Nigeria: National Policy on Education (NPE) suffers poor implementation

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jan 4 13:34:32 UTC 2008

 National Policy on Education (NPE) suffers poor implementation

Written by Wale Ajao
Wednesday, 02 January 2008

FOR thirty years the nation has been unable to successfully implement
the National Policy on Education (NPE). Education sub-sector had
glorious time between the fifties and early seventies. However, by the
nineties, twenty years after the NPE, education has receded into a
dark age characterised by brain drain, campus cultism and examination
malpractices. While giving the 16th inaugural lecture of Olabisi
Onabanjo University in September 2000, Professor Emmanuel Ajayi
described Nigerian Educational system as "the crisis child of our
time." Very few people will reject that description. The population of
Nigeria is now 140,003.542 million. Illiteracy is still as high as
60%. No Nigerian Newspaper has a daily print run of 500,000 copies.
Indigenous languages are still relegated to the background, funding
for education is still below expectation.

Less than 60% of graduates of our tertiary institutions are products
of science and technology institutions. Graduates of humanities and
social sciences are far more than those of science and technology.
That is contrary to the NPE which recommended 70% admission into
science and technology programmes. Teachers and students still
interact under poor learning environments. In fact it is as if each
year makes things worse for education. Yet as far back as thirty years
ago, the National Policy on Education outlined steps to be taken to
make education sub-sector something we can all be proud of.

The policy which came into existence in 1997 after over four years of
deliberations at various levels contained solutions to virtually all
our educational problems. In Section 1 Sub-Section 5, the document
says Nigeria's philosophy of education is based on the development of
the individual into a sound and effective citizen. "The full
integration of the individual into the community, the provision of
equal access to educational opportunities for all citizens of the
country at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels both inside and
outside the formal school system."

With regards to the provisions of the policy, Nigerians know that none
of those lofty objectives have been fully realised. Just as many
"effective citizens" have been produced by the educational system,
there are also many citizens who cannot perform their responsibilities
as citizens. They are the thousands of educated but unemployed
Nigerian youths who cannot pay taxes. These people cannot be described
in the words of NPE as "effective citizens." There are also few
educated elites who have looted the treasury so massively that they
cannot be described as "effective citizens." Stakeholders would wonder
what type of education was given to those rogues in government.

Is there something in the National Policy on Education to instil
patriotism in the minds of the citizens? Why have such provisions not
been implemented? The policy talks about integrating individuals into
the community. How can an unemployed graduate be fully integrated into
the community? What type of education have the youths received that
they cannot get jobs and they cannot create jobs for themselves? Is it
possible that we have reached this point because there is no link
between our Education Policy and agro-industrial policy? In terms of
provision of equal access to educational opportunities for all
citizens at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, observers will
readily assert that this has become a tantalising mirage.

Dr. Rasheed Aderinoye, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education,
University of Ibadan agrees. He said, "Poor funding of education has
negatively affected the implementation of the policy. So many young
persons cannot access education at every level because their parents
are poor.

Even though the state has made education free up to junior secondary
level, many parents may not be aware of this new situation. Some
parents may still want their wards to keep assisting them on the farm,
in cattle rearing, in fishing, trading and so on. In effect, poverty
is still inhibiting access to education among the less privileged in

Until we carry out massive enlightenment campaign and we significantly
improve funding for education we cannot talk of equal access to
education at all levels for all our citizens."

In section 1 sub-section 10 the policy talks about the importance of
language. It says "government appreciates the importance of language
as a means of promoting social interaction and national cohesion and
preserving cultures. Thus every child shall learn the language of the
immediate environment.

Furthermore, in the interest of national unity it is expedient that
every child shall be required to learn one of the three Nigerian
languages, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. For smooth interaction with our
neighbours it is desirable for every Nigerian to speak French.
Accordingly, French shall be the second official language in Nigeria
and it shall be compulsory in schools."

Thirty years on, French is only being learnt in a few public or
private primary and secondary schools.

Many public or private schools in Ogun and Lagos states have no French
teacher Vanguard investigation has revealed. It is well known by
stakeholders that all over the country private primary schools offer
lessons in English while indigenous languages like Yoruba, Hausa and
Igbo are taught as additional subjects.

Yet what the policy advocates is that indigenous language should be
the mode of instruction for the first three years of primary school.
Another aspect of the policy that has not been implemented is the
provision that each child should learn one language in addition to
that of his own community.

