian Education System
CORDELIA C. NWAGWU
ABSTRACT The Nigerian education system witnessed tremendous expansion between independence in 1960 and 1995. However, the rate declined after 1986 when economic depression resulted in the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme. A population explosion, frequent changes in the government due to military coups, a depressed economy and unplanned and uncontrolled educational expansion all created an environment of crisis in the education system. The crises included those of poor funding, inadequate facilities, admission and certi® cate racketeering, examination malpractices, general indiscipline and the emergence of secret cults. Personnel management problems resulted in frequent strikes and closures and the abandonment of academic standards. The thesis is that any society which stimulates the uncoordinated growth of its education system and then fails to provide the necessary dedicated teachers, teaching and learning facilities and operating funds for staff and student welfare services, is creating an environment within which all types of problems and crises will ¯ ourish. Lessons for other developing nations include the need for democratically elected stable governments instead of military regimes and better planning, funding and management of the education system.
The National Policy on Education (NPE)
It is necessary to examine brie¯ y the present system of education and its immediate past in order to appreciate the nature, causes and magnitude of the different types of crises in the system. The National Policy on Education (NPE) popularly referred to as the 6-3-3-4 system, was introduced in 1977 and then revised in 1981 (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1981). It marked a radical departure from the British system of education which Nigeria inherited at independence in 1960. Basically it adopted the American system of 6 years of primary education, 3 years of junior secondary school, 3 years of senior secondary school, and 4 years of university education. Primary education is free, but not compulsory. Junior secondary education is supposed to be free, but it is not yet so in any of the 30 states in the federation. The transition from primary to junior secondary education was planned to be automatic but many states conduct competitive entrance examinations since the available junior secondary schools cannot accommodate all the aspirants. A major emphasis in the NPE is the teaching of pre-vocational subjects to all students at the junior secondary level. The learning of Nigerian languages is also compulsory at the primary and secondary school levels. Much more attention is being paid to women’ s education and the teaching of science, technical and vocational subjects at the senior secondary and tertiary levels. Although many policy documents support decentralisation of the system of administration, there is an ever-increasing tendency towards centralisation of Correspondence to: Cordelia C. Nwagwu, Institute of Education, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria. 0305-0068/97/010087-09 $7.00 Ó 1997 Carfax Publishing Ltd
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educational control especially as the federal government is called upon to assume a greater role in the funding of the education system at all levels.
During the 1993± 1994 academic year, there were 38,254 primary schools, 5959 secondary schools, 55 colleges of education, 45 polytechnics and colleges of technology and 35 universities in Nigeria. Though some critics consider the above statistics inadequate for a country with approximately 100 million people, the number of institutions represents a phenomenal rate of expansion of the education system between 1960 and 1993. Indeed, at independence there was only one university college, one college of technology, no colleges of education (only 280 low-level teacher training colleges) and 443 secondary...