Education And Development in Nigeria

( [email protected] ) Jun 03, 2004 10:32 PM EDT

Like any other concept in social science, Education has been defined in different ways by several scholars. For example M.A Nwagu in "UPE issues, prospects and problems" defined Education as "the process by which every society attempts to preserve and upgrade the accumulated knowledge, skills and attitudes in its cultural setting and heritage in order to foster continuously the well-being of mankind; and guarantee its survival against the unpredictable and atimes hostile and destructive elements and forces of man and nature..

Again Fajunwa describes it as "the aggregate of all the processes by which a child or young adult develops the abilities, attitudes or further forms of behaviour which are of positive value to the society in which he lives, that is it is a process of transmitting culture in terms of continuity and growth and disseminating knowledge either to ensure social or to guarantee rational direction of the society or both.

Prior to the introduction of Western Education in Nigeria by the Christian missionaries, there were other systems of education viz: Traditional and Islamic systems of education in Nigeria.

Traditionally various communities had ways of educating their young ones according to their values and norms. This system of education was aimed at enabling the young ones to acquire the life patterns of their society. Apart from traditional system of education, Islamic education was well developed especially in the northern part of Nigeria where Islam had been the predominant religion. The practice of Islam as a religion is tied to acquiring education that will enable one to be a proper believer.

The introduction of Western Education in Nigeria was closely bound up with the activities of various Christian Missionaries who brought this system of education. By 1877, the British administration was firmly established in Lagos. However, education was still the monopoly of the Christian Missions. Some scholars observed that the school's curriculum was heavily religion based, intensely denominational and shallow in content. As a result, the missionaries were greatly restricted by Muslim Emirs in the North. This however explained the gap in educational development between the North and South.

The concept of development on the other hand is subject to many definitions. For example Rodney defined it as a many-sided process. At the level of individual it implies increase skills and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being. In fact, the concept of development is elusive; it is perceived not only as a condition of life but also as a goal to be attained, and as the capacity to grow and change and develop. Thus for Todaro it involves both a physical process and a state of mind. The transformation of institution is one aspect, the other aspect is that the thinking of the people must change.

Having defined both concepts, it is therefore pertinent to note that a correlation exist between the two concepts; education and development. It goes without saying that education is an important prerequisite for socio-economic development in any society.

Education plays many roles in the society which are necessary for development in such societies. For instance, Ayo Ogunsheye (1971) gave five functions of education which are necessary for development and they are:

a)Transmission of culture of the society

b)Provision of innovators

c)The political function of providing leaders and the making of citizen

d)Selection of the more able out of the population as a whole

e)The economic function of providing the labour force with the quality and quantity of educational manpower that matches the need of the economy. This is taken to mean not only knowledge and skills but also the ideas and attitude that help a rapidly growing and changing economy.

Thus it is evident that emphasis is laid on social responsibility, job orientation, political participation and spiritual and moral values. Through education therefore the civil, political, economic and technical needs of individuals and the nation are catered for. Although, it has to be through well-planned rationalized system of education and the major guiding principle should be "functionalism

The importance of education to societal development cannot be overemphasized. For Plato, the ancient Greek Philosopher, he recommended education as the most important method of forming the state. And his system of education aims at equipping the citizens with the training skills needed for whatever position they are selected for. Aristotle in the same vein argued that education should be strictly - controlled by the state, be sensored and made open to all citizens of the state.

Education must develop all man's power and fit in for all the activities of life. For him, citizens should be educated to obey when young and to rule when they are old. It must follow the natural order of human development and thus beginning with the body, dealing next with the appetite and lastly the training of the intellect.

Education produces the attitudes, skills, knowledge and personalities upon which modern technology, industrialization and organized development and production depend. So it is a factor of production. It modifies people, therefore it is an indirect returns or output.

More so, education is the instrument for national development, because the cost of education and the benefit to be derived from it are affected and circumscribed by the country's existing general level of political, social and economic development. The education system reflects the essential characteristics of the society. By reflecting the socio-economic structure of the societies in which they function, educational systems tend to perpetuate, reinforce and reproduce that economic and social structure.

Because of the importance of education to national development a large portion of the budget of most developing nations is allotted to it. Believing that the more education the better and more rapid the expected national development.