The policy specifically mentioned Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. In reality
all over the country there are very few places where the children have
opportunity to learn another Nigerian language in addition to that of
their own area. In the Western part of the country where Yoruba is the
dominant language, majority of the children have no opportunity to
learn Hausa or Igbo.

This situation prevails in both public and private schools. What this
means is that indigenous languages are not getting enough attention
while foreign languages are getting better attention. Professor Babs
Fafunwa reacts to this situation:

"That is another evidence of poor implementation of the policy. I have
been saying that we can teach our children in our own indigenous
languages. And I have often asked how many foreign languages are we
going to adopt as official languages. We carried out a research at the
University of Ife. We taught Mathematics and Science.

We used Yoruba language to teach the two subjects. As it has been
widely reported the children did well. They sat for primary school
leaving certificate examination and 95% of the children scored over
90% in Mathematics and Science."

Vanguard asked whether his view is practicable in view of the fact
that we have well over 200 languages in the country. Professor Fafunwa
replied, "It is all a matter of the political will of government. If
government has the will to encourage the teaching of indigenous
languages it can be done.

You must have heard that the United Nations Scientific and Cultural
Organisation UNESCO has also been saying that indigenous languages and
cultures should not be allowed to go into extinction."

Furthermore, Professor Fafunwa, who is a former Minister of Education
said that as the policy recommended, government needs to develop the
orthography of more Nigerian languages and produce textbooks in
Nigerian languages.

This, according to him, can form the foundation to the development of
an indigenous language as Lingua Franca. The late Dr. Tai Solarin was
also an advocate of use of indigenous languages in the educational

The National Policy on Education has also been poorly implemented in
the area of pre-primary education. In Section 2 the policy says "The
responsibilities of government for pre-primary education shall be to
promote the training of qualified pre-primary school teachers in
adequate number and supervise and control the quality of such

This is another aspect of the policy that has not been implemented at
all especially at the federal level.
According to Professor Tunde Samuel, "Lagos State College of Primary
Education, LASCOPED, Epe is perhaps the only institution in the whole
of this country that specialises in the training of pre-primary and
primary school teachers. It is unlikely that all over Africa LASCOPED
is the first institution with that mandate."

Professor Samuel who is the foundation Provost of LASCOPED added that
"both the Federal Government and the states need to show more
commitment to education."

The management of primary education has been affected by
inconsistencies and contradictions as if there is no policy on this
level of education.

Commenting on the impact of political consideration on the policy on
primary schools, Professor Ajayi in his inaugural lecture said that,
"It was political consideration that led to the controversy over who
should actually be in control of primary education and the backward
and forward policies and decrees we have witnessed on the issue ever
since including the establishment and scrapping and re-establishment
of the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC)."

He added that, "Politics equally destroyed the effective
implementation of the National Policy on Education (NPE) that
beautiful and well conceived programme which would have ushered in an
era of scientific and technological revolution for the country."

The National Policy on Education also provided for a two tier
secondary school system. The first three years is the junior secondary
while the second three years is the senior secondary. Scientific and
technical equipment were supposed to be provided for the secondary

Each school was to have Introductory Technology workshop mid-way into
its implementation, the programme was abandoned. All around the nation
nowadays extremely few schools still have such introductory technology
workshops. In fact, government has come up with another system to be
known as 9-3-4 system.

The first one known as 6-3-3-4 was never fully implemented and yet the
education authorities have come up with the 9-3-4 system. According to
Mrs Bola Mosuro, Proprietress Access Universal College, Lagos, "Our
problem in this country is that we often pick and drop policies as we
want. In the United States the two tier secondary school system is
still in operation.

"There is nothing wrong with the 6-3-3-4 system. We have not
implemented it well and now we have picked another one."

Frequent changes in policies is traceable to frequent changes in
government. Professor Ajayi noted this in his inaugural lecture.
"Within the eight years (1991-1999) that I served as the Provost of
the Federal College of Education (FCE) Osiele, Ogun State, the nation
passed through five different regimes (Babangida till 1993, Shonekan
for less than four months in 1993, Abacha 1993-1998, Abubakar
1998-1999, Obasanjo 1999-2007).

Within this period I had to operate under eight Ministers of
Education. The same thing happened at the state level. Each of the
Presidents, Ministers, Governors and Commissioners had their own
different conceptions and policies on education which they tried to
implement during their tenure.

With such instability in the system of governance coupled with
constant changes in "Ministers of" and "commissioners for," one should
not be surprised at the level of the crises the nation's education
system has witnessed over the years and the inconsistency and often
contradictory nature of the educational policies and programmes with
one step forward and two steps backward."

