Overview of Nigerian Education System and Benefits of Education in Nigeria

Nuelson Penuel Friday, August 25, 2023 Basis

In this post, we are going to talk about history of education in Nigeria, education system of Nigeria, benefits of education in Nigeria as well as challenges facing education in Nigeria.

History of Education in Nigeria

The history of education in Nigeria can be traced back to pre-colonial times when education was typically informal and passed down through oral tradition. Indigenous cultures had their own systems of transmitting knowledge and skills, with a focus on practical learning and socialization. During the colonial era, formal education was introduced by Christian missionaries and later by the British colonial government. Missionary schools were established in the early 19th century, offering rudimentary education to converts. The education provided was primarily religious and focused on literacy and basic numeracy. In 1882, the establishment of the first formal school by the colonial government, CMS Grammar School in Lagos, marked the beginning of Western-style education in Nigeria. The curriculum expanded to include subjects like English, mathematics, science, and history, aligning with the British education system. The 20th century saw significant developments in education. The establishment of more schools, teacher training colleges, and universities expanded access to education. Nigerian nationalists and activists advocated for the inclusion of African history and culture in the curriculum to foster a sense of identity and national pride. With Nigeria's independence in 1960, the government took responsibility for education. The educational system was reformed to cater to the needs of a growing population. Free primary education was introduced, leading to a surge in enrollments. The government also established new universities and vocational institutions to meet the demand for higher education. However, the quality of education rapidly deteriorated in the following decades due to various factors, including inadequate funding, political instability, and corruption. Strikes and protests by teachers and students became common as they demanded better conditions and resources. In recent years, efforts have been made to address the challenges facing Nigeria's education system. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) program was launched in 1999 to provide free and compulsory education for all children in Nigeria. The UBE program aims to enhance access, equity, and quality in basic education. Additionally, the government has placed increased emphasis on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to address the skill gaps in the labor market and promote entrepreneurship. Despite these efforts, Nigeria continues to face significant challenges in its education system, including inadequate infrastructure, low teacher quality, high dropout rates, and disparities in access across regions and socio-economic groups. However, education remains a priority for the government, and various initiatives and reforms are being undertaken to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Nigeria.

Overview of Nigerian Education System

The Nigerian education system is structured into basic (primary and secondary) education, tertiary education, and non-formal education. It is modelled after the British system, with English as the medium of instruction. 1. Basic Education: This consists of nine years of compulsory and free education, comprising six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary education. Basic education aims to develop foundational knowledge and skills in subjects like mathematics, English, social studies, and science. 2. Senior Secondary Education: After completing basic education, students proceed to senior secondary school, which lasts for three years. At this stage, students choose between the science, arts, or commercial tracks based on their interests and career aspirations. The senior secondary school curriculum covers a wider range of subjects, including core subjects like mathematics, English, and the sciences, as well as elective subjects specific to the chosen track. 3. Tertiary Education: Tertiary education in Nigeria consists of universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education. Universities offer degree programs, polytechnics focus on technical and vocational education, and colleges of education train teachers. Tertiary education is not mandatory but is increasingly seen as necessary for employment and professional advancement. Admission to tertiary institutions is typically based on the results of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). 4. Non-Formal Education: Non-formal education programs are designed to reach adults and out-of-school youth who have missed out on formal education or wish to acquire specific skills. These programs offer opportunities to learn basic literacy, vocational skills, and entrepreneurship. The Nigerian education system faces numerous challenges, including those mentioned earlier – inadequate funding, poor infrastructure, teacher quality, socio-economic disparities, security risks, corruption, and overcrowding. These factors often result in low educational outcomes, high dropout rates, and a lack of skilled workforce in various sectors. Efforts have been made to address these challenges through various reforms and policies, such as the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program, which aims to improve access and quality of basic education. The government has also taken steps to enhance vocational and technical education to equip students with practical skills for the labor market.

