Abuja — A critical success factor in the actualisation of Nigeria's Vision 20: 2020 is the mass production of people with requisite vocational and technical skills and competencies. Stella Eze reports that the new Senior Secondary Education Curriculum launched on Monday, is structured to not only empower the youths in line with this vision, but also to prepare students for higher education.
One of the many problems bedeviling the education sector is the ability to produce and implement a suitable curriculum tailored towards equipping graduates with the requisite skills to fit in properly and contribute to the development of the country.
The problem of skilled manpower is the result of half-baked graduates, either frm the secondary or university level. Those who graduate frm the secondary level are fed into the society without any tool to help themselves, or the society, even if they cannot immediately proceed to the university.
This has been attributed to the high unemployment rate, since millions of people graduate on an annual basis without the necessary skills to fall back on. Countries like China and Indonesia have taken advantage of entrepreneurship education, thereby producing graduates who are not liabilities, but job creators, to accelerate the economic growth of their countries.
Nigeria adopted the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), in 2004, in response to the on-going global reform process in the social and economic context. Besides laying emphasis on education as a tool for empowering the citizenry as expressed in the social service charter component of NEEDS, that home-grown eradication, wealth creation and empowerment generation, the onus is on the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), in line with one of its statutory responsibilities to develop a functional curriculum that would make an individual productive, not necessarily having to go to the university.
Sequel to this, the council proposed school curriculum restructuring, review and the renewal of the content standards as a direct contribution towards the actualisation of the key targets of the NEEDS focal areas. The driving force that links knowledge economy to global competitiveness is globalisation and information technology. Thus, the business product or product asset can be bought, sold and in many cases delivered electronically.
Executive secretary of NERDC, Prof. Godswill Obioma spoke on the mandate of the council with regard to developing a new senior secondary education: "The focus was to take the council to a level where educational research and development is not just for eccentric reasons, but to make an impact into policy. Secondly, following the statutory responsibilities of the council, we thought we should engineer the curriculum and evolve it into the level of global competitiveness at the various levels of education. And with that, we started with basic education.
We linked the primary school content standard to junior secondary school content standard in line with year basic education programme and it shows the elements of Entrepreneurship, Vocational Training, French Language, Civic Responsibility and of course the basic tenets of Mathematics, Communication and so on. And I think that has been accepted world-wide. Because content standards is one of the benchmarks, it is one of the best practices in the African region as adjudged by the International Bureau of Education, which is a research institute of UNESCO.
He continued; " You will recall that it was becoming impossible to bring up youths at the age of 16, 17 18, those people that have gone through secondary education, to be able to provide the critical mass for higher education, that is one.
Secondly, it was becoming impossible to get them even to acquire skills unlike what happens elsewhere in developing worlds like Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Indonesia. In these countries, you have youths with entrepreneurial skills as well as youths that can engage themselves at a global competitive level. We don't have them here.
Pick any Nigerian child of today, who has gone through the secondary school, a number of them can not communicate effectively, or write good essays, they cannot interact with their environment, they don't have Information and Communication Technology (ICT), skills, they can't engage themselves in a second language, and they don't have the basic tenet of technological development to engender them into the world of work.
o we made a proposal to restructure and re-engineer the senior secondary education to make it globally competitive, to enshrine entrepreneurial skills in such a way that if you pass through senior secondary education at the age of 16,17 or 18, you should learn Mathematics, English, Civic Responsibility, which of course is vital for development. That content standard will be effective frm 2011, because we want to see the first batch of basic education. By June 2011, the deemed content standards for delivery processes necessary for capturing the new senior secondary school curriculum will be available".
The proposal first led to the complete restructuring of the existing primary and junior secondary education curriculum into the 9-year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), as approved by the National Council on Education (NCE), in Ibadan in 2005. The intention was to lay a proper foundation of knowledge matter at the primary and junior secondary schools levels in line with the global best practices, and at the same time, provide the education contents that council drive the Universal Basic Education (UBE), programme.
As a logical follow-up, the council proposed a restructuring of the existing SSEC that would lead to a complete overhaul and renewal of the obsolete content standards and knowledge matter. This restructuring was approved by the NCE in 2006, and NERDC was then directed to commence the process of the reviewing and renewing of the old SSEC.
The new curriculum, which is expected to launch Nigeria to a higher level in terms of entrepreneurial development was formally launched and presented to the public in Abuja on Monday, March 14, 2011. Minister of education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i said at the launch that is an indication that the documents as produced by the NERDC are ready for use in year one of the senior secondary school, come September. She said Nigeria could not continue to sit at the bottom of the table when other smaller countries are making steady progress in the provision of quality education for their citizens.
