Beyond CAN and NERDC curriculum issues: the foreign curriculums phenomenon in Nigerian schools

Curriculum is ‘All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school. (quoted in Kelly 1983: 10; see also, Kelly 1999).’

Recently there has been an outcry on curriculum issues between the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in Nigeria. While this article is not on the issues, however, it is on a very important and significant issue that’s evolving in the Nigerian education landscape – the use, either by adoption or adaptation of foreign curriculums by many schools at the: pre-school, elementary and secondary education levels.

It is important to understand the significance curriculums play in the education of a people, particularly children and young adults. Ordinarily, curriculums are designed based on many factors that are deemed important by the relevant authorities in any educational setting, at individual school level, local, regional or national level. However, it is important to note that the design and development of any curriculum do not exist in a vacuum, hence, curriculums are expected to be designed and developed based on key issues in a society, community or country. Some of these key issues are: cultural, social, political, theological, and economic.

There are also factors that act as influencers in determining what curriculum experts might consider as worthy of including in a curriculum during curriculum design and development. These influencers, could be: government’s economic policy, the country’s demographics, skills need of the society or country, government’s projected future plans in key economic sectors like construction, finance, education, health and agriculture, geo-political issues in the country, and evolving social issues among many other influencers. So, when schools in Nigeria decide to use foreign curriculums either by adoption or adaptation, there is the fundamental duty of care that the curriculum managers or decision makers in such settings should ask themselves. The three basic questions I always like to ask are:

Firstly, what is the purpose of the education that is being delivered to these students? Is it to develop a well-informed individual or to have a well-educated individual? Because to be well-informed is quite different from to be well-educated. A well-informed individual might be successful at exhibiting high level technical or language skills in professions like: medicine, engineering, journalism, education or finance. Hence, this individual will be able to exhibit and use sophisticated technical or language skills to perform at a professional level in one or more high skilled professions. However, such an individual if not well-educated will not be able to reconcile that part of his/her brain that deals with the high technical skills with the other side of his/her brain that deals with other nuances of everyday living, like: respect, inclusion, empathy, appreciation and respect for people’s history and heritage, eschewing biases, prejudices and nepotism.

Secondly, which society are these children or young adults that are being taught most likely to live, work and spend most, if not all, of their lives in? It will be counterproductive to educate children or young adults in such a way or manner that will lead them not to appreciate their immediate environments, while they are left in constant awe of what is available in other places (remember the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence), thus, becoming disengaged, uninterested or disenfranchised from their immediate environments, hence, leading to a generation of socio-paths. Likewise, it would be foolhardy of anyone to ignore the impacts and influences key social influencers like technology and globalisation are having on how we all live as a people in humanity. And as such, there is need to consider the adaptation of other foreign curriculums in order to expand the world views and scopes of the students beyond their immediate environments.

Thirdly, which national examination will the students seat? Because this will influence the curriculum that should ordinarily be used as their study guide. For instance, it is of no use to use a curriculum designed for Cambridge IGCSE, if the students are going to seat for the West African Examination Council’s SSCE. Also, it is important not to over focus on preparing only the brain at the expense of the mind. Hence, it is important not to educate in a way that will promote an education that will equates to materialism. I developed my own formula for this type of education to be:

Education = Product = Employability = Income

There are countless number of dangers in this form of education and among them are the issues that relate to employment. In economic terms, employment has different levels: unemployment, underemployment and full-employment. The fundamental question is – how many people end up being fully employed at all times during their working life? If my guess is right, no one. Even Presidents, Prime Ministers and Head of States in most cases have to take up lesser roles that if they were to be put into contexts, they will probably be classified as underemployment and if such is the case for those at the high ends of the social strata, then what becomes of the ordinary citizens?

This is where the type of education an individual receives counts. An education that is based on a curriculum that appreciates the needs to be economically engaged and independent, but at the same time is embedded with values and ethos that bring about empathy, humility, diligence, resilience, sense of community and respect. An education that is not lost in the idea of just money making or by all or any means possible, but an education that radiates in the happiness of living in the moment and enjoying the flow of life, irrespective of the challenges life might throw at us as individuals or as a society. An education that is based on love and kindness towards others steeped in trying one’s best and looking out for the collectives as against the individuals.

An education in which a PhD holder will not see it as demeaning or humiliating to work in a low skilled job while he/she still contributes intellectually to the larger society. After all, we hear of great men and women in human history that were employed in the ordinary walks of life and end up achieving greatness by doing ordinary things extraordinarily. There is the story of someone like Louis Braille who out of his personal challenge of being visually impaired ended up creating the Braille language for visually impaired individuals or the story of “The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono (PDF)”. The story of the man who planted trees is quite fascinating and intriguing. It is the story of shepherd who out of his dedication and resilience made a forest and an oasis out of a barren and colourless land (please read the story).

That brings me to a personal experience I once had with a retired Chemistry Professor while I was still working in the social housing sector. The retired professor was volunteering as a cook in a homeless hostel and he used to come in and prepare three-course meals for homeless individuals. While he was volunteering with the organisation, we got to know each other more and talk about life in general, by that time he was already a 70 year old man. On one particular day we got talking and we ended up talking about future plans and aspirations. With the hindsight that old age brings and the wisdom that comes along with it, he told me about how he went to the US as a young man on scholarship to study at Harvard University for his PhD in Chemistry, worked there and after about twenty-five years in the US relocated to Europe and worked in one of the best research institutes in the world, Max Planck Institute in Germany, and later on moved to the UK to work at UCL before he eventually became a Head of Department in another UK university where he eventually retired from, not because of old age but because he refused to lay off some of his staff as requested by his employers,  due to the inability of the department being able to bring in enough money into the university.

I do not know where he had his early childhood, primary or secondary education from but what I do believe is that he must have been educated to value society more than the material gains of life. He must be an individual with broader worldviews with a sense of purpose in life.

Finally, we all can’t be in the same shoes like Louis Braille (Audio) or “The Man Who Planted Trees (PDF)” or the retired Chemistry Professor I talked about in the above paragraph but we all can educate ourselves and the future generations to be more inclusive and empathetic.

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