Primary education begins at around age 3 for the majority of Nigerians. Students spend six years in primary school and graduate with a school-leaving certificate. Subjects taught at the primary level include mathematics, English language, Christian Religious Knowledge, Islamic knowledge studies, science, and one of the three main indigenous languages and cultures: Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo. Private schools also offer computer science, French, and Fine Arts. Primary school students are required to take a Common Entrance Examination to qualify for admission into the Federal and State Government Secondary schools, as well as private ones.
Before 1976, education policy was still largely shaped by the colonial policy of the British Colonial Period. In 1976, the Universal Primary Education program was established. This program faced many difficulties and was subsequently revised in 1981 and 1990.The Universal Basic Education, UBE, came as a replacement of the Universal Primary Education and intended to enhance the success of the first nine years of schooling The UBE involves 6 years of Primary School education and 3 years of Junior Secondary School education, culminating in 9 years of uninterrupted schooling, and transition from one class to another is automatic but determined through continuous assessment. This scheme is monitored by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, and has made it “free”, “compulsory” and a right of every child.Therefore, the UBEC law section 15 defines UBE as early childhood care and education. The law stipulates a 9-year formal schooling, adult literacy and non-formal education, skill acquisition programs, and the education of special groups such as nomads and migrants, girl child and women, Al-majiri, street children and disabled people (Aderinoye, 2007).
Students spend six years in Secondary School, that is 3 years of JSS (Junior Secondary School), and 3 years of SSS (Senior Secondary School). By Senior Secondary School Class 2 (SS2), students are taking the GCE O’Levels exam, which is not mandatory, but most students take it to prepare for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination. The Senior Secondary School ends on the WASSCE. Junior Secondary School is free and compulsory. It leads to the BECE, which opens the gate to Senior Secondary School. SSS curriculum is based on 6 core subjects completed by 2 or 3 elective subjects. Core subjects are: English; mathematics; Economics; one major Nigerian language; one elective out of biology, chemistry, physics or integrated science; one elective out of English literature, history, geography or social studies; agricultural science or a vocational subject which includes: Commerce, food and nutrition, technical drawing or fine arts.
After the BECE, students can also join a technical college. The curriculum for these also lasts 3 years and leads to a trade/craftsmanship certificate.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is made up of thirty-six States and the Federal Capital Territory. There are about two Federal Government Colleges in each state. These schools are funded and managed directly by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Education. Teachers and staff are Federal Government employees. Teachers at the Federal Government schools are required to possess a bachelor’s degree in Education or in a particular subject area, such as, Mathematics, Physics etc. These schools are supposed to be model schools carrying and maintaining the ideals of secondary education for Nigerian students. Admission is based on merit, determined by the National Common Entrance Examination taken by all final year elementary school pupils. Tuition and fees are very low, approximately twenty five thousand naira ($100), because funding comes from the Federal Government.
State-owned secondary schools are funded by each state government and are not comparable to the Federal government colleges. Although education is supposed to be free in the majority of the state owned institutions, students are required to purchase books, uniforms and pay for miscellaneous things costing them an average of fifty thousand naira ($200) in an academic year. Teachers in State-owned institutions usually have a National Certificate of Education or a bachelor’s degree, but this is not always the case as many secondary schools in Nigeria are filled with unqualified teachers who end up not being able to motivate their students. Often these schools are understaffed due to low state budgets, lack of incentives and irregularities in payment of staff salaries. Some state-owned secondary schools are regarded as elite colleges because of the historically high educational standard and producing alumni who have prominent citizens in the various careers. These included King’s College, Lagos and Queen’s College, Lagos. However, the college ranking of these institutions have since dropped because of the arrival of some private institutions.
Private secondary schools in Nigeria tend to be quite expensive with average annual fees averaging from two hundred and fifty thousand naira to One million naira($1000.00 – $4000.00). These schools have smaller classes (approximately twenty to thirty students per class), modern equipment and a better learning environment. Most teachers in these institutions possess at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific course area and are sent for workshops or short term programs on a regular basis.
With the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system of education in Nigeria, the recipient of the education would spend six years in primary school, three years in junior secondary school, three years in senior secondary school, and four years in tertiary institution. The six years spent in primary school and the three years spent in junior secondary school are merged to form the nine in the 9-3-4 system. Altogether, the students must spend a minimum period of six years in Secondary School. During this period, students are expected to spend three years in Junior Secondary School and three years in Senior Secondary School.
