The Problems Of Education In Nigeria And Why Nigerians Are Schooling Abroad

The Problems Of Education In Nigeria And Why Nigerians Are Schooling Abroad…

Almost one in four Sub-Saharan people live in Nigeria, making it Africa’s most populated country. It’s also the seventh most populated country in the world, one with continuous growth. From an approximated 42.5 million people at the time of her independence in 1960, Nigeria’s residents has more than quadrupled to 187 million people in 2016 (UN projection). The United Nations predicts that Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world by 2050 with over 400 million people.

The country is of flourishing economic importance as well. In mid-2016, it outstripped South Africa as the largest economy on the African continent, and was until lately, viewed as having the capability to emerge as a leading global economy. However, a significant dependency on oil revenues has completely crippled this potential.

Frankie Edozien, director of New York University’s Reporting Africa program, lately noted in The New York Times that crude oil “is accountable for more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s exports and 70 percent of its government revenues.”

A drastic decline in crude oil prices from 2014 to 2016 fired Nigeria into a recession that joined to the country’s previously long list of predicaments: the bloodthirsty Boko Haram insurgency, regional corruption, and other challenges typical to many Sub-Saharan countries: low life probability, ineffectiveness in public health systems, earnings inequalities, and tremendous illiteracy rates.

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Uncompromising cuts in public spending due to the recession have greatly influenced government services nationwide. In the education sector, the situation has infuriated current problems. Continuous student protests and strikes have destabilized Universities in Nigeria for years, and are an indication of an intensely underfunded higher education system.


Economic measures implemented by the Nigerian government in the wake of the recent crisis further decreased education budgets. Students at many public universities in 2016/2017 witnessed immediate tuition increases and a dilapidation of basic infrastructure, including scarcity in electricity and water supplies. The situation also immediately dried up scholarship funds for foreign study, placing major restrictions on international student flows from Nigeria.


Despite these restrictions, the country will probably remain an active growth market for international students. This is considerably because of the eye-opening and unmet demand generally among college-age Nigerians. Nigeria’s higher education sector has been exhausted by major population growth and a compelling ‘youth bulge’ (More than 65 percent of the nation’s total population is under the age of 24).


And brisk expansion of the country’s higher education sector in past decades has failed to accomplish the resources or seats to contain population demand. A large number of would-be college and university students are rejected from the system. About two thirds of participants who sat for the nation’s national entrance exam (JAMB) in 2015 could not find a spot at any Nigerian university.

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Why Nigerians Are Schooling Abroad

Nigeria is definitely the number one country of origin for international students from the African continent:

It sends the highest students abroad of any country on the African continent, and the leaving mobility numbers are still increasing at a rapid pace. According to an information from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), the number of Nigerian students schooling abroad increased drastically by 164 percent in the past decade, just between 2005 and 2015 alone, Nigerian students studying abroad went from 26,997 to 71,351 respectively. With estimates in 2017, indicating that over 100,000 Nigerian students are now schooling abroad.


In the short term, Nigeria’s oil price-induced monetary crisis is presumably to affect departing student mobility. As many as 35 percent of Nigerian students abroad are said to depend on scholarships, many of which were sponsored by oil and gas incomes. The very large majority of these scholarships have been regulated back or abandoned altogether in the wake of the economical crisis.


Further infuriating the instantaneous contemplation of Nigeria’s abroad students was a 2016 drastic crash of the foreign exchange rate of the nation’s currency, the Naira. The crash drastically elevated costs for international students, and purportedly left huge numbers of Nigerian abroad students incapable of making tuition payments.


But for all the short term major change, the push factors that influence the outflow of students in Nigeria are basically unchanged. These include:

  1. The failure of Nigeria’s education system to meet prosperous demands.
  2. The regularly poor quality of its universities.
  3. Active growth in the number of middle class families who can easily afford to send their children abroad for education.


Given these major drivers, it seems questionable that the crisis will lead to an extreme and continued downturn of international student numbers.


Due to colonial ties and the English  language, the United Kingdom has very long been the preferred destination for Nigerian students abroad with numbers growing in recent years. 17,973 Nigerian students were schooling in the UK in 2015 alone. Recent estimates also revealed that more than 25,000 Nigerian students are currently schooling in the UK in 2017.


In line with a prevailing shift towards regionalization in African student transportability, present-day Nigerian students have been progressively studying in countries on the African continent itself. Ghana has recently outstrip the U.S. as the second-most preferred destination country, welcoming some 13,919 Nigerian students in 2015 alone, according to the data retrieved by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS). Recent estimates shows that more than 20,000 Nigerian students are currently schooling in Ghana in 2017.


