The Nigerian National Colonial Curriculum in One Sentence

This post with keywords – Nigerian National Colonial Curriculum – discusses all the curricula that foreign managed schools used to train Nigerians during colonial era. The post contains the various editions of the Nigerian national colonial curriculum. For each edition, it describes the content and the objectives – where there is considerable change.

Introduction to the Nigerian National Colonial Curriculum

The online community of the Nigerian education sector is currently inundated with a lot of information and resources. Far too many people claim to have and sell different educational materials – from curriculum to syllabus, scheme of works to lesson notes and so on.

To convolute things further, since everyone wants to sell; all claim to possess official materials – materials in-line with the NERDC curriculum. A school owner called me to request for lesson notes that are in line with the new 2020 NERDC curriculum that someone sold to her.

In the following sections, I list and discuss all the editions of the Nigerian National Colonial Curriculum. I began by discussing the objectives of the colonial education for Nigerians.

The Entire 3-Series Post

This post is the second of a 3-part article. The entire article is a comprehensive post. I addressed all possible issues concerning the national curriculum as it is currently subsisting among the Nigerian education community. However, in order not to make this a tedious reading for the reader; I have shared the entire article into three part.

Part One – Meaning of Curriculum and How to Choose the Right Curriculum for your School

The first part defines what the (national) curriculum is. It enumerates the components of curriculum and discusses the types of curriculum in Nigerian schools. I concluded the first part by providing leading guides on how to choose the right curriculum for your school.

Part Two – Editions of the Nigerian National Curriculum – which this is a part

In the second part – of which this is the second unit of, I discuss all the past and existing editions of the Nigerian National curriculum. This will enable you to have a fuller understanding of the subject matter. It will also help you to authenticate any curriculum that people may try to sell to you – so that you don’t fall prey to fake “official” materials. Because the editions of the national curriculum are many, and to make the reading easier for you; I divided the second part into three smaller units.

The first unit – The Nigerian Indigenous and Missionary Curriculum

This unit discuss the type of curriculum that Nigerians used to train themselves before the arrival of foreigners. The unit also details the arrival of missionaries and the era of mission school with their curriculum.

The Second Unit – The Nigerian National Colonial Curriculum – That is this post

I committed the second unit of part two to the Nigerian National Colonial Curriculum. This was the curriculum that the British colonial governments used to train Nigerians during colonization.

The Third Unit – The 6-3-3-4 & 9-Years Basic Education National Curriculum

The third unit of part two discusses the truly national curricula. It began by discussing the curriculum of the National Curriculum Conference. Then the third unit proceeded to 9-Year Basic Education National Curriculum. The third unit concluded by discussing the latest edition of the Revised 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum.

Part Three – Curriculum, Syllabus, Scheme of Work, Unit of Work plan and Lesson plan

In the last part, I distinguished between curriculum, syllabus, course of study, scheme of work, Unit of Work plan and lesson plan. This last part addresses the major confusion issues between the terms.

 The Nigerian Colonial Curriculum (1882 – 1948)

From preceding discussions – on Indigenous and Missionary curriculum; it is clear that western education became widespread in Nigeria at about 1842. And even so, the western education activities were not evenly distributed across the country. Instead, it was concentrated within Badagry and Lagos – including Abeokuta, Benin and Warri. These are the areas with pronounced activities of the foreigners – missionaries and merchants.

Start of colonialism

Although there was reasonable presence of foreigners in Nigeria since the 14th century; the foreigners had little or no interest in the politics of the land. While the missionaries settled for their works of evangelism, the merchants focused on their businesses.

There was however a turn of event between 1851 and 1861. The British foreigners capitalized on the dynastic rivalry between the King of Lagos and the Oba of Benin and gained control of the land. Eventually, Nigeria became a colony of Britain.

Delayed interest of colonial government in Nigerian education

However, the colonial governments did not immediately intervene in education. (Osokoya, 1995) noted that this was due to three reasons.

The first reason is because religious interest preceded political interest – and so it was only proper that the political government allowed the religious community to enjoy some moments of freedom. Another reason was that the colonial government is modelled after the British style – where education was decentralized and the private and religious organizations were allowed to establish and run schools on their own. Finally, the colonial government did not intervene in the education due to its cost implications.