The General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE) was replaced by the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE). The SSCE is conducted at the end of the Secondary School studies in May/June. The GCE is conducted in October/November as a supplement for those students who did not get the required credits from their SSCE results. The standards of the two examinations are basically the same. A body called West African Examination Council (WAEC) conducts both the SSCE and GCE. A maximum of nine and a minimum of seven subjects are registered for the examination by each student with Mathematics and English Language taken as compulsory.
A maximum of nine grades are assigned to each subject from: A1, B2, B3 (Equivalent to Distinctions Grade); C4, C5, C6 (Equivalent to Credit Grade); D7, E8 (Just Pass Grade); F9 (Fail Grade). Credit grades and above is considered academically adequate for entry into any University in Nigeria. In some study programs, many of the universities may require higher grades to get admission.
The Federal Government policy on education is adhered to by all secondary schools in Nigeria. Six years of elementary school is followed by six years of secondary school. Junior Secondary school consists of JSS1, JSS2 and JSS3 which are equivalent to the 7th, 8th and 9th Grade while the Senior Secondary school consists of SS I, SS 2, and SS 3 which is equivalent to the 10th, 11th and 12th Grade. The Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) is taken at the end of the SS 3. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) administers both exams. Three to six months after a student has taken the SSCE examination, they are issued an official transcript from their institution. This transcript is valid for one year, after which an Official transcript from the West African Examination Council is issued.
The National Examination Council is another examination body in Nigeria; it administers the Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) in June/July. The body also administers the General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE) in December/January. Students often take both WAEC and NECO examinations in SSS 3.
As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) listed Nigeria as having 129 international schools. ISC defines an ‘international school’ in the following terms “ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation.” This definition is used by publications including The Economist.
The government has majority control of university education. Tertiary education in Nigeria comprise of Universities (Public and Private), Polytechnics, Monotechnics, and Colleges of education. The country has a total number of 129 universities registered by NUC among which federal and state government own 40 and 39 respectively while 50 universities are privately owned. In order to increase the number of universities in Nigeria from 129 to 138 the Federal Government gave 9 new private universities their licences in May 2015. The names of the universities that got licenses in Abuja included, Augustine University, Ilara, Lagos; Chrisland University, Owode, Ogun State; Christopher University, Mowe, Ogun State; Hallmark University, Ijebu-Itele, Ogun State; Kings University, Ode-Omu, Osun State; Micheal and Cecilia Ibru University, Owhrode, Delta State; Mountain Top University, Makogi/Oba Ogun state; Ritman University, Ikot-Epene, Akwa- Ibom State and Summit University, Offa, Kwara State.
First year entry requirements into most universities in Nigeria include: Minimum of SSCE/GCE Ordinary Level Credits at maximum of two sittings; Minimum cut-off marks in Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Entrance Examination (JAMB) of 180 and above out of a maximum of 400 marks are required. Candidates with minimum of Merit Pass in National Certificate of Education (NCE), National Diploma (ND) and other Advanced Level Certificates minimum qualifications with minimum of 5 O/L Credits are given direct entry admission into the appropriate undergraduate degree programs.
Most students typically enter university from age 17-18 onwards and study for an academic degree. Historically, universities are divided into several tiers:
- First Generation Universities
Five of these Universities were established between 1948 and 1965, following the recommendation of the Ashby Commission set up by the British Colonial Government to study the necessity of university education for Nigeria. These universities are fully funded by the federal government. They were established primarily to meet a need for qualified personnel in Nigeria and to set basic standards for university education. These universities have continued to play their roles for the production of qualified personnel and the provision of standards, which have helped to guide the subsequent establishments of other generations of universities in Nigeria. Universities in this tier include the University of Nigeria, Nsukkaand the University of Ibadan.
- Second Generation Universities
With the increasing population of qualified students for university education in Nigeria and the growing needs for scientific and technological developments, setting up more universities became imperative. Between 1970 and 1985, 12 additional universities were established in various parts of the country.
- Third Generation Universities
The need to establish Universities to address special areas of Technological and Agricultural demand prompted the establishment of 10 additional Universities between 1985 and 1999.
- State Universities
Pressures from qualified students from each state who could not readily get admissions to any of the Federal Universities continued to mount on States Governments. It became imperative and urgent for some State Governments to invest in the establishment of Universities.
- Private Universities
The Federal Government established a law in 1993, allowing private sectors to establish universities following guidelines prescribed by the Government.
The typical duration of undergraduate programs in Nigerian universities depends largely on the program of study. For example, Social Sciences/Humanity related courses are 4 Years, I.C.T related courses are 4 years, Engineering/Technology related courses are 5 Years, Pharmacy courses are 5 Years, and Law courses are 5 Years, each with two semester sessions per year. Medicine (Vet/Human) degrees take 6 Years and have longer sessions during the year