No doubt, mainstream education in Nigeria grapples with many challenges. In some areas, even basic subjects as arithmetic, English language and the sciences lack qualified teachers, comprehensive funds, and complementary infrastructure. Be that as it may, the average student in a developed country is exposed to quality sports and computer education.
Even the less than average student stands a chance with a standard support system for children with special needs. Not so in Nigeria. Not so. The boom in the music industry is as a result of individual contributions, and when it comes to language education, charity begins and ends at home. These are other forgotten aspects of education the sector can no longer afford to overlook.
Off-key in Music Education
Although the Nigerian music industry is now a name to be reckoned with all over the world, it owes the education sector very little kudos. At the primary and secondary level, apart from high priced private schools, music education is largely untaught, or limited to theory.
Dr. Babatunde Sosan, the Acting Director, MUSON School of Music Lagos shared his concern about this aspect of education. He said; "One major concern I have about general music education is that teachers pay more attention to theoretical music education than to the practical aspect. Theory and practical should go hand in hand. But most times, teachers bombard students with a lot of information, and when the students come out, they are more or less half baked."
A lecturer at the Department of the Performing Arts, University of Ilorin, Dr. Austin Emielu, argued that Music education has not been given its proper place in the Nigerian educational system.
He said; "Music is an endangered subject in the school system: not compulsory at the primary and secondary levels; very few music teachers, poor facilities, few music departments and low students' enrollment due mostly to poor social perception of music as a discipline and life-time career. Another issue is the fact that music taught in the school system does not significantly appeal to the youths who are more drawn to popular music.
According to Emielu, "Music education in Nigeria like in many parts of Africa, has Christian roots because early schools were natural extensions of Christian missions. The Colonial government did not in any significant way, encourage music education in government schools. Consequently, only few schools offer music as a curricula subject and these schools are concentrated in the South were Christian Missionary activities had the greatest impact. There are hardly any music departments in the North possibly for this reason."
There is also a vertical dislocation between the various tiers of education; for example, while some liberal secondary schools may allow music as a curricula subject at the JSS level, very few schools offer it at the SSE level and consequently, credit pass in music at the SSE level cannot be emphasized as a must-be condition for admission to the Colleges of education or even to the universities.
Confusion over language education
The recent squabble in the Lagos State House of Assembly concerning the proposed introduction of Chinese language in the state's school curriculum was just a tip of the iceberg as per foreign language education. If the global student is expected to speak French, Spanish or Chinese, then the Nigerian student can barely be put in that category. Even teaching of the local languages is not given much priority in mainstream schools.
In a recent report, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji said; "Most of the countries I have visited, you see a child of less than 15 years speaking about three or more languages and this has not prevented them from learning their local languages as well." In most cases however, proper teaching of Nigerian languages can only be trusted in its most archaic form - interpersonal communication at the oral level.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved Nigeria's membership of the International Organisation of French-Speaking Countries on observer status. Though government is of the view that being an observer would promote the teaching and learning of French Language, stakeholders doubt this will, in any measure, improve the standard of French education in Nigeria as French has been Nigeria's official second language since 1991.
Mr. Lukman Adebayo, a lecturer at Lead City University, with a background in French Education said; "There are very limited French language teachers. There is practically no teacher training in that regard from the state Colleges of Education. Even the Federal Government College of Education in 2010 graduated only 10 students from the Department of French Education. In 2003, when I graduated, we were 120 in the department."
Lamenting the effect of this gulf in French Language education, Adebayo said; "If there is no change, Nigeria will not have much of a reputation on the foreign scene. I teach courses in Mass Communication and International Relations, and many of these students don't really know the importance of French education. Many Nigerian students who study such courses can't speak French."
This should come as no surprise as English, the country's official language is still hard work for quite a number of Nigerian graduates.
Beyond arithmetic, basic science and social studies, there is much more to 21stcentury education. Proper formal education in music, sports, computer studies and languages give students an edge anywhere in the world. For the average Nigerian student, this edge is either blunt or worse, non-existent.