Development of colonial government’s interest in Nigerian Education

The colonial government’s lack of interest in education did not last long. As from 1872, the colonial governments donated £30 to each of the active missionary organizations. The government increased the financial support – grant-in-aid – to £200 pounds in 1877. This was sustained until 1882.

As a natural occurrence, the grant-in-aid made the government an active contributor to the business of education. But beyond making the government an active contributor to education business of the land, the grant-in-aid also gave the government the right to claim control of the business.

Consequently, the colonial government decided to gradually intervene in the policy making in education, through what they called education ordinance. The education ordinances of the successive colonial governments included curriculum regulation among other aspects of education.

Therefore, such ordinances as those that resulted in a significant change in the curriculum include:

  1. 1882 education ordinance which produced the 1882 curriculum
  2. 1887 education ordinance which produced the 1887 curriculum
  3. The Northern Nigeria education curriculum
  4. 1916 education ordinance which produced the 1916 curriculum
  5. The 1926 curriculum

Aims and Objectives of the Colonial Education in Nigeria

I have earlier discussed that every curriculum is a means to attaining the education needs of its time. The colonial curricular are not exemptions. Just like the missionary curriculum, the colonial curricular were designed to attain the education needs of the colonial administrators for the people. The aims and objectives of the colonial education in Nigeria is to produce:

  1. low level manpower that could be cheaply used as interpreters, messengers, artisans and clerks;
  2. some indigenous youths who could help the rural farmers in planting, harvesting and processing some needed cash crops which were exported to Europe as raw materials to their industries;
  3. semi-literate citizens that could conform and be absorbed as instruments for actualizing the British philosophy of colonialism

These education needs informed the curriculum especially at the earliest period of the colonial government’s interest in education. When aims however changed with time – when native blacks and nationalists started filtering into the administration of the colony.

I will now briefly enumerate the content of each of the curriculum in the following sections.

1882 curriculum

The 1882 curriculum came into force on May 6, 1882. The 1882 West African Education ordinance enabled the curriculum. The ordinance was the government’s first formal attempt to control education in the colony. Hence, there was no much change in the curriculum – the government basically inherited the 3R’s curriculum of the mission schools. However, one major change was that the 1882 curriculum made religious studies optional. It also mandated uniform curriculum across the schools – both government and mission schools.

Content of the 1882 curriculum

The content of the 1882 curriculum include:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. English Language
  4. Arithmetic
  5. Technical Education – leatherwork, needle-work, carpentry, smithing weaving and book binding
  6. Geography – optional
  7. History – optional
  8. CRS – optional

The 1887 curriculum

It is pertinent to note that after the British succeeded in making Lagos a colony, their interest to enlarge the colony to other parts of Nigeria increased. There were a lot of expansion campaigns that were going on as the development in education within the Lagos – Badagry axis unfolded.

The successful expansion of the Lagos colony made Britain to separate Lagos from the Gold Coast – Ghana – colony. In addition to the separation of the colonies, there was increase in the number of educated Nigerian nationalists. These nationalists also increased agitation for a more Nigerian-focused education. These led to the 1887 education ordinance – which brought the 1887 curriculum.

Content of the 1887 curriculum

The 1887 education ordinance focused rather more on educational administration issues than on curriculum. As a result, the 1887 curriculum is basically the same as the 1882 curriculum. The major difference was the provision for fundamentals of science and technology education.

At around 1859, the expanding colonial government and the economy in Nigeria created the high demand for both tradesmen and higher level of technological manpower. The subsequent required the services of technologists by the colonial administration. The importation of these skilled labours from Europe will increase their financial cost of running the colony.  More so, recruiting junior technical workers from Britain – who will obviously come from the lower socio-economic class would have negative effect on their assumed superior image.

Consequently, the schools – at different times – introduced primary Science around 1859. Also during the era of the 1887 curriculum, 13 secondary schools were established – starting with CMS Grammar School in 1859.