Challenges Facing Education in Nigeria

Several factors contribute to the challenges and shortcomings in Nigeria's education system. These include: 1. Inadequate Funding: The education sector in Nigeria suffers from a lack of sufficient financial resources. The allocation to education in the national budget is often inadequate, making it difficult to provide quality infrastructure, instructional materials, and teacher training. 2. Poor Infrastructure: Many schools in Nigeria lack basic infrastructure such as classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and sanitation facilities. This hampers the effective delivery of education and creates an unfavorable learning environment for students. 3. Quality of Teachers: There is a shortage of qualified and experienced teachers in Nigeria. Additionally, the low remuneration and unfavorable working conditions often discourage talented individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. The quality of teaching and learning is compromised when educators are not adequately trained or motivated. 4. Socioeconomic Disparities: Access to quality education in Nigeria is unevenly distributed across regions and socio-economic groups. Rural areas and disadvantaged communities often lack proper schools and educational resources, leading to educational inequalities. 5. Security Challenges: Nigeria has faced security challenges in certain regions, particularly in the northeast due to the activities of extremist groups like Boko Haram. These security issues have resulted in the closure of schools and the displacement of students and teachers, thereby disrupting education in affected areas. 6. Corruption and Mismanagement: Corruption within the education system undermines the effective delivery of education. Funds intended for educational development and improvement are often misappropriated, resulting in the deterioration of infrastructure and inadequate resources. 7. Large Population and Overcrowding: Nigeria has a high population growth rate, which puts pressure on the education system. The rapid increase in student enrollment often leads to overcrowded classrooms and limited resources, impacting the quality of education. 8. Cultural and Language Barriers: Nigeria is a diverse country with over 250 ethnic groups and numerous languages. The diversity in cultures and languages can pose challenges in curriculum development and instructional delivery, particularly in regions where the primary language is different from the official language (English).

Benefits of Education System in Nigeria

The education system in Nigeria offers several benefits to individuals and society as a whole: 1. Knowledge and Skill Acquisition: Education provides individuals with a range of knowledge and skills that are essential for personal and professional development. It equips them with literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills necessary for success in various fields. 2. Social and Economic Development: A well-educated populace contributes to the overall social and economic development of a nation. Education promotes innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological advancement, leading to economic growth and job creation. 3. Poverty Reduction: Education is a powerful tool for reducing poverty. It empowers individuals with knowledge and skills that enable them to secure better job opportunities, increase their earning potential, and escape the cycle of poverty. 4. Improved Health and Well-being: Education plays a crucial role in improving health outcomes. It raises awareness about health risks, preventive measures, and healthy behaviors, leading to better personal and community health. 5. Gender Equality: Education is vital for promoting gender equality. It enables girls and women to gain knowledge, skills, and access to opportunities, breaking down barriers and empowering them to participate fully in social, economic, and political spheres. 6. Social Cohesion and Cultural Understanding: Education fosters social cohesion by promoting tolerance, understanding, and appreciation of different cultures, religions, and perspectives. It helps build bridges between diverse communities and reduces the likelihood of conflicts and discrimination. 7. Civic Engagement and Good Governance: Education instills civic values, democratic principles, and participatory citizenship. It prepares individuals to be responsible and active members of society, ensuring better governance and political participation. 8. Research and Development: A well-developed education system encourages research and development activities. It generates new knowledge, discoveries, and innovations that contribute to societal progress, technological advancements, and scientific breakthroughs.


In conclusion, the education system in Nigeria offers significant benefits to individuals and society, including knowledge and skill acquisition, social and economic development, poverty reduction, improved health and well-being, gender equality, social cohesion, civic engagement, and research and development. However, there are challenges and gaps that need to be addressed to ensure equitable access to quality education. Efforts should be made to invest in educational infrastructure, improve teacher quality and training, update curricula to meet the needs of the changing world, promote inclusion and equity, and engage all stakeholders in the process. By doing so, Nigeria can unlock the full potential of its education system and contribute to the overall development of the nation.

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