Following the failure of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) to develop appropriate curriculum for pre-primary education, and that of the Ministry of Education to enforce standard, elitist private schools in Abuja have jettisoned Nigerian curriculum for American and British curriculums.
Investigations revealed that the rich children’s schools in Abuja are either using the American or the British curriculum, with few of them combining Nigerian with foreign ones.
If NERDC and Ministry of Education were doing their jobs, all the public and private schools in the country would be using one curriculum, as done in other countries.
‘OUTDATED AND IRRELEVANT’
Private school proprietors told ICIR that the Nigerian curriculum is abstract and outdated, and cannot be used to teach their pupils.
“Nigerian curriculum has things that are not relevant and current to what we need to be teaching our children,” says Emem Opashi, Managing Director of School Resource Centre.
Opashi, a psychologist and early childhood education specialist who also runs a nursery school, says she prefers the British curriculum because it is well-structured for the teachers to be able to follow, and it is regularly updated.
Other proprietors say the Nigerian curriculum was developed by people with limited academic and technical understanding of the expected components of pre-primary school curriculum.
And for them to use the curriculum, it should be reviewed by stakeholders who understand the concept of early childhood education to bring it up to international standard.
Swadchet Sankey, an early childhood education specialist with the United Nations children’s Fund (UNICEF), agrees that there is a lot of room for improvement of the curriculum but cautions that it is not a bad document.
“It is not excellent,” says Sankey. “But it is better than having nothing. There is the notion of the American and British curriculum but there is a lot of learning that goes on when you teach concepts that are indigenous and familiar to the children.”
The curriculum was developed in 2013 by NERDC with support from the UNICEF but it covers only one year of pre-primary school for children who have attained the age of five.
However, pre-primary school ideally should cater for children between the ages of three to five until they reach the official school age of six to start primary education.
PATCHING THE ROOF WHILE THE FOUNDATION IS LEAKY
While the merging of Christian Religious Studies, Islamic Religious Studies, Civic Education, Social Studies, and Security Education under a new subject called Religion and National Values for secondary school students have generated heated national debate and protest from religious leaders in the past few weeks, the pre-primary school curriculum is rarely mentioned.
Pre-primary education in Nigeria, which comprises day-care and nursery, is believed by early childhood development experts to be a crucial first learning experience that every child deserves to have.
Research has shown that children who have access to pre-primary education do better in primary school and they are less likely to drop out of school. Evidence also shows that people that had the chance to pass through quality pre-primary school earn more as adults than those who did not have the chance to attend quality pre-primary school.
Sankey says the whole idea of pre-primary education is to build in children concepts and skills that will make them ready for school.
Pre-primary education focuses on the physical, cognitive, emotional and social development of children.
Early childhood development experts, however, say that the quality of pre-primary education in Nigeria is very poor to prepare children for the primary school. This also denies them the life-long benefit of such early learning.
WHAT EXACTLY IS MISSING IN THE CURRICULUM?
Private school proprietors and early childhood development experts say the curriculum should be reviewed to incorporate concepts that enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills in children.
Stella Uzochukwu, who is running science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics after-school, says the curriculum should have “the 21st-century skills”, which include, critical thinking, collaborative learning and problem-solving.
She says these skills should be inculcated in children in the early stage of their lives when their brains are developing at a faster rate than any other time in their lives.
“There is a shift in teaching,” she says. “We can’t continue to do things in the old ways. We have moved from chalk and board to allowing the children to even teach themselves.”
Uzochukwu is quick to point out that bureaucracy in government is making it hard to introduce the innovative concepts in the curriculum, and this is why she opted to start with the after-school facility when she came back from a post-graduate study in India.
Essienanwan Bangwell, who is children and teens coach and the team lead of Handz and Mindz, says both the curriculum and lack of educational tools are disappointing Nigerian children in learning.
“They are sitting in the classroom. The learning is redundant,” says Bangwell.
She notes that a curriculum for pre-primary school should focus on creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving, adding that Nigeria should make this adjustment in the curriculum and teaching to give children the finest education possible.
“Nigerian children can do a lot better,” she says. “They are more intelligent than the academic reflects but they are shaking of boredom. We have a doing generation and we need to make this kind of adjustment.”
It is the responsibility of NERDC and the Ministry of Education to come up with curriculum for a pre-primary education that is solid and regulates the private schools to ensure that they are using it.
Experts say that using the American and British curriculums by private schools is not in the best interest of the children because they are exposed to strange concepts that deprive them of indigenous and familiar concepts.