A new dawn for education colleges

Since 2007, the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) has been putting several measures
in place to reform the policy on teacher education. The efforts are now bearing fruits.

 By Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi

     One major defect, among others, that trailed the glamorous take-off, in September 1999, of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme in Nigeria, was the lack of preparedness for the number and quality of teachers needed to make the scheme a success over the long term.

Thus, from the outset, while the idea of creating wider access to primary education for all children across the country was a welcome development, the details of how the scheme would succeed, in real terms, was not properly worked out.

With education on the con-current list in the country’s constitution, which also gave the management of the elementary level to the state governments, and by extension the local councils, it was glaring that  major skirmishes between the federal and state governments over the implementation of the scheme’s blueprint would occur.  The differences in approach soon manifested.

The first set of disagreements led to the long delay in passing the UBE bill, leading to a sort of ad-hoc implementation of several aspects. By the time the bill was finally passed in 2004, six years after its launch, the question of where the teachers would come from was still not properly answered. Not only that, the new Act also recognized four distinct levels within the UBE scheme: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Primary, Junior Secondary and Adult/Non Formal. But the curriculum in use at the Colleges of Education was not tailored to train teachers to handle these new concepts.

In 2009, exactly 10 years after the launch, the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), in its roadmap, asserted that the country needs 969,078 teachers for the ECCE level; 338,147 for the primary schools; 12,329 for the nomadic aspect and 581 for the junior secondary level. The overall teacher shortage was put at 1,320,135.

Yet, the entire Colleges of Education in the country could only produce 64,000 teachers annually. The implication? It would take the country 20 long years to meet this target at that rate. When the out-going Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Prof. Mohammad Junaid delivered a convocation address at the Federal College of Education (Technical) in September 2012, he was of the opinion that if the country were to achieve the Education for All (EFA) goals by 2015 (this year), some 330,033 teachers would have to be produced, every year for four years, starting from 2012.

But he also added: “this, no doubt, is a very daunting task, especially when we consider the fact that Colleges of Education have not been getting the right number of candidates for training.” He however added: “the solution to this challenge does not lie solely with the colleges or with the regulatory body, the NCCE. Our requirements are not very different from the requirements of Nigerian Universities that are flooded with potential candidates. I believe that the motivation for enrolling to learn to teach lies largely with employers of teachers and the candidates themselves.”

From Grade II to NCE

It became clear to major stakeholders after the 2004 UBE Act was promulgated, that the teachers in the system and the ones being trained in the Colleges of Education would not be able to handle the scheme’s fours aspects effectively without some reorientation.

In 2005, the NCCE, in collaboration with the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) and the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), commissioned a nation-wide study of pre-Service Teacher education at both the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) and the Bachelor Degree levels. Sponsored by the World Bank, the outcome of that study, known as the Tee Kay Report, identified some weaknesses in the NCE programme.

It faulted the generalization embedded in the Primary Education Studies (PES), where “too many ill-conceived, shallow courses of dubious usefulness yoked together.” It affirmed that there was a significant degree of mismatch between the contents of the teacher education programmes and the pedagogical skill required in the schools. Besides, it stated that the contents of the PES curriculum were too knowledge-centric, to the detriment of pedagogical skills. It established, in addition, that the seven literacy and mathematics contents were actually designed without reference to the National Curriculum for Primary School, the main document students are expected to use on graduation.

The study concluded that the NCE Minimum Standards in use at that time was unsuitable for the production of effective primary school teachers, but rather geared towards the production of teachers for the Junior Secondary School level.

Subsequently, UBEC, relying on the report’s finding, and in collaboration with other stakeholders, organized the first policy dialogue on Teacher Reform in June 2006, which came up with two conclusions. One: the need for a holistic review of the NCE Minimum Standards by the NCCE to take care of the weaknesses discovered in the report; and, two – the urgent need to also review the PES curriculum.

According to Junaid, this initial policy dialogue coincided with the five-year periodic review of the NCE Minimum Standards, which took off in 2005. Besides, the NERDC was also reviewing the UBE curriculum, while a comprehensive National Teacher Education policy was being developed by the FME, in collaboration with USAID under the ENHANSE Project.

Justifying the need for a major restructuring, Junaid told The Intellectual that the rise in the minimum teaching qualification from the old Grade II Certificate to the NCE was also a factor. According to him, the NCE programme had, from inception, focused on only three principal subjects usually drawn from the senior secondary curriculum. “The structure was rooted in the traditional three principal paper (HSC/GCE Advanced Level) requirements for admission into the universities,” he said.