The content of the 1887 curriculum included the following elementary and Grammar School subjects:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. English Language
  4. Arithmetic /Mathematics
  5. Needle Work – for female students
  6. Geography – optional
  7. History – optional
  8. CRS – optional
  9. Science and Technology – Primary Science and Introductory Technology
  10. Latin
  11. Classics

NOTE: Secondary schools had more subjects. However, the subjects vary from school to school.

The Norther n Nigerian Education Curriculum (1909 – 1929)

The northern Nigerian education curriculum is the curriculum that western schools used to train people of the Northern Nigeria during the colonial period.

Recall that western education in Nigeria started from the south – southern protectorate. And most of what I have discussed so far applies only to the present day western and eastern Nigeria. The southern protectorate existed nearly 40 years before northern – in 1900.

However, when the British eventually established the northern protectorate in 1900; they sought to replicate in it the educational functions they have been performing in the south – out of need. Nonetheless, the religious, political and cultural setting of the then north was different from the south. Consequently, while the British employed direct rule in the south; they applied indirect – diplomatic – rule in the north.

The northern education curriculum came into force after the colonial government established the first government primary school – Nassarawa primary School – in Kano in 1909. The curriculum remained in used – with little changes – until the Clifford education ordinance in 1926. And even the 1926 education act only regularized the curriculum rather than change altogether.

Aims and Objectives of Colonial Education for the Northern Nigeria

Soon after the creation of the Northern protectorate, the British had two immediate problems. First was how to fuse the colonial political administration with the well-established Muslim local administration.  The second major problem was how to introduce western style education in such a region where organized Islamic Education was in full progress. Hans Vischer – a missionary worker –  was appointed administrative officer to organize a system of education for the protectorate of Northern Nigeria. After research and studies, Vischer produced a report which can be considered the best statement of the aims and objectives of the colonial education for the northern Nigeria. These include following:

  1. Develop the national and racial characteristics of the natives on such lines as will enable them to use their own moral and physical forces to the best advantage;
  2. Widen their mental horizon without destroying their respect for race and parentage;
  3. Supply men for employment in the government;
  4. Produce men who will be able to carry on the native administration in the spirit of the government;
  5. Impart sufficient knowledge of Western ideas to enable the native to meet the influx of teachers, and others from the coast with the advent of the railway, on equal terms;
  6. Avoid encouraging the idea, readily formed by Africans, that it is more honourable to sit in an office than to earn a living by manual labour, introducing at the earliest opportunity, technical instruction side by side with purely classical training
Content of the Norther Nigerian Education Curriculum

Based on the aims and objectives of the colonial education for the northern Nigeria, the 1887 curriculum that the south was currently using at the time was not sufficient.  In addition, the north vehemently refused anything that has to do with the Christian missions. Consequently, they were not going to accept CRS in their schools.

The solution to this was the secular nature of the education that the northern colonial government ran. Consequently, the northern education curriculum included part of the already existing traditional education of the northern people; and part of the 1887 curriculum in the south.

 The 1916 Curriculum

The colonial government amalgamated the Southern and Northern protectorate in January 1914. After the amalgamation, the government enacted the 1916 education ordinance. This ordinance controlled education in the whole country – covering both the southern and northern region.

Content of the 1916 curriculum

The content of instruction remained largely the same as the 1887 curriculum – because the 1916 ordinance was majorly administrative in nature. However, the 1916 curriculum also added one major subject to the curriculum – Moral instructions i.e. Training on the formation of character and habits of discipline.

The 1926 curriculum

Phelps-Stoke Commission

Between 1920 to 1924, Phelps-Stoke Commission – a philanthropic organization in America established in 1911 by Miss Caroline Phelps-Stokes to enhance the religion and education of black peoples in Africa and the United States of America – set up a research team to evaluate the educational needs of Africa – especially in the area of religious, social, hygienic and economic conditions – and the educational work done so far.

The Phelps-Stoke Commission published their findings and recommendations in 1922 and 1926. Reacting to the 1922 recommendations, the British Secretary of State for the colonies set up a committee on Native Education in the British Tropical African Dependencies, in November 1923. The committee was to advise the government on educational matters.

