For the purpose of ensuring an effective implementation of the newly revised 9-year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), teacher educators, curriculum development experts, content specialists, policy makers, school teachers and professionals from the private sector from all parts of the country gathered last week in Lagos to write Teachers Guides for each of the various subjects from primary to junior secondary schools.
The platform for the week-long intellectual exercise was provided by the Nigerian Educational research and Development Council (NERDC) which has the responsibility of developing curricula, instructional materials like textbooks and Teachers Guides as well as training teachers on the use of the curriculum.
According to the Executive Secretary, NERDC, Professor Godswill Obioma, the development of Teachers Guides is very important because it enhances teachers' ability to teach and relate well with their pupils as it guides them in evaluation.
He added that the development of the Teachers Guides is an innovation as curriculum development in the past was not accompanied by focused Teachers Guides.
The participants in the writing workshop were grouped into their different areas of subject specialization, with each group having six writers.
Each of the groups then worked on the conceptual framework for the Teachers Guides which was developed last month in Benin City and which outlined the units and components for the writing exercise.
The different units and components of the conceptual framework, according to Prof Obioma, include: under-standing the revised curriculum; breaking of the curriculum into syllabus, scheme of work, unit of work, lesson plan and their preparation; modern teaching approaches and lesson plan; sample lesson planning based on modern teaching approaches; teaching of perceived difficult concepts in the subject areas; and resources for teaching and assessment of learning.
Obioma explained that the writing of the Teachers Guides was accomplished by fleshing up this outline with specific examples and guidelines that teachers at the primary and junior secondary schools could follow to effectively implement the revised curriculum.
"The eminent personalities at the workshop have successfully come up with draft copies of the Teachers Guides. The next steps will involve the critique and editorial workshops, which is important because the Teachers Guides are to be distributed to schools nationwide alongside the revised basic education curriculum early next year.
"This will be followed by the printing and subsequent distribution of the Guides to all public schools through the state Ministries of Education. Teachers will also be trained on the use of the Guides in all the six geo-political zones of the country."
According to him, the development of the Teachers Guides is done in line with global best practices.
"The world is a global village, and in developing the Guides, we took a cue from advanced developing countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. We see these countries as our mentors and we also looked at how they did the alignment of their curriculum. These two countries have achieved a lot in human capital development.
"Human capital development is central to the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. Education that meets the social and economic needs of the society is the fundamental vehicle that drives human development. It is the determination to achieve this national goal that informed the development of a functional curriculum by NERDC which has introduced trade/entrepreneurial education and vocational and technical education.
"The products of this 9-year Basic Education Curriculum will be self-reliant, who will be job providers rather than job seekers. Based on the revised basic curriculum, pupils, from September 2013, will be offering pre-vocational studies."
He says further: We know the importance of pre-vocational studies. It is not just studying them but there is entrepreneurship component. You will recall that the economies of Asia and Pacific countries - China, India, Japan and so forth - are based on enterprise spirit and even Britain is now teaching enterprise education.
So, the emphasis being placed on vocational studies in the revised curriculum is to enable our youths to acquire critical skill of entrepreneurial spirit. There is also an emphasis on ICT because of the importance of knowledge management as well as emphasis on basic science and technology".
The special attention given to vocational education in the curriculum is meant to make the goal of transforming Nigeria to one of the biggest 20 economies by year 2020 achievable. Obioma's words: 'This emphasis on vocational studies in the revised basic education curriculum is radically different from what obtains in the existing one which has Agriculture and Home Economics as elective subjects. In the revised curriculum, these subjects are being taught as pre-vocational studies. By the time every Nigerian child goes through the new programme he or she would have learnt one skill or the other'.
He added that any curriculum that is not functional is useless in the 21st century. "Education is an instrument par excellence for social and economic development. The important thing now is for school products to acquire skills through functional education.
If the children are equipped with functional skills at an early stage, they will grow with it. This curriculum will produce students with skills in carpentry, plumbing, electricians, computer repairers and so forth. Engineers in the United Kingdom and United States of America do not earn higher pay than a plumber which motivates them to perform creditably well. That is why it is necessary for all stakeholders to put in place a good policy on reward system".
The new Teachers Guides were developed in accordance with the new subject listings of the revised 9-year BEC. For primary 1-3, Guides for eight subjects, including English Studies, Mathematics, Nigerian Languages, Basic Science and Technology, Pre-Vocational Studies, Religion and National Values, Cultural and Creative Arts and Arabic Language, have been developed. While French Language is added to these subjects from primary 4-6, Business Studies also becomes part of the subject listings for JSS 1-3.
The development of Teachers Guides is a follow-up to the recently completed revision of the 9 - year BEC which has a ten subject listings instead of the existing curriculum that comprises of 20 subject listings.
The writing of the Teachers Guides was preceded by a workshop where personnel from the universities, Colleges of Education, experts from the French embassy, experts from the Health and Physical Education industry as well as Directors of Research of NERDC met and came up with a conceptual framework that showed the basic outline for writing the Teachers Guides, including the content/title of the units, minimum number of pages in each unit, language/style and so forth.
On how the teachers will be empowered to implement the curriculum and the Guides successfully, the Professor of Mathematics Education and Evaluation said, "At NERDC, after we prepare the curriculum, we carry out national sensitization.
In fact, we have concluded all arrangements to carry out national sensitization for teachers and it is done on the trainers basis. Teachers in both public and private schools will be acquainted with the curriculum and will be sensitized on the challenges that exist in order to achieve an effective implementation of the curriculum".
"While the implementation of the curriculum goes on, we also do continuous monitoring of the implementation. We ask ourselves what we have done right? What have we done wrong? What challenges are teachers having? What about the pupils, parents and stakeholders?
This normally throws up observations and challenges of the curriculum. We have been doing exactly this since 2008. All over the world, the implementation of curriculum is monitored, looking at its strengths and weaknesses, and then you take steps to improve upon them. That is why we had to revise the 9 - year BEC. It is also important to state that three years earlier, when the curriculum was first prepared, we didn't have the kind of challenges we now have in the country".
The need to ensure an effective implementation of the curriculum led to the development of the Teachers Guides, says Obioma, adding that if we have a good curriculum and it is not implemented effectively by teachers, it then becomes a wasted effort. He reiterated that some components of the Guides will be used at a preparatory training for pre-service teachers of English Studies and Reading in College of Education, with USAID collaborating with NERDC in that venture.