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How old contents, lack of skills, others ignite calls for curriculum review

The basic and secondary school education sector in Nigeria is challenged by poor infrastructure and inadequate qualified teachers, among others, leading to poor enrolment, poor…

The basic and secondary school education sector in Nigeria is challenged by poor infrastructure and inadequate qualified teachers, among others, leading to poor enrolment, poor quality of learning and shunning of public schools by pupils and parents.

While government and other stakeholders’ efforts to address the challenges are in progress, many have blamed the curriculum used in school as responsible for the poor quality of learning due to its outdated contents. 

In education, curriculum is defined as the totality of student experiences that occur in the educational process. The term often refers specifically to a planned sequence of instruction or a view of the student’s experiences in terms of the educator’s or school’s instructional goals.

The Federal Ministry of Education in 2008 said there was the need to revise and upgrade the curriculum in a customized manner towards providing for the needs of the country while at the same time keeping touch with contemporary issues and global best practices.

With this, many are clamouring for the review of the curriculum, designed or developed to facilitate value reorientation, poverty eradication, critical thinking, entrepreneurship and lifelong skills, among the youth.

A former Minister of Education, Dauda Brimah, in an interview, told Daily Trust said the present educational system is ineffective when compared to what was obtained some years back, as it is based on a single national policy on education.

“The problem is that there is only one national policy on education. When I saw it, I said it was a mistake and I still believe it was a mistake. How can you say Zamfara and Ogun are running the same type of education curricula? How can you say Taraba or Yobe are running the same with Delta or Imo, these people started differently, Taraba, Zamfara, and Yobe are not less than 70 years behind Ogun, behind Delta and Imo,” he said.

The former minister further explained that in the national policy on education, there should be allowance for a state to have its policy of education, saying, “They are in the same country but there must be policies which suit every state so that even if they don’t catch up, they can discover the crown which they have lost.”

“If Zamfara is allowed to craft its education policy, it has peculiarities that must be addressed but not to focus their attention on the federal government. If we do not do that, we shall continue to get it wrong. We need to put our micro vision in our respective areas.”

The minister suggested that the education curriculum should be such that Yobe would have its education policy, Zamfara, and Imo would all have their education policies but “our orientation is such that we are all focusing our eyes on the federal government; we are not focusing our eyes on our respective stakeholders.”

On the problem of curriculum, a school leader in Caleb Group of Schools, Sola Adeola, told Daily Trust that the basic and secondary school curriculum in Nigeria has been criticized for several reasons, one of which is limited focus on technology and digital literacy.

“The curriculum may not adequately incorporate the use of technology or promote digital literacy skills, despite the increasing role of technology in various aspects of life and work, it also has outdated content, lack of practical skills, rote learning and memorization, neglect of hands-on subjects, etc,” she said.

According to her, several aspects of the curriculum are missing practical skills, critical thinking and problem-solving, digital literacy, financial education and environmental sustainability.

She however agreed with the call for a review of the curriculum in Nigeria, saying it is crucial to ensure that education remains relevant, prepares students for the future, promotes holistic development, fosters critical thinking, embraces inclusivity, and also supports the professional growth of teachers.

“It is a proactive step towards improving the quality of education and equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world,” she added.

She pointed out that by addressing the missing aspects in the curriculum, Nigeria can better prepare its students to navigate the complexities of the modern world, contribute meaningfully to society, and seize opportunities in various fields.

To make the curriculum more relevant, she said, several steps can be taken, like stakeholder involvement, needs assessment, flexibility and adaptability, practical skills integration, technology integration, interdisciplinary approach, inclusivity and diversity and continuous feedback and evaluation.

“By implementing these steps, the curriculum can be made more relevant, responsive, and effective in preparing Nigerian students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” she said.

For Oluwabunmi Anani, a teacher, a curriculum is like a race track that provides direction on the kind, standard, quality, and depth of learning experience students should acquire to become useful, functional, and participatory creators in their communities, not mere consumers. 

