The Federal Ministry of Education (FME) has stepped up the current efforts at enhancing education quality assurance services in schools following the implementation of the various strategies which it put together to strengthen the Federal Inspectorate Service (FIS).
The first of these strategies include intensive training and re-orientation programmes for school inspectors and supervisors at all levels. A total number of 750 inspectors and supervisors are being given this training in all the six geo-political zones of the country.
This revelation came from the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Goke Adegoroye (OON) while addressing delegates to the 55th National Council on Education (NCE) meeting which commenced in Abuja on Monday this week.
The FME, according to Adegoroye, is also reviewing and harmonizing inspection instruments to generate a National Evaluation Instrument (NEI) that would guarantee uniformity in evaluating quality standards in pre-tertiary schools. This instrument is necessary because both the Federal, State and Local Governments are to strengthen their Inspectorate Services.
Of importance is the Nigerian model for educational quality assurance which is being developed by the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with states and other stakeholders. According to Adegoroye, the model will provide the platform needed by the FIS to provide national leadership and direction at all spheres below tertiary, in order to ensure uniformity of standards across the nation.
He says: "FME in collaboration with DFID/CUBE project has produced a draft National Education Quality Assurance Policy and an Education Quality Assurance Handbook for Nigeria, with Quality Standard indicators on which the model is anchored.
These two vital documents have received rich stakeholders inputs and were presented to 70th Joint Consultative Council on Education (JCCE) Plenary in November 2008 in Akure, Ondo State".
In addition, a National Inspectorate Management Information System for the purpose of establishing linkages for networking and facilitating the work of quality assurance agents at all levels, is also being put together by the FME.
As a way of decentralization of education data management in Nigeria as well as getting states and local governments to take responsibility for processing their own school census data, the FME has also completed the installation of Nigerian Education Management Information Systems (NEMIS) application in all states of the Federation.
The National School Census was successfully carried out late last year in states and FCT, except in Bayelsa and Rivers States where the exercise would be implemented later in the year.
The decision to strengthen Federal, State and Local Government Inspectorate Services as well as the policy on NEMIS, which is aimed at e-reporting and streamlining of data flow from Schools/LGEAs/States/Other nodes to the national EMIS, was approved at the 54th NCE meeting in Katsina in December, 2007.
The NEMIS policy will effectively streamline the process of obtaining and distributing data and will also reduce ambiguity from all players in the system. To further strengthen the National EMIS and ensure availability of reliable and timely statistical data for effective and efficient educational planning, management and policy-making, education statistics publications, fliers and fact sheets are now being produced.
The Permanent Secretary reiterates the role of the Federal and State governments on the NEMIS policy, saying, "the FME as the statutory agency for management of national education statistics is committed to strengthening and sustaining the existing mechanism, while state Ministries of Education and State Universal Basic Education Boards have the responsibility of managing and funding school census and other education data collection activities in their respective states and FCT", adding that the coordinating role of FME is to ensure acceptable data that meet international standards in the quality and scope as well as the obligations of global monitoring and reporting.
Closely related to the afore-mentioned initiatives is the commencement of enlightenment programme for students by the Federal Government. This programme, which has been rolled out in six states, including Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi States, is called Student Tutoring, Monitoring and Counseling Programme (STUMEC). It is an initiative meant to improve learning achievement and retention is schools. The initiative is already functioning in these states with its committees set in place.
Dr. Adegoroye sheds light on the extent the Federal Government has gone in implementing the STUMEC programme. "The Federal Government through MDGs funds is scaling it up to the fifteen Northern States with girls' education problem and five Southern States with boys' drop-out syndrome through training workshops.
The Federal Government allocated seven hundred and fifty million naira (N750m) of the MDGs Debt Relief Fund for the procurement of equipment to second chance education centres, skills acquisition entrepreneur, ICT centres, and capacity building to institutionalize SUMEC and School Based Management Committees"
Explaining that the rot in the education sector necessitates the need for initiating these polices, the Permanent Secretary said that there is a general cry on the state of education in Nigeria which is indicative of a drastic erosion of the quality of our educational system.
According to him, "there is no doubt that the sector has suffered a lot of set- back over the years. A lot of the associated problems include inadequate infrastructures, poor planning, policy inconsistencies and lack of commitment among others.
In view of the gravity of the problems and the danger they portend, we are compelled to placing utmost priority on ensuring that all faculties and endowments are channeled towards reviving the education sector".
The FME Permanent Secretary urged professionals and technocrats in education sector present at the NCE collectively mount new initiatives that will enable the country to respond urgently to the challenges hindering the progress of the education sector.
He says: "May I here, recall the statement of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Education at the National Summit on Education convened by the Senate in December, 2008 that the vision 20: 2020 would only be achieved if government would immediately device ways of turning around the dwindling fortune of the education sector in the country.
We are the technocrats and professionals on whom government would always depend to meet its electoral mandate.
This challenge is, therefore, ours to respond to, to send strong signals on our joint resolve to rise to the occasion. I wish to reiterate the importance of 2009 as a new beginning in our joint resolve to overcome obstacles that have persistently dogged our efforts at rehabilitating the educational system".
He continues: "This administration is committed, not only to restoring our educational system but also to ensuring that it ranks among the best in the would. I therefore, urge you not to only take the various reforms in education sectors seriously but to institute new ones in response to emerging challenges in your respective states.
These reforms are the only way to assure of the future of our education, the attainment of the MDGs.
There is also the need for synergy in matters of education. The issue of promoting quality education should be comprehensively addressed if we are to achieve the desire goals in our educational system. A nation cannot rise above the level of education received by her citizens".
Reiterating the centrality of human capital development to the Federal Government's seven-point agenda, Dr. Adegoroye says: "Education is core to the agenda of the present administration, human capacity development is core to that agenda.
You are seeing consolidation, you are seeing value for money, and how we can spend the little money that is available because government is faced with enormous challenges to achieve. So, these are the type of things you will be seeing this year.
On the present plan of action of the FME, he said that a stakeholders' meeting will probably hold in the next three months, adding that moves are on to begin the technical meetings where there will be serious discussions on issues relating to education, so that within another three months, the Federal Education Ministry will be able to come up with a plan of action that will focus Nigerian education system on a sustainable path.
He says of the policy framework of the FME for this year. "Policy on education for sustainable development.
That is the way United Nations is asking us to go. You have to talk about the value of education you are giving, internalize the value into the content of education so that people will recognize that education is not just for education sake, but is actually meant to enable the society live in harmony in truth and also, social justice"'
He explained that an individual can be educated and use the education not for common good but something that is bad like those who are into cyber crime, adding that these people are good in computer, but they are using it the wrong way to commit crime.
"But if we actually bring our value system into them, they will then recognize that this thing is not right, that they are going to destroy humanity if they are using that type of knowledge to perpetrate atrocity".
How then will students be oriented along skills acquisition and entrepreneurial education? To him, schools themselves should be prepared to change their own psyche, adding that some teachers are still giving the same lectures that their own teachers gave them 45 years ago. So, teachers have to be re-orientating themselves first.
Skills acquisition, says the Permanent Secretary, does not really mean that you must have all the equipment, but your orientation must be geared towards skills education rather than acquisition of certificate.