With the enormity of inadequacy in knowledge and lack of capacity from the early years, education for socio-economic development remains alien to the child. Years back in the 1960, 70s and to some extent the 1980s, school libraries and science laboratories were functioning. Whilst the libraries provided useful books and journals on a wide range of subjects and offered access to local and international newspapers, the science laboratories provided opportunities to students for student-led science practicals. Sadly, the situation is no longer the same in our schools of today; schools no longer have library facilities. Agriculture is no longer taught in secondary schools. Science laboratories are no longer existing and students are now left with alternative to science in their WASCE/GCE/NECO examinations whilst standard recreational facilities for sports are virtually non-existent in most schools.
In the times past, student studied hard for their West African School Certificate Examinations. Students burned the night candles and worked very hard at both afternoon and evening preps. Cheating in examination rooms constituted taboos and any student who got themselves involved in examination malpractices would attract everlasting dent on their names and the image of the school. But in today’s Nigeria, students write examinations on bargaining terms. School authorities and examination invigilators now corruptly conspire to prepare answers to the highest bidder. At the end, school leavers turn out as half-backed with poor cultural and educational orientation. They are not able to speak, read or write simple sentences in English language, let alone in their own local native languages. The outcome is a lack of both basic literacy and numeracy skills. This implies that where there are no basic learning skills, there is no education. Where there is no education, there cannot be any development. Where there is no development, you cannot compete at any level, whether nationally or internationally. It is a band-wagon effect as knowledge is not acquired in isolation. In Nigeria, it is noted that students pass rate in the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) is declining in comparison to their West African counterparts in Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Gambia. In 2013, Only 86,612 out of a total of 298,971 candidates who sat the examination succeeded. This represents just 29% percent obtaining credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics; whilst in 2014 more than 70% of candidates who sat for the November/December West African School Certificate Examination failed to achieve five credits, including English and mathematics. The Head of National Office of WASCE, Charles Eguridu said, out of 241,161 candidates who sat the examination in 2014, only 72,522 passed with five subjects, mathematics and English Language inclusive. This gave a pass rate of just 30% nationwide. In both years (2013 and 2014) the examination body withheld 28,817 results for reasons connected to examination malpractices. What this implied was that examination fraudulence numbering up to almost 29,000 was discovered among children of 16-17-year olds across the country.
This is a clear manifestation of the root of corruption in Nigeria. If at childhood and adolescence, children have already known and practiced corruption through cheating in national examinations, and aided by adults in positions of authority, we should worry about the kind of future we are building for our young ones to live in and to manage. In Finland, high school dropout rate is 2%. Most of the students in Finland can speak four different languages. Language skills make the speakers to be internationally more competitive. Nigerian education curriculum at high school level could benchmark the Finland model and introduce African languages such as Swahili the most widely spoken language in East Africa, whose over 180 million speakers spread across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Northern Mozambique. Tamazight is another African Language widely spoken by around 35 million people in North Africa in countries including Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Northern Mali, Northern Niger, and Egypt. Ability to use these languages proficiently in addition to English and French Languages as well as the child’s local native language will place the child at a competitive edge across Africa and beyond. The Finland record on education did not happen overnight; they started to focus on education since the last half of the century and their focus has not dropped off, instead it is improving progressively. Finnish teachers are the best and brightest and come from top 10% of the students. Teachers are paid and respected like doctors and engineers. The school system in Finland is 100% state funded. Each classroom consists of 16 to 20 students, and sometimes with 3 teachers. 43% of the high school students go to vocational schools to learn skills. Nigeria has a great deal to learn from Finnish Education system. Nigeria has the resources to build the capacity. If 26% of Nigeria’s GDP were spent on education as recommended by the United Nations, the country will achieve great milestones in education and prepare the youths for the future of the country.
