The federal government recently announced plans to establish a National Commission for Secondary Education in what it said is a strategic move to regulate and reposition secondary education in Nigeria. Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu disclosed this in Abuja on Monday last week when he received students of Nigeria Tulip International College, NTIC. The minister was elated that NTIC's students had won 48 awards for Nigeria in mathematics, geometry and robotics at various international competitions. This phenomenal achievement is however an exception because the rule in Nigerian secondary education today is not exemplary.
The minister said the plan to establish the commission is part of on-going reforms by the federal government in the education sector. He said while agencies such as National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education [NBTE] and National Commission for Colleges of Education [NCCE] regulate tertiary education and Universal Basic Education Commission [UBEC] regulates primary and junior secondary education, there is no federal agency that regulates senior secondary education in the country.
Through secondary education otherwise called Post-Basic Education, government aims at offering a diversified curriculum to cater for the differences in the talents of young Nigerians and their future roles. Section 3 (36f) of the existing National Policy on Education (NPE) states that government, through secondary education, aims to "inspire students with a desire for self-improvement and achievement of excellence." Sadly though, government especially in the last one and half decades has substantially failed to achieve this particular objective of secondary education in Nigeria. The abysmal failure rate in the past few years in Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCEs) separately conducted by WAEC, NECO and NABTEB is one indication that most secondary schools in the country have not been functioning as inspiring centres for the achievement of excellence.
The down-turn in the academic performance of students in SSCEs cannot be isolated from some operational inadequacies. For instance, absence of quality control mechanisms or their application as well as effective monitoring strategies are two fundamental factors that are responsible for the low success rate of students recently recorded in their final examinations. The inspectorate divisions in federal and state ministries of education which are responsible for monitoring strict compliance to curriculum content in all school subjects have long been relegated to the background.
The 'mock-marriage' recently engaged in by some students of Sa'adu Zungur Model School in Bauchi as well as the attempted rape by four students of two schoolgirls at Falomo Senior High School, Lagos are occurrences that illustrate the failure by government to actualise its intention to "raise morally upright and well-adjusted individuals," a critical objective of secondary education stated in Section 3(36h) of the NPE. The academic decline earlier mentioned as well as students' unethical conduct collectively justify the need for a National Commission for Secondary Education to ensure closer monitoring and quality enhancement.
We support the plan by the federal government to establish a commission for secondary education just as it has commissions that regulate basic and tertiary education. More so, many states already have Secondary Education Boards. The federal commission, when established, should function to effectively monitor the implementation of government policies as they relate to secondary education; develop mechanisms that would ensure quality control in secondary education and, like UBEC, provide interventions in the funding of secondary education to states with conditions attached to accessing the funds. Such funds could be from Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the federal government, funds in form of federal government guaranteed credits or international donor grants.
We call on the federal government to hasten up the establishment of this commission to salvage secondary education from its current challenges. The National Assembly is encouraged to complement this effort by passing the secondary education commission bill when it is eventually sent to it.