But the shift from Grade Two to NCE, Junaid added, created additional responsibilities for the NCE teacher, “who now has to be prepared to teach at both pre-primary and primary levels in addition to the JSS level.” On the other hand, he noted that the extensive revision of the national curriculum that made each level of basic education quite distinct, with its separate curriculum, made it impossible for any trainee teacher to become proficient in teaching all the subjects at all levels without compromising quality. 

Strategy for Reform

Banking on its enabling Decree 13 of January 17, 1989, which was amended by Act 12 of 1993, the NCCE fashioned out six main strategies to carry out the needed reforms.

First, it organized a policy dialogue on Teacher Education (TE) reform to identify gaps and determine the appropriate ways of filling them. It sought ways of expanding the focus and contents of the TE programme to fit the national basic education curriculum and expand opportunities to produce quality teachers for the different levels of the UBE. It set off the machinery to review the quality assurance instruments and mode of accreditation, in order to focus on the five core assessment areas that the research results had established were central to a good quality assurance system.

It also developed professional standards for teaching and teacher educators, to focus training on what teachers should know and be able to do at the various stages of their training. Not only that, the commission drew up teaching support materials to bolster teaching confidence. The training of teacher educators was also included to deliberately teach and monitor students’ mastery of the knowledge pedagogical skills.

To address the inadequacy of the TE curriculum, efforts were made to harmonise the basic education curriculum with NCE minimum standards to address the mismatch between the contents of the teacher education programmes and the pedagogical skills required in schools. According to Junaid, this was accomplished in 2008 through infusion of the elements of the core basic education curricula into the NCE Minimum Standards.

Having successfully harmonized the two, Junaid further explained, the next step was to train teacher educators on the most appropriate methodologies for delivering the core basic education curricula. “The aim was to train these educators to teach the NCE curriculum with emphasis on core pedagogical skills for effective delivery of the basic education curriculum,” he said.

Also, to bolster teaching confidence in literacy, numeracy and life skills among pre-service students, the NCCE worked with TESSA to develop appropriate teaching manuals for use by pre-service students in micro-teaching and while on teaching practice. The new Minimum Standards extended the period of teaching practice from 12 to 18 weeks and included mandatory school visits and classroom observations by pre-service students during their training to complement what they were being taught in class.

New programmes were added to the standards in 2010, in response to the need for specialist teachers needed for the five different aspects of the UBE and they are currently being implemented. In fact, an Implementation Framework to guide NCE awarding institutions in mounting the new programmes has been produced to accompany the new NCE Minimum Standards.

However, Junaid stated that even after the foundation had been laid for a good curriculum, actual improvement of teacher quality couldn’t proceed without an effective quality assurance system.

His words: “Managing curriculum implementation in NCE-awarding Institutions requires careful monitoring to ensure effectiveness. In particular, it is important to determine whether the implementation of the curriculum results in the desired output (quality teachers). The National Commission for Colleges of Education has a responsibility for the quality of the academic programmes in these Institutions. To address the quality aspect of the TE Programme, the NCCE embarked upon a comprehensive review of its quality assurance instruments and mode of accreditation to focus on the five core assessment areas that research shows are central to a good quality assurance system: (i) leadership, management and organization, (ii) curriculum organization and implementation, (iii) infrastructure and learning resources, (iv) assessment and evaluation and (v) student support and progression.”

The commission produced a new set of quality assurance instruments in form of a Tool Kit, to enable the Colleges conduct internal quality assurance assessment before the commission begins its accreditation process. It empowers them to assess and rate their programmes using the appropriate guidelines. It also includes the assessment of classroom transactions as important measures of the programme quality.

The kit also focuses on the quality of leadership and support services, their impact on the quality of administration and the quality of graduate output. It encourages and facilitates a variety of learning methods within the institution’s schools, departments in a consultative and consensus building fashion. It also ensures the choice of appropriate and credible student assessment methods relevant to the chosen learning methods; focuses on the outcomes and not detailed specifications of the curriculum content.

Juniad explained how the commission sensitized the colleges on its usage and relevance He said: “In 2008, 35 participants drawn from NCCE, NTI and three Colleges of Education, were trained on, and given copies of the Tool Kit. In 2009, the NCCE cascaded the training to all the 21 FCEs (Federal Colleges of Education) using CDs of the Tool Kit provided by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL).

