Before western education started in Nigeria, Nigerian children were exposed to informal form of education. The society and families in which these children grew up gave them education on ethics and other things.
Things started changing when the Europeans, especially from Great Britain, started trooping into Nigeria in search of lands to conquer. This started in the 1840s and this also marked the advent of western education in Nigeria. The westerners came as missionaries and they encouraged the locals to embrace western education.
The northern part of Nigeria resisted this western form of education for and opted rather for Islamic education until later years. Very soon, primary, secondary and higher institutions were established in Nigeria.
The Nigerian educational system has been through stages from the colonial to the post-independence era. The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 brought people of different ethnic groups and faith together, as one nation thereby creating a society that necessitated the adoption of a federal structure.
Also, the activities of the missionaries in the predominately Muslim north were restricted by the British policy of indirect rule.
This curtailed the spread of western education and the Christian religion, leading to a sizeable educational gap between eras.
Nigerian Education System Before Independence
The clamor for self government and educational relevance by Nigerian nationalists which gained momentum in 1944 started the educational expansion in Nigeria.
The development drove the promulgation of the 1948 Education Ordinance, responsible for decentralizing educational administration in the country.
In the Southern part of Nigeria, the educational system at that time comprised of a 4 year junior primary education, then a four year senior primary education and a six year secondary education.
In the northern part however, it was 4 years of junior primary schooling, 3 year middle school and 6 year secondary classes.
The clamor for self government by Nigerians resulted in two constitutional conferences that brought political leaders and the colonial government together between 1951 and 1954.
The resolutions involved drafting a new federal constitution. The Education Law of 1955 in the Western Region, The Education laws of the Eastern and Northern Regions of 1956, and the Lagos Education Ordinance in 1957 were the resulting outcomes.
The different regions had administrative features and statutory systems of education that were alike, comprising of primary, post primary and further education.
The education gap that was existing because of the insistence of the Muslim north to reject Western form of education was widened further with the introduction of the Universal Primary education in the Western and Eastern regions of the country in the 1950s. Qur’anic and traditional method thrived in the Muslim north.
Nigerian Education System After Independence
Shortly after independence, Nigeria established a number of teacher training colleges; one of the very first teacher training colleges in Nigeria is St Andrews College located at Oyo Town in Oyo State, Nigeria. Soon enough, a number of polytechnic colleges also came up across Nigeria.
As at independence, Nigeria already had 2 post secondary institutions and these were University of Ibadan, which was established in 1948 as well as Yaba College of Technology, which was founded in 1953.
Yaba College of Technology was formerly referred to as Yaba Higher College when it was first established.
Nigeria however focused much on educational advancement after her independent. This was the age Nigerians from all regions begun to understand the true value of education. Many more families were sending their children to school to learn the ways of the White Man. This was prompted by the withdrawal of many of the British administrators from Nigeria.
Education advancement was faster in the south western part of Nigeria after independence. This was made possible by the focus of the then Western Region government to give free education to students from primary school level to higher institution.
Free education was very easy then, considering the fact that the number of students admitted into these universities were fewer than what obtains today.
The system of education as at 1976 was the 7-5-2-3 educational policy: 7 years primary education, 5 years secondary education, 2 years in higher certificate levels and 3 years tertiary education.
The intent of government to develop an educational policy that factored in the will of Nigerians brought about the 1977 National Policy on Education which was Nigeria’s first indigenous policy on education.
Nigerian Education System Presently
The system of education in use today in Nigeria is the Universal Basic Education (UBE) also known as the 9-3-4 system which was introduced to replace the 6-3-3-4 system.
This newly adopted system took of in 2006 and it is expected to be reshaped to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target.
The system mandates that a child will have a compulsory 9 years of basic education up to JSS 3 (6 years of primary school education and 3 years of junior secondary school education). He/she then moves on to spend 3 years in senior secondary school. The next stage is the tertiary stage where degrees are handed out after 4 years.
Nigeria presently has up to 70 universities, both private and public. The country also has about 45 polytechnics and over 37 colleges of education.
Also, virtually all local governments in Nigeria have a number of primary schools and secondary schools today.