The West African Examinations Council’s decision to adopt 39 new subjects in its examinations this year is attracting divergent views, OLALEYE ALUKO reports
Jolayemi Jubril is a Senior Secondary 2 pupil in one of the public schools in Lagos. Apart from being academically brilliant, he loves photography. He, therefore, looks forward to getting his photography skills honed via the new secondary school curriculum, which has Photography as one of such trade subjects.
Unfortunately, there is a hole in his plan. The school he attends does not have the facility, particularly a photo laboratory to enable him to sharpen his skills in the subject. Instead, what the school has is the facility for Painting and Decorating. So for Jubril, his passion for photography is under threat. “I don’t like Painting and Decorating, I love Photography”, he declares without any trace of pretence in his voice.
This dilemma is not peculiar to Jubril. His likes are countless in many of the nation’s private and public schools. Of course, this predicament, stakeholders say, is not the fault of these youngsters. According to them, the blame of truncating the dreams of many young Nigerians is on the doorsteps of the federal and state governments. These authorities, they allege, have failed in their onerous responsibility of providing enough funding for education.
They also point to policy inconsistency on the part of the authorities as another bane of the nation’s education, especially at the primary and secondary school levels. For instance, they posit that the sector has witnessed such policy somersaults in 6-5-4, 6-3-3-4 and 1-6-3-3-4, among other changes.
Apart from policy changes, there has been arbitrariness in subject registration in the nation’s school system. Observers also note that while some subjects such as Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa are now optional, others like History have become extinct. Following this development, it is not surprising that stakeholders converged on Lagos to appraise the sector, particularly the place of the new subjects inaugurated by WAEC.
In the WAEC’s new subject arrangement, senior school pupils are to take four core subjects, namely: English Language, General Mathematics, Civic Education and one of the 34 Trade/Entrepreneurial Studies. Furthermore, each of them is to select three to four electives from one of the four departments, depending on their interest and capability.
The four departments are Humanities, Science and Mathematics, Technology and Business Studies. Some of the trades studies in the curriculum are Painting and Decorating, Auto Mechanical Work, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration, Carpentry and Joinery, Fisheries, Book Keeping, and Marketing. The National Council on Education had approved the new subjects prepared by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council.
Indeed, the WAEC also stresses that it is the NERDC that introduced the curriculum, adding that the examination council is only implementing it.
While some of them identify the government’s lack of commitment to the sector, others argue that the abandonment of many of education policies were because of poor implementation. For instance, an educationist from Bishop Howells School, Bariga, Lagos, Mrs. Queen Onwere, notes that the 6-3-3-4 system introduced sometime ago failed to achieve tangible results because of the non-commitment of federal and state governments.
She says, “Facilities were not brought to schools and the objective of making pupils self-reliant failed eventually. I fear that the same fate would befall the new trade subjects as many schools, if not all, cannot teach effectively due to non-availability of facilities.”
Another educationist, Mr. Adebiyi Benjamin, laments that the new subjects will make the senior secondary school curriculum more clumsy.
He notes, “The senior secondary education is not compulsory in the new nine-year basic education programme. Therefore, it should not be structured in a way that would make it look cumbersome.”
But beyond the problems identified by Onwere and Benjamin, the acting head, Test Development Division, WAEC, Mrs. Olayinka Ajibade, in her paper entitled, The New Senior Secondary Education Curriculum in Nigeria: Implications for Assessment, says the dearth of qualified teachers pose a major challenge to the teaching of the Trades subjects.
According to her, the non-provision of training and low motivation of teachers could make it difficult for them to teach the subjects effectively.
Making clarification on the council’s new subjects, Ajibade says the teaching of the subjects is not exclusively for a conventional school environment. She adds that entrepreneurship centres and vocational institutions are to be part of the teaching and learning process.
She notes, “The intention behind the trade/ entrepreneurial subjects is for schools to strike partnership with artisans and stakeholders in your respective communities. You should take advantage of existing structures in your community to teach pupils these trades.”
Also appraising the arrangement, the Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. OIayinka Oladunjoye, says the state has mandated its public schools to adjust to the new plan.
She, however, notes that the state recommended only 10 of the 34 Trade subjects to the schools.
She adds, “What we decided to do is to choose 10 out of the subjects because we know we cannot possibly teach all of that because of the constraint of facilities.”
Canvassing support for the fresh initiative, an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Lagos, Dr. Ayodele Ogunleye, says the idea is relevant for national development.
He declares, “I agree we do not have infrastructure and adequate personnel, but we cannot also overestimate the importance of these subjects to national development. In 2013, the Federal Government, despite the underfunding of its existing universities, still went ahead to create six new universities.
“Some people criticised the idea but we all know those institutions are now finding their feet by the day and contributing to educational development.”
For the proprietress of the Rose International Schools, Akute, Ogun State, Mrs. Bamidele Okelola, the intention of the new scheme is noble. She, nonetheless, notes that the FG erred by putting the cart before the horse.
According to her, provisions were not made for the necessary facilities before the WAEC went public about the initiative.
She says, “What most private schools do is to select two to three of the trade subjects for which we have the human resources and facilities. For instance, we do Marketing, Painting and Decorating, Book Keeping, and Animal Husbandry in my school.”