Secondary education in Nigeria is at the center of the educational system. It is strategically placed in the system and I believe it affects employment, hence its importance. In this article, I will examine secondary education and share ideas on how it can be improved in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, secondary education is the type of education a student receives after primary education. It is that kind of education that precedes tertiary Education.
Over the years, the structures and patterns of secondary education and indeed the educational system in general has changed. From the 6-3-3-4 system which states a child goes through 6 years of primary education, 3 years of junior secondary education, 3 years of senior secondary education, and then 4 years of tertiary education. Today, we have the 9-3-4 system. This system explains that a Nigerian child will undergo 9 years of basic education (which invariably is the combination of the 6 years’ primary education and 3 years’ junior secondary education), 3 years of senior secondary education and 4 years of tertiary education.
As at today, secondary education is controlled by individual states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Which means that state governments are directly in charge of regulating and financing secondary education in their respective states. We also have Federal Government Colleges, a secondary school which is directly managed by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Improving secondary education
One way to improve secondary education in Nigeria is to re-examine the goal of secondary education. According to the National Policy of Education (2004), the goal of secondary education in Nigeria is to prepare the individual for
(a) useful living within the society; and
(b) higher education
These goals are noble but taking a closer look at them reveals that only one of them is being achieved. And that is ‘preparing students for higher education’. This is made possible by the certification one receives after completing secondary education. At the end of secondary education, a student is examined on various subjects in line with his or her proposed career goal and then the student is presented with a certificate. This certificate is the proof that a student completed secondary education and it certifies the student for tertiary education.
For me, this is where the problem lies. The goal of secondary education should not just be a certificate. The goal of secondary education should be self-reliance. Secondary education should not just leave the student with a certificate; secondary education should leave the student with a skill – a life skill, a survival skill, a marketable skill, and economically viable skills. Secondary education should leave students with a skill, or some skill sets that helps the individual to be productive and self-reliant.
I think that the focus on the two major goals of secondary education should be re-examined. Apparently, more attention is paid to preparing students for higher education than preparing them with viable 21st century skills for useful living within the society.
My point is this. Secondary education should not just be about preparing you for University. Secondary education should be about preparing you for life. How? By empowering you to discover and develop your skills, gifts and talents, so you can start up a business and offer your skills to solve problems. Secondary education should be skill based. The focus of secondary education should be skills, practical and relevant present day skills.
So with this system, a student who has completed secondary education can decide to start something with the skills that he has learned or developed. He could decide to further develop and explore those skills at the tertiary level, in universities, polytechnics and specialized tertiary instructions.
Some may argue that it’s too early to talk about skills at the secondary level of education, but I think that’s where it starts from. We need to begin as early as possible to position and fortify our students with relevant 21st century skills that they can always hold on to after secondary education. I tell you, this will have a positive ripple effect and reduce unemployment.