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The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently reported that the number of children who enrolled in public early childhood education dropped from 4,672,908 in 2015 to 2,694,787 in 2016. Enrolment in private early childhood education also reduced from 2,076,420 in 2015 to 1,457,461 in 2016.
The report was contained in Education Statistics (2014 – 2016) that NBS published on its website on February 16, 2018. Subsequently, the report made the headlines in several media platforms.
This early childhood education refers to children attending organised education programme before primary school. It is a form of education that is also known as pre-primary, preschool, playschool, kindergarten or nursery.
WILD SWING IN ENROLMENT
Enrolment in public pre-primary school increased by 70.6% from 2014 to 2015 and decreased by 73.4% from 2015 to 2016. In private pre-primary school, enrolment increased by 34.1% from 2014 to 2015 and decreased by 42.5% from 2015 to 2016.
DETERMINANTS OF EARLY SCHOOL ENROLMENT
A study by Olanrewaju Olaniyan of the University of Ibadan points out that parents’ education, income and geographical zone influence early school enrolment in Nigeria. Educated parents are more likely to enrol their children in school early. Also, parents with stable income are likely to enrol their children in school. The influence of geographical zone means that children from certain parts of the country are more likely to enrol in school than children from other parts.
Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of 2017 shows that 35.6 percent of children between the ages three and five years attend an organised early childhood education programme but there is a huge regional disparity. While only 23.2 percent of children in northern Nigeria are attending preschool, 80.5 percent of children in the southern part of the country are enrolled in preschool.
Early school enrolment is influenced by social, cultural, economic, policy and historical factors, according to Unicef, the UN children’s agency. Curiously, there is no evidence of unprecedented economic, social and policy disruptions in Nigeria that accounted for the disproportionate increases and decreases in pre-primary school enrolment between 2014 and 2016.
TRENDS IN ENROLMENT
Enrolment in pre-primary school has shown a steady increase since 2006, according to Nigeria Education For All Review Report (2000-2014), published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The report indicated that enrolment in both public and private preschool rose from 2 million in 2006 to 2.7 million in 2010. Improvement in enrolment was sustained in subsequent years, as enrolment in public pre-primary school rose from 2.1 million in 2011 to 2.2 million in 2012 and 2.9 million in 2013.
These enrolment figures in the UNESCO report were based on the first Nigeria Digest of Education Statistics from 2006 to 2010 and the second in the series from 2011 to 2013.
QUESTIONABLE DATA FROM STATES
The education statistics uploaded by the NBS on its website show that enrolment in public schools in Rivers State increased by 5,470.7% from 2014 to 2015 and decreased by 11,520.3% from 2015 to 2016. In private preschool, enrolment decreased by 1,050.4% between 2015 and 2016 in the state.
The state recorded 1.8 million children in public preschool enrolment in 2015. Overall, the state had 2.4 million in both public and private pre-primary school in 2015. This number of children in preschool was not proportionate to the population of the state.
The Rivers State’s population as of the 2006 census was 5,198,716. In view of Nigeria’s annual population growth of 2.6 percent, the state’s population would have been projected at 6,549,714 in 2015. It was unlikely that more than one-third of the population of Rivers State in 2015 was enrolled in pre-primary school in 2015.
Other states in the southern part of the country also showed disproportionate increases and decreases in enrolment between 2014 and 2016. For example, Lagos State recorded 134,578 children in public preschool in 2014 but only 90,640 in 2015 and 69,240 in 2016. Similarly, Ondo State recorded 668,494 in public preschool enrolment in 2014 and 671,341 in 2015, but the figure fell to 296,369 in 2016. Also, Imo State recorded 50,600 in 2014 and 54,255 in 2015 but skyrocketed to 172,597 in 2016.
ORIGIN OF THE CONFLICTING FIGURES
The education statistics (2014 – 2016) published by NBS was the third edition of the Nigeria Digest of Education Statistics compiled by the Federal Ministry of Education.
In presenting the data, Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, described it as a “masterful effort to marshal education data” to address obvious gaps in education statistics. He said the education statistics would fulfill the need for reliable and accurate data in education for effective planning and decision making.
“I would, therefore, wish to urge researchers, planners and policymakers to use the data presented here with confidence for all purposes,” Adamu said.
NBS is the custodian of nation’s statistics, but it analysed and published the data without validating it.
It is most certainly inaccurate and untrue that enrolment in pre-primary school decreased drastically in 2016. The fluctuations in enrolment reported by several media platforms based on NBS education statistics were based on invalid and unreliable data that originated from the Federal Ministry of Education.
There is no evidence that enrolment in pre-primary school decreased in 2016. It is more likely that there has been a steady increase in enrolment since 2001.