She said: “The present curriculum has attracted so many clamours for review so it can be redesigned to ameliorate the socio-political and socio-economic problems facing the nation to make it functional, innovative and creative.”

“The question is “what are we missing”? For one thing, the global goals and Education for Sustainable Development should be incorporated into every subject taught in the lower-basic and upper-basic schools. That way, children will be more aware of local and global problems and conditioned to become critical thinkers and problem solvers,” she said.

Anani noted that 21st-century life skills should be embedded in topics and lessons delivered by all subject teachers. Three, practical, skills-based, project-based and collaborative tasks should be emphasised in the curriculum, no matter the subject area. This would reduce the abstract nature of lessons and engage learners to acquire skills, apply skills on a consistent basis, and make learning more real.

“In addition to the above, real-life problems that emphasise higher-order thinking should be emphasised in the curriculum. This would prepare learners for the real world of work, and position them to become creators, contributing to the development of society,” she said.

She also pointed out that JSS leavers should have acquired functional skills to overcome poverty, create their own jobs and wealth and demonstrate positive values, adding that community service should be practically entrenched in the curriculum to give learners exposure and opportunity to learn what it means to give back to the society.

“In English Language, for instance, skills in writing emails, memos, and other forms of formal communication should be instilled. Unless these are done, clamours for a curriculum review that meets global standards and prepares as well as empower our students for the future world of work would not abate, she said.

However, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO), emphasised Nigeria’s need for a school curriculum that is relevant to its needs.

UNESCO’s Director for the International Bureau of Education, (IBE), Mr Ydo Yao, speaking at a 4-day capacity building workshop organised by the UN agency for officials of the Ministry of Education, recently in Abuja said the need for this action is evident in the triple crises of equity and inclusion, quality, and relevance of education.

“Part of the commitments toward addressing these crises is making curriculum relevant for assuring quality in education and ensuring that values, knowledge, and skills needed to thrive in the present day complex world are transmitted through the education system.”

He said: “Curriculum is a central and irreplaceable component of any educational policy and pivotal in the transformation of education. To achieve SDG4 which seeks to ‘ensure equal access to quality education for all and promote lifelong learning opportunities’, there must be a rethinking of curriculum contents and pedagogical approaches.”

Speaking at the workshop in Abuja, Yao lamented that there are many Nigerians and Africans who have gone to school and are qualified but have no jobs because of their nature of training.

“First, is the relevance of learning; you know, there are many Nigerians and Africans who have gone to school. They are qualified. But they don’t have jobs. And this is a global challenge for Africa and is because of the relevance of the training,” he said.

According to him, no education sector can be transformed if its curricula are not transformed, adding that curriculum is for education, what a constitution is for a democracy and that means it’s at the heart of education.

“So, when you talk about education, you are talking about content, programmes and learning. So, if you want to transform education, and you don’t transform what is at the core of it, which is the learning, the content and the programmes, your transformation has no meaning,” he said.

Reacting, the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, noted that since the curriculum is dynamic, opportunities for capacity building on curriculum development and implementation should be regular to keep abreast with new knowledge and strategies.

“We recognize the fundamental role of curriculum in the drive for the attainment of globally agreed goals and country-specific aspirations. It remains the singular instrument capable of transforming the human capital base of a nation for effective contribution to nation-building and development,” he said.

The minister added that Nigeria is committed to the logical conclusion of all aspects of the curriculum review process.

In his remark, the Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof Ismail Junaidu, said the government was committed and deliberate in its vision to bring change to the Nigerian education sector as articulated in the Ministerial Strategic Plan, 2016 to 2018 and later 2018 – 2022.

“The Ministerial Strategic Plan generally seeks to reform the education system in order to meet the demands for improvement in all spheres of our national life and for global competitiveness.

“This prompted us at NERDC to engage in a wide range of activities to strengthen the school curricula and optimize implementation,” he said.

He said: “Particularly, we have strengthened the school curricula with knowledge and skills on entrepreneurship and job creation, capital market studies, electoral education, and online safety, among others.

“We have also provided teachers and education managers with resource materials to help them implement the curriculum seamlessly.”

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