Despite this deviation, the U.S. remains a remarkably popular study destination for Nigerian students.  Nigerian enrollments in U.S. institutions have been increasing moderately but firmly over the past 15 years from 3,820 in 2000/2001 to 10,674 in 2015/2016, according to the Open Doors data gathered by the Institute of International Education (IIE). Nigerian students are presently the 14th populous group among foreign students in the U.S, and strongly contributed an estimated $324m to the U.S. economy in 2015/16 alone. Engineering, physical sciences, business and health-related fields continuously rank as the most common fields of study among Nigerian students admitted at U.S. universities.


Another country that has more lately emerged as a preferred destination for Nigerians, particularly among those from the Muslim north, is Malaysia. Apart from the charm of Malaysia as a majority Islamic country, inexpensive tuition and living costs are captivating, as is the chance to earn a prestigious Western degree from one of the various foreign branch campuses that function in the country. According to UIS, 4,943 Nigerians were studying in Malaysia in 2015 alone, making the country the fourth most common destination country of Nigerian students.  Another Muslim country that is progressively attracting Nigerian students is Saudi Arabia, which in 2015 attracted 1,915 students from Nigeria.

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The Problems Of Education In Nigeria Education System


The country practices a federal system of government with 36 states and the center Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Within the states, there are only 744 local governments in total.


Education is managed by the federal, state and local governments. The Federal Ministry of Education is accountable for the general policy formation and guarantying quality control, but is basically involved with tertiary education. While secondary school education is considerably the responsibility of state and local governments.


The country is diversely multilingual, and home to more than 200 ethnic groups. The languages of the three most populous groups, the Yoruba, the Igbo, and the Hausa, are the basic language of teaching in the earliest years of primary instruction; they are later replaced by English in Grade 4.


Overall Structure:

According to Nigeria’s latest National Policy on Education (2004), primary education covers nine years of formal (mandatory) schooling consisting of six years of basic education and three years of junior secondary education. Post-basic education consists of three years of senior secondary education.

At the tertiary grade, the system includes a university sector and a non-university sector. The latter consists of polytechnics, monotechnics, and other colleges of education. The tertiary level as a whole provides numerous opportunities for vocational, technical, undergraduate and graduate education.

The academic year usually runs from September to July. Universities use a semester system of two semesters, each semester runs for 18 – 20 weeks. While others run from January to December, separated into 3 terms of 10 -12 weeks.

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Elementary Education:

Elementary education starts from grades one through six. As per the most current Universal Basic Education procedure implemented in 2014, the curriculum consists of English, Mathematics, any Nigerian language, primary science and technology, religion and national values, and cultural arts and creative arts, Arabic language ( compulsory in Northern Nigeria ). Prevocational studies (home economics, agriculture, and entrepreneurship) and French language are presented in grade 4.

The language of teaching for the first three years is one of Nigeria’s core native languages, depending on the school’s location. English is progressively being accepted as the language of teaching for the last three years of primary school. Students are presented the Primary School Leaving Certificate on graduation of Grade 6, based on their common entrance/continuous assessment.

Promotion to junior secondary school is almost instant and automatic, and they are to begin immediately in the next school year. It lasts for three years, that’s from grades seven through nine, accomplishing the elementary stage of education. The curriculum includes a mostly the typical subjects as the elementary stage, but adds the subject of business related studies.

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At the end of grade 9, students are presented the Basic Education Certificate, (BEC), also called Junior School Certificate, strictly based on their performance in their last examinations set by the West Africa Examination Council, popularly known as Junior WAEC. The Junior WAEC examinations take place through West Africa in June each year and typically last for just a week.

Students are required to take a minimum of 10 subjects and a maximum of 13.  Students are expected to achieve credit passes in six subjects, including mathematics and English, to be awarded the Basic Education Certificate.


Crisis in Elementary Schooling:

Like the nation’s education system conclusively, Nigeria’s elementary education sector is also overwhelmed with strong population growth. Over 45 percent of the nation’s population was below the age of 15 in 2015, and the system always fails to accommodate large parts of this increasing youth population. According to the United Nations, over 8.73million elementary school-aged Nigerians in 2010 did not engage in education at all, making Nigeria the number one country with the largest number of out-of-school children in the world.


The lack of satisfactory education for its children undermines the Nigerian system at its basics. To solve the problem, thousands of new schools are being built in recent years. The Nigerian government has recently been determined to universalize free elementary education for all students. Yet, despite these improvements in total enrollment numbers in elementary schools, the basic education system remains underfunded; facilities are often poor, teachers inadequately trained, and participation rates are low by international standards.