The Higher School Certificate of Education/ GCE Advanced Level
The introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system of education pre-supposed that the old system of education (6-5-2-3) in which 2 years of Higher School Certification of Education (HSCE)/Advanced Level was a part, was archaic. The then Federal Military Government reasoned that the 6-5-2-3 education policies failed to provide for the needs of indigenous Nigerians because, according to them, it placed too much emphasis on paper qualifications. They claimed that the new 6- 3-3-4 system was modern, dynamic, and progressive. They also said that the system would assist in the attainment of some of the objectives of National policy on education with emphasis on meeting the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerian society. They pre-supposed that the system would help the Nigerian nation to develop technologically and that there would be more technical graduates from the various technical colleges, polytechnics and universities of technology in the country. They also postulated that the system, to some extent, would help to cater for individual differences in intelligence, physical ability, and individual aspirations, which would enable the individual learner to develop his/her potentials. Fabunmi (1986) however viewed in his work, Social and legal implications of the 6-3-3-4 system of education in Nigeria, published in Journal of Ancops, vol2 (1), p 7, that ‘despite all the lofty presumptions, the system failed’. He noted that the new system of education lost its quality and there was a total collapse of the sector. He explained that the predicaments to a proper execution of the 6-3-3-4 systems were:
(i) Problem of non-availability of adequate textbooks and resources as well as shortage of teachers.
(ii) Political problem, that is, the idea that the system was conceived by military government that favoured centralization.
(iii) Financial problem: Since the success of any educational programme depends heavily on fund made available, most of the equipment and facilities required for the system could not be bought due to inadequate government funding.
(iv) Public Enlightenments: The public seemed to be unaware of the benefit of the programme, hence its catastrophic failure.
(v) Inadequate statistics for national planning on education – the inability to obtain detailed and up-to-date statistical data needed for effective educational planning. Although Fabunmi may have identified the problems with the 6-3-3-4 system, he did not extend his work to include the impact of the removal of Higher School Certificate of Education (HSCE). This paper views that the removal of Advanced Level (AL) education from the pre-university education system had done more harm than good. The A’level (equivalent of the European Baccalaureate or UK NVQ level 3) is a major disadvantage to Nigerian education. The HSCE, if still in the system, would have enabled young students leaving secondary schools Ordinary Level (OL) education to proceed to the Advanced level stage and to proceed by a direct entry route to the University without needing to write the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board examinations (JAMB), or being subjected to any University’s Post-University matriculation screen tests (Post-UME) (I will discuss this to details later in this paper).
In addition to the above benefits of HSCE, students holding this qualification would be much more competitive and acceptable globally if they decided to further their education overseas, as most institutions in Europe require more than WASC qualifications for a direct entry into their Universities. Another benefit would have meant that students with good A ‘level results would have been useful to our economy as their learning skills and academic expertise will have been good enough to be employed as managers and administrators in the civil service, banking and insurance sectors as well as in the private sector organisations. It is the view of this paper that the removal of this very important part from the Nigeria’s education system has created a wide gap in the system. There is therefore the strong need for a review of the current system with a view to bringing the HSCE qualification back into the system. Bringing it back will give back strength to Nigerian education and the Nigerian students generally. It will remove the unnecessary time wasting for school leavers sitting down at home for years to write and pass JAMB examination before university education can be accessible.
Higher Education in Nigeria
Teaching and research as well as consultancy constitute the main functions of higher education worldwide. In the Nigeria of today, some Universities have lost the glory associated with academic excellence in the ivory towers. Many universities in Nigeria of today have become centres for the production of cultists, social thugs and half-baked graduates. In many universities, academics have no access to current information in their various fields. Old and outdated textbooks are still the key resources for teaching and in most cases, lecturers have limited access to international electronic journals to keep up with the trends of development in their fields. Participation at international conferences to showcase their research have reduced, creativity and innovation in research are almost extinct due to lack of fund. Academics are less challenged and less motivated in comparison to their counterparts in the international arena. Access to knowledge infrastructure such as adequately equipped libraries, modern computer technologies including information, communication and design systems; steady supply of water and electricity amongst others to support teaching and learning have become a mirage in our institutions of higher learning. In the 21st Century Nigeria, the common denominator amongst Nigerian Universities are poverty of knowledge, low quality education, out-of-model, and non-value-added characteristics.
Unless these barriers were removed or turned around, the future of Nigeria’s education will continue to go down the drain. This current situation therefore makes it imperative for the governments (Central and states) to review their policies urgently and bring education to the top of their priorities. (To be continued)