Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Minister Steps Up Fight to Improve Teacher Education

As the blame game on whose shoulder to place the fault for the poor show of Nigeria's education continues, Ruth Tene Natsa in this piece, looks at some of the steps taken by the present administration to ensure a step up of teachers education.

A number of people have fingered the major stakeholders in the sector as the reasons behind the poor performance of students in the various public examinations, particularly that of NECO and JAMB.

As observed by the Chairman, Governing Board, National Examination Council, Honourable Paddy Njoku, who said he was worried and set to correct the perception of the public against the high failure rate recorded by the examination body.

He said they were concerned, "about the public perception of the body by parents, students and the public and I think one of the reasons that NECO registers a high failure rate is because we are an examining board, we do not teach the students".

So, from his observation for bodies such as NECO, they were only an examination body and have no control over students knowledge"

He assured that the board will work with all concerned to see that the students are better prepared before they take NECO exams, adding that we, "Will ensure that NECO examines them objectively and they come out with better results. If we do not do that , they will start accusing us that students do not pass NECO under the honourable Minister.

Many blame authorities charged with the responsibility of providing solid education for not doing enough to ensure the sector lives up to expectations. Others blame government for not providing sufficient funding and infrastructure and many others blame the attitude of teachers and in many other cases the attitude of students.

Teachers are major players in any education setting; their place in the scheme of things cannot be under-estimated, as no education system may rise above the quality of its teachers. There is therefore, the need to accord teachers the needed priority in raising the quality of teachers to facilitate the attainment of education goals.

Unfortunately Nigerian teachers have been fingered as some of the major problems facing the education sector. The quality of teaching personnel in most schools across the nation calls for worry as complaints of poor quality of teachers abound in all states of the federation.

Teacher education refers to the policies and procedures designed to equip prospective teachers with the knowledge, attitude, behaviour and skills they require to perform their tasks effectively in the classroom, school and wider community.

Since independence, teacher education in Nigeria has been engulfed with a number of problems which has affected the result of the system. The two major problems have been low output and poor quality of the teachers. Till date, those problems persist and are even worsened by the many unqualified personnel finding their way into the profession

Worried by this ugly trend, the minister of education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i, has mapped out strategies to tackle the problems through a number of programmes and policies. And this are built into the 4-Year Strategic Plan for the Development of Education in recognition of the fact that Nigeria's ability to meet national objectives is dependent on education.

With a population estimated at over 160 million people, quality education is required to turn these group of people into assets for the nation. The nation requires individuals with the skills and competences to drive diverse sectors of the economy. These individuals would then be in a position to collectively propel socio-economic and technological development.

The education system is responsible for putting in place institutions with the necessary environment, through which the citizens can prepare to excel for the future. It provides an environment, not only for intellectual development but also entrepreneurial growth.

For the Nigerian education sector to perform this role effectively, it must have institutions that are world class, with world class facilities, teachers and resources.

The strategic plan designed by Professor Ruqayyatu takes cognizance of the roles of teachers in every aspect of the plans. The plan identifies two key strategic goals of Nigerian Education: Access and Equity; and Standard and Quality Assurance. Other issues to be addressed in order to achieve these strategic goals includes; the Institutional Management of Education; Teacher Education and Development; Funding, Partnerships, Resource,

Mobilization and Utilization, Technical and Vocational Education & Training (TVET). In all these, the role of the teacher cannot be relegated to the background.

The policy document on Nigeria's education has already set a minimum qualification for entry into the teaching profession, which is the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE). And a carefully developed Teacher Education system has been put in place for that purpose over the years with wonderful goals and objectives in order to help Nigeria achieve her developmental goals.

Institutions such as the National Teachers Institute, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE); Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and National Board

for Technical Education (NBTE) are being repositioned as a Teacher Professional Development institution to adopt a well-coordinated approach and a master plan to execute the programmes of training and retraining of teachers at various levels.

At the tertiary level, over 5,000 academic staff have been sponsored for programmes leading to doctoral degrees in Nigeria and overseas.

Over 300,000 teachers have so far benefited from these training and retraining programmes; about 1,200 teachers from the six geo-political zones underwent training for enhancing the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) components in the teacher-learning by the NCCE; over 17,000 federal teachers scheme for category of teachers to teach in public primary schools in the 34 states and the FCT by the NTI; all teachers training under the 4-year strategy plan is expected to increase by 50 per cent yearly up to 2014.

While teachers and the corresponding national policies that shape the teaching profession are critical for the provision of a good-quality education, the main emphasis of the UNESCO strategy is on supporting teachers for quality learning.

With this emphasis, the strategy wants to reinforce the principle that what matters in the end is, precisely, to configure a teaching force that works in an environment that rewards professional improvement and that is committed to improve the opportunities for student learning with well qualified and duly supported teaching practices.

And to achieve this, Professor Ruqayyatu is aware that we must develop action plans consistent with already existing policies with allowances for improvement in order to meet the current challenges and the dynamic situation in this highly competitive global economy, which call for discipline in policy implementation.

The minister was once quoted as saying: "The success of our drive towards transforming the education sector is dependent on a disciplined approach to policy implementation." She continued by saying "it is as a result of this that we have developed our Strategic

Plan which takes into cognizance existing documents in the Education Sector. The ultimate aim is ensuring that we have institutions that are world class, with world class facilities, teachers, infrastructure and other teaching-learning resources. This would help in our drive to produce individuals who can compete globally," the minister said.

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