The policy on Technical and Vocational education has also been poorly
implemented over the years.

The Rector of Hussaini Adamu Federal Polytechnic Kazaure, Jigawa State
and chairman of COHEADS told Vanguard in his office that government
has not been following the provisions of the National Policy on
Education (NPE) in establishing secondary schools and technical

While the NPE puts the ratio between secondary and technical
vocational education at 3:1, Nigeria has 5,100 secondary schools with
enrolment of 4,448,991 as against technical colleges of only 169 with
enrolment of 43,354 representing ratios of 37:1 and 102:1

This means that technical colleges will turn out small number of
students. Dr. Kazaure added that, "It should be noted that according
to the policy technical colleges are expected to feed polytechnics
just as secondary schools are to feed universities.

 The prevailing situation however is that the total products of our
technical colleges represents only 17% of available spaces in
polytechnics. So right from the on-set the mission of technical
colleges with regards to feeding polytechnic is not being met."

In terms of tertiary education there is equally nothing to write home
about. A former secretary for Education Professor Ben Nwabueze in a
book titled Crisis and Problems in Education in Nigeria published in
1995 wrote that, "At the tertiary level our universities and
polytechnics have become perhaps the most fertile ground for social
unrest and indiscipline.

The factors responsible for this state of affairs are partly external
and partly internal to the tertiary institutions.

Among the external causes are insufficient funding, lack of coherent
higher education policy by successive governments, undue interference
with the university autonomy, the amorality, buccaneering, unbridled
quest for wealth, the adoration of money, the disdain for
intellectualism and the enthronement of mediocrity in our society in
place of excellence; the inversion of moral values. In contradiction
of the provisions of NPE students enrolment has gone beyond existing

This trend started long ago. It has now led to all sorts of
anti-social activities like cultism and examination malpractice. There
is a gap between demand and supply of bed space in all tertiary

Seven years ago, government began to allow private universities to
operate with the hope that more space will be made available to

Tracing the roots of the situation, Professor Ajayi said in his
lecture that, "In 1960/61 when there were only two universities in
Nigeria, the total student population stood at only 1,395. This figure
rose to 32,282 in 13 universities by 1975, 116,822 in 27 universities
in 1983 and 180,871 in 31 universities by 1990."

Even with the existence of 22 private universities, 25 federal
universities and 27 state universities and over 200,000 students
enrolment is still far in excess of available space. In fact, out of
over 1 million applicants for university admission less than 25% can
be absorbed.

This is due to the poor implementation of the policy which had long
ago recommended greater expenditure on education which if done would
have opened more space for the youths.

In section 7 the policy said that the Federal Government shall provide
functional literacy and continuing education for adults and youths who
have never had the advantage of formal education or who did not
complete their primary education.

The Federal Government under General Babangida (rtd) with N200 million
established the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and
Non-formal Education. Some of the 36 states also established mass
literacy agency.

At present underfunding and almost total neglect is the fate of the
commission and the mass literacy agencies. That is another instance of
the poor implementation of the NPE.

Furthermore the National Policy on Education in Section 9 sub-section
79 suggested that there should be Teachers Registration Council.

Between 1977 and 1993 nothing was done to establish the Teachers
Registration Council. In 1993 Decree 31 established the council. For
another six years nothing was done to implement the provisions of the
decree until 1999 when the first Registrar and Chief Executive of the
Council Mr. A.M. Ciwar was appointed.

For another two years, with the exception of the Registrar and one
other staff, the full compliments of staff and a secretariat were not
made available to the commission. Therefore, between 2002 and 2007 the
Teachers Registration Council can be described as a toddler. Only few
teachers have been registered while many still do not know of its

Similarly, the Policy recommended that government shall give priority
to education financing. Yet no government, military or civilian, since
independence has allocated up to 25% of the budget to education. It
has always been difficult to determine the priority of the Nigerian

Therefore, the thirty years of the National Policy on Education has
been years of unplanned expansion. There has been growth in
institutions, personnel and facilities but the growth has been
inadequate in quantum and quality. According to Dr. Rasheed Aderinoye,
"It is time to take another look at the policy and re-work it so as
to incorporate HIV/AIDS education, Information Communication
Technology, ICT education and other emergent issues.

Above all there is an urgent need for the government of the day to
ensure proper implementation of policies to avoid the mistakes of the

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