The 1925 Memorandum on Education

In 1925, the committee packaged a comprehensive pieces of advice in a document. Nigerian Education Historians call this document the Memorandum 1925 Memorandum in education.

The 1925 Memorandum on education is the most comprehensive policy on education of the colonial government. The document also defined the Nigerian educational structure. Subsequent colonial governments based their educational policies on the recommendation of this document.

In 1926, Sir Hugh Clifford began the implementation of the 1925 Memorandum on education. The major target of the memorandum was domestication of education to suit the needs and culture of the people. Hence, even in the 1926 ordinances, the north and south still maintained independent education framework – though the government tried to harmonize things and ensure compliance as much as possible.

Consequently, in 1926; separate education ordinances for north and south came into existences – thus creating the 1926 curriculum.

Aims and Objectives of the 1926 curriculum

The aims and objectives of the 1926 curriculum include:

  1. Adaptation of education to the mentality, aptitudes, occupations, and traditions of the various peoples;
  2. Attracting the greatest importance to religious teaching and moral instruction related to the conditions and daily experience of the pupils;
  3. Localization of learning
  4. Making the acquisition of their knowledge of English and Arithmetic essential before the start of apprenticeship for skilled artisans;
  5. Instilling into pupils through the education system the view that vocational careers are as honourable as the clerical, and making them equally as attractive;
  6. Promoting better education of girls and women in the tropical African communities since educated wives and mothers mean educated homes;
  7. Instituting a complete education system, comprising infant and primary school education for boys and girls; secondary or intermediate education; vocational education; advanced education; and adult education.
Contents of the 1926 curriculum for infant, primary, middle and secondary schools

From the discussions above, it is obvious that the 1926 curriculum was an expansion of the already curricular. The key additions to the curricular include:

  1. Nigerian Languages – Hausa in the North, Yoruba in the west and Igbo in the East
  2. Cultural and Creative Art
  3. Vocational Aptitude
  4. Gardening
  5. Hygiene
  6. Religious Studies – CRS and IRS
The Amalgamation of the North and South Education Board

In 1929, the colonial government merged the education department of the north and south. However, there was no major change in the 1926 curriculum.  Instead, Hussey’s Policy on Education – which was a proposal that resulted from the amalgamation of the education departments – defined a new and uniform system of education for Nigeria.

Hussey’s Policy on Education was adopted in 1939

Although the 1926 curriculum expected learners –both in the south and north – to complete the curriculum in 14 years; it structured the 14 years differently for both regions. While the south operated the 2-6-6 structure or system – which means 2 years in elementary school; 6 years in primary school; and 6 years in secondary school – the north operated the 2-4-4-4 structure or system – which means 2 years in elementary school; 4 years in primary school; 4 years in middle school; and 4 years in secondary school.

Regionalization of Education

There was no more major curriculum change in Nigeria until the national curriculum conference. However, there were many other developments in the education sector. Customarily, almost every government comes to power with her policy – an education was not exempted. One of such major development that impacted the Nigerian national curriculum is the 1952 education act.

The Arthur Richard’s Constitution of 1946 divided Nigeria into three regions: West, East and North. Extending this further, the 1951 Macpherson’s Constitution gave each region power to legislate and make laws on education, health, agriculture and local government within the boundaries of its region.

Consequently, this constitutional provision led to the division of education department into three parallel departments, to reflect the three regions. Each region thereafter made its laws. All further developments in the sector danced to the political drum of the region.

1948 Curriculum

In1943, the government organized two commissions with a view to improving higher education in the country. The commissions include the Asquith Commission, the Elliot Commission and the Ashby Commission. Based on the recommendations of the commissions, tertiary institutions – now first generation universities – were established. In order to prepare students for the higher institution, the curriculum was expanded in the 1948 education ordinance.

The Ashby Commission Curriculum Revision

Similarly, in 1959; the government of Nigeria set up the Ashby Commission to investigate and recommend to the government – among others – on the needs for higher education in Nigeria. The Ashby commission’s report was comprehensive. It embraced the secondary, technical, commercial, veterinary and higher education needs of Nigeria. Two of the major findings of the commission’s investigation – with regard to curriculum – was that the graduate students of the then secondary education were not well-prepared for higher education; and also that the secondary education was too literal.

