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Education in Nigeria

Updated on September 23, 2011

Education in Nigeria

Nigeria is by far Africa’s largest country by population. It boasts of a large number of highly educated and skilled citizens owing mostly to its Education system which churns out large number of graduates and school leavers. However the education system at present though relatively better in terms of quality to most other African countries still leaves much to be desired for a country of Nigeria’s status.

For instance, expatriates based in Nigeria do not have confidence in the Nigerian Education system as many of them would rather send their children and wards back home to acquire ‘quality Education’ or if they enroll their children in Nigerian schools then it would have to be schools that have an international curriculum or is typically owned and operated by capable hands trained abroad in western countries. Other Nigerians particularly those from affluent families are no different as they too would send their children abroad whenever the opportunity to give them western Education arises.

Education system in Nigeria

The system of Education applicable in Nigeria at the moment is the so called 6-3-3-4 system in which the average Nigeria child is expected to spend 16 years receiving formal Education from government recognized institutions. The system code 6-3-3-4 means any child going through the Education system should receive 6 years of primary Education, 3 years of junior secondary and another 3 years of senior secondary Education and finally 4 years in a higher institution such as a polytechnic or university.

Educational institutions in Nigeria

There are two kinds of Educational institutions in Nigeria based on ownership and management. There are the public owned schools and private schools.

Public schools in Nigeria

At the basic level of Education (primary), the public schools are usually owned and operated by local government councils, while the states operate secondary schools while Nigerian universities and other institutions of higher learning are handled by both the federal and state governments. However, both the federal and state governments may also own model secondary schools where pupils who distinguish themselves at common entrance examinations are usually sent to receive special Education. In that case we have unity schools and model colleges which were initially designed to accommodate gifted children although over the years this has been respected by the authorities. Equally worth noting is that federal government parastatals and agencies often times own and operate both primary and secondary schools. So for that reason, federal universities, military and paramilitary institutions such as the army, navy, Air-force and the police, Nigerian telecommunications company (NITEL), federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) among others have their own schools and colleges to cater for their employees’ need for quality but affordable Education. There are just over 40 public universities in Nigeria with the bulk of them being owned by state governments. The federal universities where they exist do not exceed more than one per state. Currently all federal universities except when they are named after prominent citizens usually go by such names as University of Lagos, University of Jos, University of Ibadan, University of Benin and so on usually the capital cities of the states in which they are located. While those named after prominent citizens such as the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and ObafemiAwolowoUniversity are also federal universities. The states usually name their universities as Lagos state university, OsunStateUniversity and so on, the exception being when such universities are also named after prominent citizens.

Private schools in Nigeria

Private schools in Nigeria are mostly owned by people with commercial interests and there are so many of them. In LagosNigeria in particular there are uncountable number of them mostly nursery and primary of course however there are also secondary schools and even universities and polytechnics added to them. Like is expected, school fees and tuition fees in these private schools are beyond the reach of most Nigerians as only middle class and upper class can cope with their exorbitant fees. Until 1999 all universities in Nigeria were publicly owned until IgbinedionUniversity in Okada after being licensed along with 3 others began running academic programs.

Regulation and Administration

At the primary level, schools are regulated by the Universal Basic Education Agency an arm of the federal ministry of Education. The UBE also operates at state and local government levels. There are also inspectorate divisions in state and federal ministries of Education that ensure that quacks do not start and run schools. At the secondary level the National Board for Education management (NBEM) runs and regulate Education at junior secondary level. At senior secondary level, there are the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Education Council (NECO) which prepares senior secondary graduation examinations. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) prepare examinations for admission into institutions of higher learning namely; Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education and Monotechnics. University administration and regulation is handled by the national universities commission (NUC) while National Board for Technical Education (NABTE) handles other tertiary institutions. Occasionally the federal government provides grants and scholarships to deserving institutions through its Education Trust Fund (ETF) and scholarship board. Other state governments provide bursary awards to their indigenes studying in various institutions of higher learning.

Trade unionism and labor

Nigeria has had her own share of industrial actions in the Education sector with the respective trade unions namely Nigerian Union of teachers (both for primary and secondary schools), Academic staff union of Universities (ASUU) and Academic staff union of polytechnics (ASUP). Most times the industrial disputes are over pay rise and unfriendly government policies in the Education sector.


Overall Nigeria’s Education although suffering neglect over the years especially during military rule has improved owing to conscious efforts of stake holders to restore pride to that sector and the coming 10 years seem to offer great prospects for that sector with increased funding and efficiency coming its way.


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