Nigeria: Education and the curriculum

I’ve been working with (read ‘teaching’) a few 7 year old and 3 year old children and I have a lot to say about what could be wrong with the Nigeria curriculum compared to the British and maybe the American curricula.

3 year old R is my newest student. I started working with him nearly a month ago and he is enrolled into an ‘international’ school that uses the Nigerian curriculum.

What I do with my 3 year old students when I first meet them is teach them to write their name that is if I see that they can already recognize and write the letters in the alphabet. R’s mum was not around when I met him so I decided to test his knowledge. He was quite the bright and confused child who could not differentiate some numbers but that was okay by me. I found that he got easily bored and very distracted but he also loved to dance and sing so I quickly made a song that spelled his name and in no time, he was singing and spelling his name. After our session, I met his mother who was quite shocked that in less than an hour of teaching him, R could now spell his name. She explained that his teachers thought he needed extra attention because he got too distracted in school and all the while this lady was explaining, I noted the worry of a mother in her voice.

Let us leave R for a while and talk about A and L who are also aged 3. A is female and attends a school that uses both Nigeria and British curriculum while L (male) attends a British school. Both children are academically sound. L started off slow and got his parents worried because while his friends who attended schools that used Nigeria curriculum, had started to write their letters and numbers, he could not even hold a pencil let alone identify the letters in the alphabet. When I started work with him two months ago, he simply did not want to study. I saw that he loved to play so I made study a fun thing. Two months later, L can write and read properly. He also looks forward to our lessons and never wants it to end. Thankfully his school does not load him with homework so he has enough time to comprehend what we learn. A who attends a school that mixes both curricula, is also a brilliant child. Even though she comes home with homework and textbooks, she is not made to memorise spellings which means, rather than teach her that ‘C A T’ spells CAT, she is made to sound the letters so that she understands how to spell and pronounce new words. This is how I teach all my students.

“The problem is not with the child”, I explained to R’s mother, “it is with the school and the curriculum used. This boy should not be in this school but in one that uses the British curriculum as well as the Nigeria one because schools that teach only with the Nigerian curriculum do not consider that there are students who simply do not comprehend learning theoretically; it does not leave provision for kids who cannot memorize spellings”.

Unlike schools that incorporate other curriculum especially the British curriculum, the Nigerian ones teach kids ahead of their classes and impose textbooks on them. Take R for instance, he gets homework that should be given to kids aged 5. For a child who mixes up his alphabets and numbers and is only just learning to read, he is told to start addition of large numbers! He uses books for primary schools yet he is supposedly a pre-primary student.

I cannot entirely blame his parents for enrolling him in a school that uses the Nigeria curriculum, however in these times, it is important for schools to do better as per the students they take in and determine what sort of learning ability that they have. The education board in Nigeria has a lot to do regarding incorporating play time in the curriculum and reviewing texts that are given to the students. An average 3 year old should not be made to do complex homework because s/he is only just beginning to comprehend letters and numbers.

I used to feel that parents who paid huge sums to enroll their children in genuine international schools were not patriotic but I see how the ‘patriotic’ ones are making their kids suffer without knowing. The Nigeria curriculum is like an abusive parent who forces the child to follow a certain pattern, thinking it is for the child’s good when it really just damages the child later. This curriculum tells the child to memorize rather than improvise. I think that it is important the curriculum changes to meet the needs of the modern child who is insistent on not being forced to learn because otherwise, more parents will move their children to British schools.

So what do I think is wrong with the Nigeria system of education?

1. It is more theoretic than pragmatic i.e. students are made to learn based on what the textbooks say. This does not challenge the students to think; rather they are mostly made to agree with everything because that is what the books say.

2. It churns out mechanical graduates i.e. because the students are not challenged to think and be creative, they in turn do not challenge some theories and if they do have questions, they become afraid to ask because the books cannot be wrong.

3. Many unintelligent graduates i.e. if one has to pass, one only has to memorize. If all I have to know is that C A T spells CAT, why attempt to question what C A R T spells?

4. It does not favor early learning i.e. all that I have written up there about R. If R is not worked on at this point, he will very likely be so confused because he is not learning at his own pace.

Like I always say, I am a very lazy writer. This means I get tired after writing more than a thousand words. I do hope someone somewhere understands what message I am trying to pass across as I desperately want to put a period to this epistle. However the question is, ‘who should we scold for not teaching the kids according to their learning pace?’

a. The parents (for enrolling the child);

b. The school (for not paying attention to the child’s academic needs); or

c. The country (for not reviewing the curriculum and imposing texts on students)?