Consequently, the commission recommended curriculum review for the secondary education – so as to equip them adequately for the higher education. As a result, the curriculum was expanded to accommodate more subjects. Later in 1962 when the second generation universities were established the Nigerian government also established the National University Commission – to oversee and ensure quality of high education in Nigeria.

It was this curriculum that took us through independence – until the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 curriculum.

In the next section, I discuss the immediate curriculum of the 1969 curriculum conference.

The 6-3-3-4 curriculum

In the first post, I discussed the National Curriculum Conference and the National Policy on Education. The conference was held between September 8 and 17, 1969. The decisions at the conference eventually led to the publication of the National Policy on Education (NPE).

The National Policy on Education (NPE)

The National Policy on Education has a broad curriculum – as we had it before the UBE. The broad curriculum aims at creating enough learning opportunity for all children, irrespective of gender, age, ability, class, interest, etc. The NPE also laid foundation for the 6-3-3-4 system of education.

Implementation of the National Policy on Education (NPE)

Although the NPE is the wish of all Nigerians in writing, its immediate implementation was truncated by the Nigerian Civil war.

Consequently, when normalcy was restored, the government – of the second republic – began implementing the provisions of the National Policy on Education. First, the NPE was revised in 1981 to reflect recent developments. The civilian regime – second republic, according to the revised policy, adopted education “as instrument par excellence for effecting national development”.

Launch of the 6-3-3-4 curriculum

After the revision of the NPE, the government officially launched the 6-3-3-4 system of education in September, 1982. The 6-3-3-4 system of education means stipulated that the nation’s education shall cover six years of primary education, three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary and four years of tertiary education.  Accordingly, suitable curriculum was developed for the system of education.

Aims and Objectives of the 6-3-3-4 Curriculum

The 6-3-3-4 curriculum was the direct product of the National Education Policy – which itself resulted from the National Curriculum Conference. This was the product of the yearnings and aspiration of the native people. The primary objective of the 6-3-3-4 was to realize a self-reliant and self-sufficient nation.

Content of the 6-3-3-4 Curriculum

The 6-3-3-4 system emphasized academic and pre-vocational education. As I mentioned earlier, the curriculum was broad/comprehensive. It contained all the subjects as in the UBE edition – even more since each subject stood on their own unlike the UBE that compacted some subjects. As a result of the extensive length of subjects, the curriculum divided the subjects into two – the core and the elective subjects.

This also aligns with the 1980 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASCE). In addition, vocational subjects were included and language policy changed. Originally, the plan was that continuous assessment would serve as the method of assessing the learners at the junior level while state and national examination would be used at the senior school level.

Implementation of the 6-3-3-4 Curriculum

The government launched the 6-3-3-4 curriculum in September, 1982. However, when the curriculum was launched; many states were not prepared to implement it – remember the regionalization of education since Macpherson regime.

The politics of the time did not permit uniform implementation. Specifically, while the federal schools and schools in the states that was controlled by the ruling party began the implementation; schools in the states that was controlled by the opposition party did not commence implementation.

It was until the second military era in 1983 that the 6-3-3-4 curriculum was nationally implemented. Hence, the curriculum remained in use for nearly twenty years. Notwithstanding, the implementation was not hitch free. More so, the actualization of the objectives was not realized.

Experts attributed the ineffectiveness of the curriculum to a number of issues. Two major of such issues are: first, was hurried planning and financing. The curriculum was not test-run in small scale before national implementation. The second complaint was that the curriculum contained too many subjects. The later became a major reason for revision of subsequent national curriculum.

The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC)

The second military era between 1983 and 1999 pursued a lot education policy. In 1988, the government merged Nigerian Educational Research Council; Comparative Education Study and Adaptation Centre; Nigerian Book Development Council; and Nigerian Language Centre to establish the Nigerian Education Development Council (NERDC).

One of the major mandates of the NERDC was to develop, review and enrich curriculum at all levels. Thenceforth, the development and revision of the national curriculum become the duty of the NERDC.

I will in the next section discuss the subsequent curriculum. Click here to continue to unit three of the part 2.

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