In 2010, the net registration rate at the primary level was 63.8 percent compared to a general average of 88.8 percent globally. According to current statistics on graduation rates, nearly one quarter of students drop out of elementary school. These very low attendance rates conserves illiteracy rate in modern day Nigeria, which, while comparably high compared to other Sub-Saharan countries, are well lower than the global average.


In 2015, the country had a shamefully youth literacy estimate of 72.8 percent and an adult literacy estimate of 59.6 percent compared to average standard rates of 90.6 percent and  85.3 percent, respectively (information released by the World Bank). In Nigeria, there is an obvious regional difference in participation ratios in education between the oil-rich South and the poverty-stricken North of the country, in which some parts, elementary participation rates were purportedly below 25 percent in 2010.

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Senior Secondary Education:

Senior Secondary Education lasts for three years and includes grades 10 through 12. In 2010, Nigeria allegedly had a total 7,104 secondary schools with over 4,448,981 students and a teacher to student ratio of about 32:1.


Corrections implemented in 2014 have led to a reshuffling of the national curriculum. Students are presently required to study four mandatory “cross-cutting” main subjects, and to select additional electives in other four accessible areas of focus. Compulsory subjects includes: mathematics, English language, civic education, and a trade/entrepreneurship subject. The other accessible areas of focus subjects includes: Humanities, science and further mathematics, technology, and other business related studies. The new curriculum has a more powerful concentration on vocational training than the previous curriculum, and is supposed to develop the employability of high school graduates in awareness of high youth unemployment rate in Nigeria.

In addition to government owned schools, there are a very large number of private secondary schools, most of them highly pricey and located in urban and upscale centers. Many private schools involves U.S. K-12, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International Examination curriculum, enabling students to sit for international examinations like the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGSCE) by the end of their final year in high school.


Senior School Certificate Examination:

At the end of the 12th grade in May/June, students sit for the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), popularly called WAEC among locals because the examination is organized by the West African Examination Council. The students are tested in a minimum of seven and a maximum of nine subjects, involving mathematics and English, which are compulsory.


Successful graduates are presented the Senior Secondary Certificate (SSC), which inserts all subjects successfully taken on the Certificate. Students can always sit for a second SSCE annual exam if they need to improve on a previous poor result in the May/June exams.


SSC examinations are provided by two separate examination boards: the West African Examination Council, which is compulsory and the National Examination Council (NECO), which is optional. The examinations are totally open to students presently enrolled in the final year of secondary school nationwide, as well as an external private candidate examination (GCE), which is open for students and adults who needs better result to enroll in a University or College (in the November/December session only).


Admission to federal and state owned universities in Nigeria is highly competitive and only depends on scores attained in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, popularly known as JAMB (Joint Admission Matriculation Board) among locals, as well as the SSC results.


Most universities demand credit passes in at least five SSC subjects and take into contemplation the normal score. Students must attain an average grade of the least ‘credit’ level (C6) or better in five specific subject, depending on the course to be examined for admission to public universities; although some higher institutions may demand higher grades.


It is very possible to see student results on the West African Examinations Council (WAEC)/or the National Examination Council (NECO) websites. The candidate must input the PIN number that they bought for the equivalent of nearly USD $3, about 1000 Naira (available at banks, WAEC regional offices and online). With the PIN digits it is also possible to get a printable copy of the WAEC/Neco results. In recent years, this has been the fastest and most trustworthy way of authenticating a student’s results.

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Vocational and Technical Education:

The Nigerian education system offers an array of alternatives for technical and vocational education at both the secondary and tertiary levels. To combat incessant youth unemployment, the country’s Federal Ministry of Education currently provides quite a number of correctional projects to develop vocational training, involving the “vocationalization” of secondary education and the improvement of a National Vocational Qualifications Framework by the National Board for Technical Education, comparable to the qualifications frameworks practiced in other British Commonwealth countries.


Not Enough University Seats:

Going with the statistics JAMB provides on its website, a staggering 1,579,027 Nigerian students sat for the UTME exam in 2016. The data shows that 69.6 percent of the university applications were made to federal universities, 27.5 percent to state universities, and less than 2 percent to private universities. That number of applicants presently exceeds the number of accessible university seats by a ratio of two to one. In 2015, only a meagre 415,500 out of 1,428,379 students were admitted to universities, according to JAMB. Totally slowing down over 1 million Nigerians dreams of being a university graduate.


