Challenges of New Senior Secondary School curriculum and implications for girl- child education
By Jamila Nuhu Musa and Theodora Ekah
The new Senior Secondary School Curriculum which was developed by the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) was proposed by the National Council on Education (NEC) to be implemented from September 2011. Going by this plan, the old curriculum will be phased out gradually until it is completely discarded by June, 2014. Almost two years since the NERDC proposal, the process of implementation is still being reviewed as there are unanswered questions as to its structure, the fields of study, subjects in these fields, those subjects that make up the 34 trade/entrepreneurship subjects and whether students will still be taking WASCE, SSCE, and NABTEB at the end of their 3 year secondary education. So what is the difference between the old and the proposed new curriculum?
Other questions that are still being asked are, when the first batch of new SS students from the new curriculum are to be expected, and the issue of facilities and equipment considering the systematic phase by phase implementation, revision of old books, preparation of new text books where appropriate etc. And concerning the north in particular, what are the implications of the new curriculum for the girl child?
Though answers to some of these questions have been provided by the NERCD, some still continue to agitate the mind of teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders in the region, necessitating the coming together of 22 administrators of senior level cadre from Kano and Jigawa states, made up of directors and deputy directors, from the different sectors, across the secondary schools and the technical schools as well as the mass literacy and even the remedial schools. They were to rub minds on the issues and find out how the new curriculum could among other benefits, reduce, or completely eliminate mass failure of students in their examinations as experienced currently. The 2-day workshop held in Abuja, tagged “Effective Implementation of the New Senior Secondary School Curriculum of WEAC –Implications for Girl’s education”, was facilitated by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, (NERDC) chaired by NIPSS and coordinated by an NGO, the Development Research Project centre (dRPC), based in Kano state.
According to Coordinators of dRPC, Dr Yahaya Hashim and Dr. Judith-Ann Walker, the aim is to create technical experts working to implement the new Senior School Education Curriculum in the selected states. They further revealed that a second team of high level public servants in education from the states will also embark on a study tour to Ekiti State to learn from that state’s achievements in transiting to the new curriculum. The participants took note of the current challenges and expressed optimism that the new curriculum will go a long way in enhancing progress of education in the states.
Project officer of the program, Alhaji Suleiman Mahmoud told Peoples Daily that the workshop was meant to fast track implementation of the curriculum in the north, especially in Kano and Jigawa states, by strengthening public sector capacity.
Mahmoud, who works with the dRPC, said “we have observed that the north is lacking in the implementation of the programm particularly the two states, Kano and Jigawa, therefore the need to call the management staff of Ministries of Jigawa and Kano to be sensitised and to also build their capacity so that they can go back to their states and educate their people on the implementation of the new curriculum with the hope that the knowledge will be stepped down to principals, teachers, and the students”.
He however, called on government at all levels to look into the issue of reviving Teachers’ Training colleges, saying, “we should go back to reviving the former system of Teachers’ Training College in the country, which I was opportune to pass through and if you ask most of these directors, they passed through that system and because of that training, going through teachers’ college, NCE, I am now a professional teacher”
“In the Teachers Training College, most of the things we learnt were infant methods not methods to do with teaching elders. You find out that now in secondary schools we have children from the ages of twelve and above. That was not the method then, in the Teachers’ College”. That particular method or training is lacking now and you find out that it’s only when that opportunity is given to the little ones that they will grow up with good foundation. But without good foundation, how do you expect to have solid foundation? the students that are now in the secondary schools got poor foundation. That’s why it’s good to address issue of the former system of Teachers’ Training College for sound learning.”
In their own presentations at the workshop, the duo of NERCD officials, namely Dr Margret Lawani and Kanu J.A, said that the scope of the curriculum covers all Nigerian children, irrespective of sex or geographical location. They reiterated that in line with government’s declaration for the 9 year Basic Education programme, the NERDC with mandate by the National Council on Education, reviewed the existing Senior Secondary education programme for this level of education, that is SSEC, so as to meet the targets of the education programme in the context of NEEDS, MDGs and EFA, all of them programmes of government.
They emphasized that gender mainstreaming was addressed in the development of the curricula, syllabuses, Teachers’ Handbooks, Teacher’s Guides and all other teacher resource materials developed by the NERDC, even though there are still gender disparities in access to education, economic opportunities and health care in Nigeria. For instance, biases in favour of boys, coupled with early marriage, early pregnancy resulting in high drop-out rate of girls.
It would be recalled that in the 2009 secondary school examinations conducted by WAEC and NECO, reports indicated that the success rates were 25.99% and 10.7% respectively, that is for those with credits in five (5) subjects including English and Mathematics. It therefore meant that these two subjects are tantamount to failure, because English is vital for reading, writing and verbal expression; while Mathematics is very important for the current technological world of the 21st century, with all the logic it confers for deductive reasoning. With the success rates as reported the Presidency ordered an investigation to find out what went wrong. Soon after that the honourable Members of the House of Representatives set up a committee to probe the reasons for the mass failure.
An analyst acknowledged that even though Nigerians were concerned and waited to see what went wrong, when reports on the probes were made public, it was a laughable venture.
“The laughter in such a situation can only be a malicious one. But it can only be the laugh of one whose house had fallen as a result of deliberate and criminal negligence and which borders on some form of insanity. To cry in such circumstance would be the result of a regret, which arises from a sudden realization of lost opportunity. Only a genuine patriot would cry.
“It is possible that the probes are instituted as a result of a sense of guilt arising from the realization that sadly our educational system is dangerously headed for the rocks, if it has not yet reached its nadir”
The Executive Secretary, National Education Research and Development Council, Prof. Godswill Obioma, reportedly, said, during the training workshop on the new curriculum for teachers drawn from the public and private schools in Lagos, that the new curriculum for the nation’s senior secondary schools, will not just equip the pupils with skills needed to function in tertiary institutions, but also expose them to vocational studies.
The NERDC boss, who was represented by the Director/Head of NERDC South-West Zonal Office, Dr. Moses Salau, explained that the restructuring of the SSS Curriculum resulted in the development of 42 subjects and 34 vocational Trades/Entrepreneurship curricula.
He stated that the curriculum which was approved by the National Council of Education in 2009 would provide for a systematic connection between its contents and the learning of future contents.
According to Obioma, the curriculum is structured in a way that will ensure that senior secondary school graduates are well prepared for higher education and that they had acquired relevant functional trade/entrepreneurship skills needed for poverty eradication, job creation and wealth generation.
This, he noted, would strengthen the foundations for ethical, moral and civic values acquired at the basic education level. “This means that the new curriculum is designed to stem the tide of mass failure in the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board-conducted examination.
“The philosophy of the curriculum concerning adequate preparation of every senior secondary school graduate for higher education implies that he or she would have passed creditably well in WAEC and JAMB examinations.
“That the graduates would have also acquired skills, with the capacity to set up their own businesses as a fall-out of the skills they acquired from the 34 trade subjects. This functional education will make them job creators instead of job seekers, thereby banishing poverty from their lives,” he Obioma.