She said, "We in the education sector hope to actualise this vision in our own context by providing the enabling policy environment to drive the development of globally competitive human capital. This is based on the globally accepted dictum that education is an instrument per excellence for economic and social reconstruction of any society. Thus, part of the reforms in the education sector is to ensure that the curriculum, subject matter and content standards meet local needs and aspiration and at the same time, are globally competitive". The minister recalled that the NEEDS four cardinal issues, namely: value re-orientation, poverty eradication, wealth creation and employment generation are instrument to empower people. "That is perhaps where the new SSEC has a crucial role to play. The array of the new 34 trade/entrepreneurship subjects embedded into the new curriculum structure not only present a paradigm shift frm the old one being unduly academic scene, but also open up opportunities for the students to be functionally prepared to engage with their of work. This will certainly enable them on graduation, to overcome poverty through the functional utilisation of these trade/entrepreneurship skills. Thus, they become empowered to generate employment and in the process, create their own wealth".
According to the NERDC boss, the new SSEC is planned to build on the gains of BEC and to connect logically to the learning experiences in tertiary education. Thus, the philosophy underlining the new SSEC can be summarised as follows: "every senior secondary education graduate should have been well prepared for higher education as well as captured relevant functional trade/entrepreneurship skills needed for poverty eradication, job creation and wealth generation, and in the process strengthen further the foundations for ethical, moral and civic values acquired at the basic education level."
The structure of the new SSEC is summarised as follows:
Compulsory Cross-Cutting Subjects include: English Language, General Mathematics, Computer Studies, and one trade/entrepreneurship to be selected frm a list of 34 subjects.
Four distinct fields of studies: Science and Mathematics (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Further Mathematics etc). Humanities: (Economics, Geography, Government, History etc), Technology: (Technical Drawing, Electronics, Home Management, Auto-Mechanics etc). Business Studies: (Accounting, Insurance, Store Management etc).
The 34 Trade/Entrepreneurship subjects are further classified as:
Media (Photography, Printing etc), Office (Data Processing, Basic Accounts etc), Personal Care: (Cosmetology, tailoring etc), Engineering Repairs (Auto Body, Auto Mechanical, Plumbing Electrical Cell Phone, Wielding etc), Carpentry, Furniture and Decorating: (Carpentry and Joinery, Mechanic Work, Upholstery, etc), Outdoors: (Mining, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, etc) and others (Marketing, Sales, Dyeing and Bricklaying, Leather Work, Textile Trade Tourism, etc).
NERDC also set the conditionality for sitting for public examinations on the new SSEC to be conducted by West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO), and National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB). They include that a student must offer all five compulsory cross-cutting subjects, choose three or four subjects for a given field of study depending on his or potential and future specialisations. The student must also select one trade/entrepreneurship subject frm the list of 34 trades as part of the five compulsory cross-cutting subjects, may choose an elective subject outside or within their area of future specialisation and must not take less than eight subjects or more than nine subjects.
These 34 trades/entrepreneurship subjects according to Prof. Obioma are new additions and enrichments to the SSEC, adding that there are still room for addition since they have not been exhausted.
The implementation strategy of the SSEC is planned to commence in September 2011, beginning with year one of senior secondary school and the first batch of the Basic Education Certificate holders. This implementation process, according NERDC, will be continued systematically through year 2 to year 3 until the old SSEC is gradually phased out. The first batch of graduates is expected to graduate by June 2014.
Speaking on implicating the supporting knowledge economy, Prof. Obioma said: "Globalisation and emerging technologies are fundamentally transforming every society by creating a knowledge economy that influences the way people live and interact with one another. Knowledge refers to the use of knowledge technologies to produce economic benefits as well as job creation. In a conceptual framework, knowledge and education (often referred to as human capital) can be treated as one of the following: a business product where educational innovative intellectual products and services can be explored for a high value return, or a product asset (for use in the internal development of global competitiveness).
The new SSEC, Obioma said, is capable of nurturing every learner in Information and Technology skills that would engender and unleash him or her into global competitiveness. "The human capital that grows out of the focused area of potential specialisation is the strength of the structure of the new SSEC. Thus by June 2014, graduates frm the new SSEC are expected to possess relevant ICT skills and enterprise culture and become well prepared for their world of work or for higher education as may be applicable.
The new curriculum, stakeholders agree, is a laudable one, but one aspect of the 'Nigerian factor', which would bring to bear on the success or failure of the project, is implementation. Just like what the NERDC did with introduction of the basic education curriculum, which saw the training and re-training of teachers for proper interpretation in classroom, the council would also need to train teachers in senior secondary schools. Series of trainings were organised for the teachers to enable effectively deliver the new aspects introduced without deviating frm the original intentions.
The government as a matter of urgency, must take into cognizance, the vital roles the teachers play in the successful implementation of the curriculum to achieve the desired objectives. There is need to engage more teachers who are trained in the new aspects of the curriculum, to ensure every aspect was covered.
It is only when this happens that Nigeria would be said to be on the track to achieving a knowledge driven economy.