This admission ratio, low as it may be, is a compelling improvement compared to about 10 years ago when the ratio was closer to one in ten students for university entry. But the admissions plight continues to be one of Nigeria’s biggest problems in higher education, particularly given the significant growth of its youth population. The country’s system of education currently leaves over a million of qualified and smart college-age students without admission to tertiary education annually. Which is the highest in Africa.


Very high unemployment rate among university graduates is also a critical problem, but does not seem to be a problem to students seeking access into institutions of higher learning, as they always troop in numbers. An online magazine, Quartz, in 2016 reported that an astounding 47 percent of the country’s university qualified graduates were in dire need of employment, mainly based on a survey of over 90,000 Nigerians.

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One of the most critical issues for Nigeria’s higher education system remains the uncompromising underfunding of its universities. The Federal government, which is accountable for maintaining public universities, has over the past years not considerably increased the share of the government budget set aside for education, despite booming student numbers. Between 2003 and 2013 education spending vacillated from 8.21 percent of the whole budget in 2003 to 6.42 percent in 2009, and up again to 8.7 percent in 2013. In 2014, the government greatly increased education spending to 10.7 percent of the whole budget, but it remains to be seen if this share can be kept up following the global oil price-induced monetary crisis. Current reports even reports that recent spending levels on education have drastically decreased well below 10 percent.


Due to funding limitation, most of Nigeria’s public universities are in shabby condition. And while possibilities at developing capacity by building new universities have normally been positive for approach in complete terms, they have also developed problems relating to instructional quality. Nigeria’s institutions and lecture halls are always rigorously overcrowded, student to teacher ratios have catapulted, and faculty shortages are incessant. Lab facilities, libraries, dorms, and other university facilities are often exemplified as being in a state of decay.


A large number of lecturers at universities are only professors assistant without any doctoral degrees. Reports from 2012 stated that only 43 percent of Nigeria’s University teaching staff held Ph.D. degrees, and that the country had one of the worst lecturer-to-student ratios in the whole world. According to reports, the University of Abuja and Lagos State University, for instance, purportedly had lecturer to student ratios as high as 1:122 and 1:114, respectively.


Although rankings are a terribly poor representative for university quality, they do offer the best comparative guide available.  It’s thus worth mentioning that, in 2017, only one of Nigeria’s universities is presently listed amidst the top 1,000 international university rankings in the Times Higher Education (THE) – the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, South West, Nigeria at 801. While Universities from other African countries like South Africa, Ghana, Egypt and Kenya are ranked significantly higher.


Over the past years, strikes have become an almost solemnity occurrence in most Nigerian universities, interrupting lectures, causing deferred graduations, a massive loss of income for university staff, and further deteriorating the already low trust in the education sector. In 2013 alone, over 60 public universities were incapacitated by strikes for more than five months over requests for funding improvements and better employment welfare for university staffs.  In 2016 again, strikes, likewise, stopped lectures at 10 federal and state universities.


Another Key Challenge: Academic Corruption and Fraud

While corruption is a clandestine activity that is intricate to measure, Nigeria scores obviously low on the global “Corruption Perceptions Index” reported by the organization Transparency International. According to their 2016 report, Nigeria ranked 136th out of 176 countries in terms of transparency.


Nigeria’s education sector is specifically exposed to corruption. Corruption scholar Ararat Osipian once noted in 2013, that “restrained access to education in the country has no doubt come about the use of bribes and personal link to gain strongly desired places at universities, with some admissions officials allegedly working with some agents to collect bribes from desperate students. Those who have no money or ability to bow to corruption face various lost education opportunities and unemployment.” In 2013, Transparency International stated that over 30 percent of Nigerians questioned said they had once paid a bribe in the education system.


Australian scholar Tracey Bretag outlined the conditions when exemplifying Nigeria as a country where “academic fraud is infectious at all levels of the education sector, and malpractice ranges from cheating during examinations and tests to more serious misbehaviors, such as imitation, contradicting academic records, ‘sorting’ for grades/certificates with money, gifts or even sexual favours, threatening examiners and attacking invigilators”.


In 2015, WAEC reported that Nigeria had the largest number of cheating occurrence of all five West African Countries in which the Council functions. The following year in 2016, WAEC stopped identifying with 113 Nigerian secondary schools involved in examination malpractice, and cancelled the results of 30,654 candidates who wrote the 2012 SSC exams. The magnitude of fraud in university applications has made the Council to create an elaborate scratch-card system that uses an online pin-code verification method to validate the authenticity of exam results.

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