The Evolution of New National Policy on Education in Nigeria

The National Policy on Education (NPE) serves as a national guideline for the effective and efficient administration, management an...




The National Policy on Education (NPE) serves as a national guideline for the effective and efficient administration, management and implementation of education at the local, state and federal levels of government.  It is a statement of intensions, expectations, goals, prescriptions, standards, and requirements for quality education delivery. Rapid social, economic and political reforms are being witnessed across the globe, Nigeria inclusive. These reformations in one way or the other necessitate change in policy thrust in education in line with United Nations protocols such as Education for All (EFA); Sustainable Development Goals 4 (SDG4); and her national Strategic Education Sector Plan (SESP).  

 Before the civil war, many Nigerian educators and parents had been concerned about the lack of relevance of the educational system in meeting the pressing economic, social and cultural needs of the nation. The Nigerian children were being educated to meet the needs of a foreign culture  and were therefore better fit for export  than for life in their own country. This did not go down well with the Nigerian educators. This was the reason, Babs Fafunwa in 1964 at the bi-annual meeting of Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) – the national advisory committee on education held in Enugu, proposed  a National Curriculum Conference.

This conference would involve parents, business organizations, civil servants, religious bodies, farmers, workers’ unions, youth clubs, women’s organizations, and professional bodies. They were given opportunity to deliberate on the type of education they want for their children. This conference was purely for Nigerians by Nigerians according to J.S. Cookey (1974) and Fafunwa (1974)” …..we are determined that the conference should be purely  Nigerian affairs”.  Other foreigners at the conference were only there as observers.

The main aim of the conference is to review old and identify new national goals for Nigerian education bearing in mind the needs of  children, youths and adults in the task of nation – building and national reconstruction for social, and economic well-being of the individual and the society.
Among the nine specific decision areas that were identified, as crucial to the attainment of the conference objectives were National philosophy of education, goals of primary education, education for living, control of public education and so on.

Under the philosophy for Nigerian Education, the 1969 National curriculum  conference was the first  national attempt to change the colonial orientation of the Nigerian  educational system and promote national consciousness and self- reliance through  the educational processes. Most of the recommendation by the conference emphasized national unity, citizenship, national consciousness, nationalism, national reconstruction among others.

Recommendations 3, 4, 7, 18, 48  seem to be in line with  Universal Primary Education ( UPE)  and Universal Basic Education ( UBE ) programs while  recommendations  56 and 59 spelt out how these programs will be implemented. It is worthy to write out these recommendations in full:
Recommendation 3:  In the light of having a national philosophy of education and the goals of primary  education,  Nigerian education should be geared towards self- realization; better human  relationship; self and  national economic efficiency;  effective citizenship; national consciousness;  national unity; social  and political progress; scientific  and  technological progress; national reconstruction.
Recommendation 4:  The implication of the fore going recommendations suggests equality of educational opportunity for all Nigerian children so that each can develop according to his or her own ability, aptitude and interests.
Recommendation 7:  “Primary education should serve to help the child towards self –realization  and to relate to others through mutual understanding. …….. It should facilitate national consciousness in cultural diversity and towards national unity ………”
This recommendation is indirectly referring to the use of Mother Tongue ( MT)  by  adoption of one or more  of the indigenous languages as an official language.  This is where MT will be applied in UBE program.  Unfortunately, opportunity to apply MT in UPE was misused and this is what led to its failure.
UBE would be successful if it adopts recommendation 18 which states that “ ……… The schools would start developing and projecting the Nigerian / African culture, arts and language as well as the world cultural heritage.  Students should be able to think reflectively about Nigerian common national problems, for example Nigerian unity in diversity. All schools must fire students with a desire to for achievement  and excellence and for continuous  self-education and self- improvement ( through mass literacy and adult education ( emphasis mine)).
Recommendation 56 points straight to the objective of UBE program. As a step to implementation of these recommendations,  there  should be free and compulsory primary education for all children now. Within the  five-years educational plan, it should be possible to extend the policy of free and compulsory education to children up to the age of 15 while in the next ten years education should be up to the full secondary school level.   

Out of the 65 recommendations, only recommendation 59, which proposed a 6-3-3-4 system of education recommended by 1969 National Curriculum Conference was adopted by the 1973 National Seminar on Education. There remain other objectives to be achieved such as free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a land of bright and full of opportunities for all.
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The 1973 National Seminar on Education draft document gave rise to the publication of the first National Policy on Education in 1977. This first edition has been revised successively and produced 2nd edition in 1981; 3rd edition in 1988; 4th edition in 2004; 5th edition in 2007 and 6th edition in 2013. Revisions of the National Policy on Education (NPE) become  imperative in order to address noticeable gaps in content  and provisions that emerge in the course of implementation, maintain currency, relevance  as well as give adequate attention to new opportunities, issues, challenges and adapt to eventualities  as can be experienced during the ongoing COVID19 pandemic globally.

The revision of the last edition (6th edition) in 2013 was informed by the need to restate  Nigeria’s  national goals whereby  the philosophy of education specifies  the goals and objectives education  should accomplish, defines the structure and strategies for its provision, sets guidelines and required standards for its delivery, management and for quality assurance. In addition, it  clarifies the responsibilities of the three tiers of government, their agencies and all other education stake holders. This 6th edition strives to emphasize on:
i)                   the consolidation of Pre-Primary , Primary and Junior Secondary School Education to a 10-Year Basic Education in line with UBE and its establishment Act
ii)                 improved quality assurance;  restructuring and enhancing the capacities of Federal and States/ FCT Inspectorate Services through effective performance evaluation;
iii)               the development and maintenance of a credible and up-to-date National Education Management and Information System (NEMIS) and corresponding State/FCT Education Management and Information Systems (SEMIS);
iv)               the effective use of strategic planning to improve the quality of education provision and service delivery;
v)                 improving teacher quality  through professionalizing the teaching profession in Nigeria and the provision of more in- service training opportunities and other incentives for teachers; and
vi)               better  coordination, collaboration and networking  of activities, programs and interventions of all tiers of government, development partners and all other stakeholders in the Nigerian education sector in order to eliminate overlaps, achieve and sustain synergy.

For effective, efficient and sustainable implementation, monitoring and coordination, the development of this 6th edition of the National Policy on Education was overseen by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). Today, Nigeria can boost of a very viable implementable Education Policy for the achievement of Education 2030 Agenda.

Cited Works:
Fafunwa, B.A. (1974). History of  education in Nigeria. London: George Allen.

Federal Capital Territory Administration (2010). Education Sector Strategic Plan 2011- 2020. Abuja: FCTA. 
Federal Republic of Nigeria (2013). National Policy on Education (6th ed.). Abuja: NERDC Press.