Nigeria Science education reform (part 1)

There was a notable problem in science curriculum, it was modelled on British syllabi, with content and activities in science that were beyond the experience of the Nigerian students and culturally inappropriate.

Also, the science taught in secondary schools reflected the British requirements and aspirations rather than those of Nigeria (Taiwo, 1975).

Abdullahi (1984) make it noted that teaching and learning of science during the period was classical and emphasized rote learning of unrelated laws, definitions and concepts, and also teachers rarely conducted practical lessons in science for secondary students due to the lack of funds for laboratory facilities.

These unfavorable conditions led to high failure and attrition rates in science subjects and these make students to choose arts subjects over science subjects, because they perceived science to be very difficult to learn.

Between 1932 and 1960 when Nigeria attained her independence from the British government, a number of educational reforms took place, which includes:

  1. The introduction of the Higher School Certificate courses in some of the existing secondary schools in 1951 to afford students the opportunity to further study science with the emphasis being on laboratory work so as to meet the practical requirements of the science subjects.
  2. The establishment of the West African Examination Council (W.A.E.C) in 1952 to conduct senior secondary examination in West African countries with its headquarters in Accra, Ghana. Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra-Leone and Gambia were member nations. WAEC conducted its first senior secondary examination in 1955 and had a significant influence on science curricula.
  3. The Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (S.T.A.N) was established in 1957 with the aim of promoting cooperation among science teachers in Nigeria with a view to raising the standard of science teaching in the country (STAN, 1973). It is worth noting that at the time of inauguration of STAN in 1957, less than 30 secondary schools throughout the country taught science (Bajah & Bello, 1996).
  4. The Federal Colleges of Arts, Science and Technology at Ibadan in 1950; Zaria in 1952 and Enugu in 1954 were established with the aim of promoting the teaching of science.

It is equally important to recognize a number of international conferences in the early ‘60s drew the attention of developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, to the need for science and technology.

Yoloye (1998) indicates three of the most significant international conferences on science education as the Rehovoth Conference of 1960, the Addis Ababa Conference of 1961 and the Tananarive Conference of 1962.

The reports of these conferences raised national consciousness and awareness among Nigerians about education and led to the establishment of panels and commissions to examine educational priorities for Nigeria.

Among the commissions was the Ashby Commission of 1960 which show emphasis on the poor quality of teachers, insufficient resources and poor quality of teaching of science in primary and secondary schools as factors that needed urgent attention at that time (Omolewa, 1977).

The ending of Oxford and Cambridge examinations and the establishment of the West African Examination Council in 1952 to take over the secondary school examinations in Nigeria brought many changes into the science curriculum, and also indigenized the content and scope of science teaching in Nigerian schools.

It further led to the first science curriculum development project in Nigeria known as the Basic Science for Nigerian Secondary Schools (BSNSS) written by Nigerians and published in 1967 with a teachers’ guide.

This project was jointly funded by the Ford Foundation of America and the Western Nigeria Regional Government and coordinated by the Comparative Education Study and Adaptation Centre (CESAC) of the University of Lagos.

This curriculum in General Science covered the first two years of secondary education in Nigeria and emphasized discovery teaching methods, and laboratory oriented activities.

The philosophy of the project as reported by Ogunleye (1999),

is doing science the way the scientists do it, observing carefully, reporting honestly what is observed and being patient” (p. 106).

The issues of workforce planning, economic growth and social reforms among others led to the inauguration of the Nigerian National Conference in 1969 to develop a new direction for Nigerian education which later metamorphosed into the National Policy on Education in 1977 (Fafunwa, 1983).

The policy which is popularly referred to as the 6-3-3-4 system of education and translated into six years of primary, three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary and four years of tertiary education was the outcome of the conference.

click on this link to read about History of science education in Nigeria.

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