In Nigeria, it was in 1959 that the regional government that was established began showing interest in education. A ministry of education was created in each of the region with a minister as the head. This development brought an unprecedented expansion in education across the regions.

In January 1955 the Western region government initiated a scheme of Universal Primary Education (UPE), which provided free education for children in the region (6-12 yrs), while similar programme was introduced in 1957 by the Eastern region. This scheme also brought about significant increase in the population of schools and by implication increase in educational expenditure. The decade (1950-1960) witnessed a rapid expansion in primary and secondary education nation wide.

Therefore, in anticipation of the manpower need of the country a commission called "Ashby commission" was set up in 1959 to conduct an investigation into the Nigeria's need in the field of education at various levels over the next two decades. The commission submitted its report in September 1960 and titled it "investment in education", which became the basis of educational development for manpower. Its outcome brought about expansion in education at all levels.

The education system continued to follow the British pattern in structure, content and organization. With the achievement of independence the country had developmental needs and aspirations which the colonial educational system could not meet. It was therefore felt to be functionally inadequate in meeting the needs of Nigeria and Nigerians. Various other commission like Ikoku (1962) and Taiwo (1967) later highlighted the inadequacies of the colonial system. According to Osokoya a number of educationists through lectures, conferences, workshops and seminars have identified the weaknesses of the educational system as being" too academic, theoretical and unsuitable for providing overall development of the country

Nigerians' increase in awareness and the need for a relevant and development oriented educational system, had prompted the agitation for "a re-evaluation of the existing system and the desire for a national policy on education" which would address the inadequacies of the old system and provide educational practice throughout the nation.

As a result of the above problems, subsequent conferences were established. In 1969, the first national conference was held in Lagos, while the second took place four years later i.e. June 1973 there was the "national policy on education" which were equally revised in 1981 and 1998. Thus the philosophy of the Nigerian (1988: P.7) is tied to five national objectives, which are the building of a) A just and egalitarian society;

b) A free and democratic society;

c) A united, strong and self-reliant nation

d) A great and dynamic economy; and

e) A land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens.

The national policy on education (1988) which was divided into eleven sections was popularly referred to as 6-3-3-4 system of education. It was expected to have addressed all the observed mal-functions of the old system, and to also satisfy the development needs of the country.

Again, in September 30, 1999 the federal govt launched yet another more ambitious programme called U.B.E which was a national programme at providing primary and junior secondary education for children at the expense of "federal govt"


The principal factor affecting education in Nigeria is the issue of finance. Educational expenditure by nature is dynamic; it is never constant as other expenditures. The cost of running schools increases successively due to increase in enrollment, increase in number of teachers and the needed facilities. Apart from the natural increase in the cost through expansion, there is the issue of inflation, which makes some negative impact on the system on annual basis. Educational expenditure naturally increase by each successive year, and unless there is a corresponding increase in financing to match the growth rate and inflation rate, there will be continue to be problem for the system.

Again education is supposed to create socio-economiC development. However in Nigeria, politicization of education created problems. Instead of more education more development, there was paradoxically, more education less development.

Thus even though policies have been formulated to make education cater for national development it is unfortunate that still the educational system in Nigeria and in the developing countries generally is still dysfunctional because the remote of the rural areas have not improved, they are as they were.

More so, the educational system of the most third world countries, for example Nigeria, is a transplant of the system of the most developed countries. The method lays emphasis on recitation, memorization and repetition with the aim for passing exams only, also the curriculum is urban biased. The most important needs are left out.

The educational system train research workers and teachers as pure scientists without practical work on specific African problems. Therefore all their knowledge is being stored up rather than applied.

Also, on the part of the students, there is a lack of seriousness and zeal. There is equally lack of competition among students, which make student to thrive better.

In conclusion, for education to lead to socio-economic development there should be an overhaul of the existing social, economic and educational systems. There should be diversification of the economy, recruitment and training of teachers and such training should be aimed at meeting the needs and aspirations of Nigeria and Nigerians. Qualitative and quantitative education should equally be extended to rural areas.

Chinedu Ifeanyi wrote in from the Dept. of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano.