Former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Professor Munzali Jibril has said that the National Certificate in Education (NCE) has outlived its usefulness and should be abolished.
Jibril who is the President of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, disclosed this at the convocation lecture at the University of Lagos recently. He posited that the NCE programme was a child of necessity as it was introduced in Nigeria in the early 1960s to address the critical shortage of teachers in junior classes in secondary schools.
"I can personally attest to the fact that the programme has paid its dues and the trend worldwide is for the Bachelor's degree to be the minimum academic qualification for teaching even in the nursery schools. Additionally, there is considerable evidence to suggest that the quality of the NCE product is now very low.
"We should, therefore, give serious consideration to abolishing the NCE programme and making the Bachelor's degree and a post- graduate teaching qualification the minimum requirements for entry into the profession and for teaching at the basic level of education."
Prof. Jibril, who is also the coordinator of the Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, argued that the crisis in Nigerian education is a "crisis of teachers" as teaching is now seen as a low esteem profession.
He said; "The fundamental problem of teaching and teachers is that it is now the profession of last resort and quality cannot be found or sustained where only those who have no other choice join the profession.
"According to Nigerian Education Sector Status Report (2003), in the year 2000, 80% of the secondary school students did not wish to go to a College of Education (CoE) to pursue an NCE course. In the 2000/2001 matriculation, only 22.49% of the available places in the college of education were filled through the pre-NCE route owing to a shortage of qualified and interested candidates.
In the 2001/02 academic year, only 2.2% of candidates who took the UTME applied to study education, compared to the 25.8% for administration and 20.3% for social sciences. When candidates who applied to other faculties are rejected, they are then sent to Education and end up as reluctant teachers.
According to Isyaku (1996/1997), up to 54% of students admitted to the CoE came in through the Pre-NCE route. This has serious implications for quality as the requirement for admission to the Pre-NCE course is simply three passes in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination."
To remedy this, he said that the government must first raise the status of the profession by raising the salary of teachers to at least 10% above their counterparts in the civil service and by improving the quality of the service parity with, or superiority over, similar and competing professions.
Also, the numerous CoE all over the country should be converted to produce Professional Diploma in Education for untrained graduates willing to join the teaching profession or Post-graduate Diploma in Education to be accredited by the Teachers' Registration Council.
Commenting on the much needed expansion of the higher education system, Prof. Jubril said the structure of the Nigerian education system is skewed, with 24 million pupils at the primary school level, 6.5 million at the secondary school level, and only 2.5 million at the tertiary level. He argued that in order to move from a gross enrolment ratio of 11.29% at the tertiary level, the number of pupils
transiting from the primary to the secondary school levels will have to be increased, and the efficiency of the secondary school level will have to increase substantially."
The professor also lamented the dire need for funding reforms in the higher education system. According to him; "Funding of tertiary institutions has consistently fallen short of their actual needs, thereby constraining their ability to expand their facilities and recruit competent local and international teaching staff who would improve the quality of education in the system.
According to a committee set up by the National Universities Commission, in the 2006/2007 academic session, there was an average shortfall of N1.16bn in the recurrent allocation to federal universities. The percentage shortfall in federal universities was 24.6 in 2003 and 43.5 in 2004 indicating an unacceptably high financing gap which has serious implications for quality."
According to calculations, in 2010, the average unit cost per student in Nigerian universities should have been N507,903 but the actual cost was N200,000. The Professor of Linguistics argued that even though the government approved the former amount to guarantee the attainment of premium academic standards, it provided barely 40% of the stipulated amount.
Also when public expenditure per student in Nigerian tertiary institutions is compared to that of their counterparts around the world, Nigeria comes first from behind. The table below expresses the details:
To fast-track education reforms, the government must ensure that funding levels rise two and half times immediately. This should mark the return to formula-based funding and henceforth, university funding parameters should be respected by both the legislative and executive arms of government and should not be subjected to manipulation or arbitrary cuts.