“The fall out of this project include: the domestication of the Tool Kit to suit the needs and circumstances of our institutions and national educational context, through adaptation and revision of our existing Quality Assurance (QA) Instruments. The new revised QA Instruments had been trial tested at three colleges of education (Oro, Akwanga & Osiele) and the feedback we got from the field is being reviewed and will be used to refine and fine tune the instruments before they are finally adopted for wider application;

“A crop of NCCE Master Accreditors has been trained on the new QA Instruments by experts from ESPPIN. At the moment we have six of our staff in the Academic Programmes Department, who have fulfilled the requirements for certification by the British Quality Assurance Board and more are going to be trained under our partnership with DFID,

“A Quality Assurance Unit has been established at the commission to introduce the establishment of similar Quality Assurance Units in all our Colleges and similar institutions.  Such units would work very closely with the one established at the NCCE head office.

“Together, the units shall have responsibility for defining benchmarks/standards for teaching and learning, building capacities for teachers on standards for teachers and students, monitoring and evaluating performances in these areas as well as serving as the clearing house for certification of NCE graduates.  The units would assist the colleges in conducting internal institutional assessment of academic programmes and act in advisory capacities to college management, so as to enhance the task of external Quality Assessments.

Who wants to be a Teacher?

  Mr. Temitope Alapini, an upcoming comedian, was invited to anchor proceedings at the graduation ceremony of one of Lagos’ elite primary schools. At some point, he asked students in the junior classes how many of them would like to be doctors. Almost all of them raised their hands. The same thing happened when he asked how many would like to turn out as lawyers. But when he asked how many of them would like to be a teacher, nobody raised his or her hands.

“This tells you,” he said, “ that even little children now know how bad the teacher’s situation is in this country. It is so bad that if you want a wife and you tell your potential father-in-law that you’re a teacher, he will not give his daughter to you. If you approach a bank for a mortgage, once the officials know you’re a teacher, they’ll tell you not to bother to apply because there’s no way you can meet up with the interest rate with your meager salary. For as long as teachers are poorly paid, brilliant people will never go there.”

Junaid agreed with him. “If I have the power,” he said, “teachers will be the best paid civil servant in Nigeria. If you do that, only the best would want to be teachers, and that’s when you will have a good system.”

A common problem

In spite of the commission’s efforts, many state owned colleges lack the funds to execute their programmes. Junaid said: “Most colleges, particularly those owned by states, get funding only on the eve of accreditation. That is when they run to the government and that is when government is very prompt in giving them funds to put in the few things that are required for the college to get at least interim accreditation and not denied accreditation. That is why, anytime you write to a college and say, you are due and we are coming for accreditation, they would now write you back and say please give us some more time, we need to go and see our government.”

Also, while the older colleges have a good crop of highly qualified academic staff, many of the younger colleges don’t have enough.

But Juniad is satisfied with the commission he is leaving behind. He said: “my major satisfaction is that, at the end of it all, now that I am about to leave, there is already a solid programme of the rollout of the reform that I have championed from 2007 to date. It would have been a different thing if I were to leave and nothing was there to sustain the reform.”

Functions of the National Commission for Colleges of Education

The enabling Decree (now Act) No. 3 of January 1989 (amended decree No. 12 1993) mandated the Commission to perform the following functions:

  1. Make recommendations on the national policy necessary for the full development of teacher education and the training of teachers.
  2. Lay down minimum standards for all programmes of teacher education and accredit their certificates and other academic awards after obtaining thereof prior approval of the Honorable Minister of Education.
  3. Approve guidelines setting out criteria for accreditation of all Colleges of Education in Nigeria.
  4. Determine the qualified teachers needs of Nigeria for the purpose of planning facilities and in particular prepare periodic master plans for the balanced and coordinated development of Colleges of Education.
  5. Inquire into and advise the Federal Government on the financial needs of the Colleges to enable them meet the objectives of producing the trained qualified teachers of the country.
  6. Receive block grants from the Federal Government and allocate them to the Colleges of Education.
  7. Act as the agency for channeling all external aids to Colleges of Education in Nigeria.
  8. Harmonise entry requirements and duration of courses at the Colleges of Education.
  9. Collate, analyse and publish relevant information relating to teacher education in Nigeria.
  10. Advise on and take measures to improve immediate and long term prospects of technical and business education teachers with respect to status and remuneration.
  11. Provide encouragement for women to enter a wide range of pre-vocational courses in technical education.

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