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Before the Federal Government misdirects education again – Part 3

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Well-grounded National Education Standards for Nigeria shall be cognizant of what it is required to be a truly Nigerian focussed but globally oriented citizen in the context of today. The Nigerian national standards should have the potential to facilitate the acquisition of Nigerian focussed 21st Century Skills. To be Nigerian focussed is to be cognizant of some of the issues like climate change, terrorism and others, as enumerated above. The specific descriptions and peculiarities of Nigeria should play a leading role in the formulation of the standards. Some of the salient peculiarities of Nigeria that may explain appropriate competencies to be targeted through education in the country, are derivable from the foregoing.

Based on the above considerations, the following may be generated as education standards that will ultimately guide curriculum contents, pedagogical practices and assessment methods, in Nigerian schools for the 21st century: Nigerian national identity; Responsibility for the Nigerian environment; Comprehensive growth; Critical and creative thinking; Inclusivity and participatory citizenship; Communication, Collaboration and Information skills; Civic Literacy and Global Awareness; Flexibility and responsiveness; Cross-cultural studies; Adaptability to change; and Local Peculiarities with Global Focus.

These are among the 21st Century competencies based on today’s peculiarities of Nigeria and each of them is targeted at a concern or goal deemed attainable through the instrumentality of education. The competencies are identified based on Nigerian needs with potential to make the education system effective for students. All the eleven items can be carefully subsumed under the following four subheadings namely: Core subjects-(reading, writing and arithmetic); Learning ad Innovation skills (creative thinking, communication and collaboration; Life and Career Skills; and Information, Media and Technology Skills. It should be pointed out that Creative Thinking and Technology Skills feature in the excerpt being analyzed albeit in a fashion that does not key well into any systematic curriculum changing context for Nigeria.

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These principles have serious implications for assessment in view of the need to review the focus of teaching in Nigerian schools and allow learning to take the centre stage. The implication is that teaching will now start with assessment and end with the curriculum through pedagogy as against the ongoing practice of starting with the curriculum and ending with assessment through pedagogy. The implication of the above enumerated competencies will be articulated while generating curriculum content from the national framework, not the national curriculum itself, as assumed in the excerpt. It is technically erroneous for the Federal Government to have redesigned or been on the verge of redesigning education curriculum. What about the training of those who will implement the new curriculum? What about the training of those who will rewrite textbooks and ensure there is no mismatch? What about teacher guides? What about other instructional materials for the new curriculum? Any school curriculum redesigning initiative that disregards all these is a failure from the start!

Pakistan once attempted a school curriculum redesigning without training teachers and textbook developers. The curriculum was ready but could not be implemented since 2011 simply owing to failure to train teachers ahead of the curriculum review. Tajikistan is another place where reform in education failed to recognize the role of textbooks developers. Consequently, a new curriculum was meant to be implemented through the instrumentality of the old traditional content. New curriculum, old textbook! A bizarre educational experience! The most recent of curriculum crises is ongoing in Kenya where Teachers Union directed teachers to disregard the new curriculum introduced by the government. The heart of the matter is that the Teachers Council could not have mobilized its members against the new curriculum if they had been involved in its formulation. The implication of this for Nigeria shall be discussed shortly.

The principles enumerated earlier are expected to derive from the Nigerian realities and should be extensively debated and agreed upon. However, it should be pointed out that these competencies may turn out to be no more than general capabilities where there are no 21st Century education system and pedagogical orientation. The Federal Government has to allow curricularists and pedagogues to formulate these principles or standards and take decisions thereupon based on the political, social and cultural climate in the country. Consequently, each region or each of the six geopolitical zones, may generate its own peculiarities-based curriculum from the national curriculum framework .It is untrue that the same school curriculum can serve the entire country! Nigeria needs regional and even sub-regional elements in its school curricula.

At this stage, the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) is expected to be at the center of the formulation of the curriculum framework as the coordinating entity. However, the Council is expected to work closely with such technical stakeholders as universities, curriculum teams or associations, Teachers Unions, textbook publishers and similar others, some of whom are not aware of the on-going curriculum redesigning initiative. It is salient to ask, what will all these bodies be doing together? They shall be formulating, based on the objectives or directions stated in the standards, content foci, pedagogical orientations, assessment methods and institutional composition of the framework. Now, the question, how can this be done in the Nigerian context?

The competencies enumerated above are suggestive of the skills that should be acquired through education in order to be able to function well as an educated citizen in the Nigerian context. For instance, Nigerian national identity cultivation is targeted at the cultural identity, moral values, languages and achievable through arts-based learning experiences and activities while Responsibility for the Nigerian environment is a function of climate change education for Nigeria, as elaborated earlier, and attainable through science related subjects. As regards Critical and creative thinking, liberal arts and languages are the appropriate curricular vehicle which may also be employed for the cultivation of communication, collaboration and information skills. What this means is that various school subjects are associated with various skills. This however might have worked for Nigeria sometime ago but may not really work in the face of emerging challenges which require specific skills for specific tasks and target appropriate pedagogical approaches to aid the cultivation or acquisition of such skills.

To be continued tomorrow

•Rufai is immediate past Dean of Education, Sokoto State University. Strategist.

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