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Pre-independence and post-independence Nigerian education

  • One issue that students of education are often asked to debate is the systematic difference between pre-independence and post-independence Nigerian education. Scholars’ opinion varies as to whether a fundamental distinction exists between the two systems. Despite having been transformed (formally) in practice, the post-independence Nigerian education appears to be much similar in principle with that of pre-independence period. They share common philosophical objectives, which ultimately define the curriculum contents. If at all they differ, could be in some aspects of instructional methods, and to some extent, organization and management. By and large, they both are systems characterised by time and space.

    Here are some of the areas the two systems compare:

    1. Philosophical aims and objectives

    The Nigerian education during the pre-independence era was basically a system designed to inculcate into the child the norms and values of the society that would help him understand and mingle well with the society. The system was often described as traditional and informal. In addition to values, it was meant to provide the child with the necessary vocational skills or training imperative to his needs and that of the society. There was a focus on basic knowledge of arts, numeracy, language and literature for advancing the cause of the society.

    The post-independence system, on the other hand, emphasized the development of individual’s moral capacity, integration into the society and provision for equal opportunities and skills that would allow for a positive contribution to the development of the nation.

    It is, therefore, clear that the education system in both the two eras has shared a mutual vision, most especially in the in the aspect of grooming the child not only to understand the norms and values of the society but also to promote them. They are also common in the aspect of skills acquisition. The post-independence era seemed to overemphasize knowledge though. The overall goal of both was to prepare the child morally, intellectual and skilfully to face the future challenges of the society.

    2. Curriculum content

    In principle, curriculum content is determined by the set goals and objectives of an education system. So, having already discussed the fact that their objectives share a common vision, then it’s pertinent here to say that their contents will surely have more things in common, especially in providing the learner with different skills or fields of study. The only major difference is that post-independence is knowledge-focused while pre-independence was skill-focused or vocationally oriented. It also includes less spiritual and moral lessons that the pre-independence period.

    3. Methods of instruction

    The methods of instruction in the pre-independence education were basically learning by doing, storytelling and memorization. Up until today, learning by doing is still enshrined into the Nigeria’s education policy as one of the most effective pedagogical processes. The other two (storytelling and memorization) are equally practised by the post-independence system, especially in teaching young learners. Nature of learning remains obvious and probably the only difference that exists between the two eras. While pre-independence learning was done with much rigour and prescription, sometimes involving corporal punishment, the post-independence is characterised by strategic and learner-centred methods.

    4. Organization and management

    The pre-independence education is often described as ‘informal’ due to a lack of clear organizational structures and documentations, which are the major characteristics that qualify post-independence education to be termed ‘formal.’ However, if critically looked, all these characteristics were inherent in the pre-independence era. There were different learning stages and environments. Students designedly specialized in different vocations over a defined period, and graduations were celebrated as a mark of accomplishment. Despite there was certainly little or no documentation of all these stages and processes, it still was clear the formal features of post-independence were integral of the pre-independence system.

    In conclusion, therefore, it can be argued that the two systems of education share common fundamental issues that have to do with learning societal values and preparing the child to be an independent and useful citizen.

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