When the University of Ibadan was established in 1948, it had an education faculty. Today the faculty has 9 departments with a plethora of education programs, through which students who are interested in being teachers may obtain the necessary training. This has been replicated in education faculties at hundreds of universities across the nation. However, as universities were established, colleges of education also started to spring up, and in 1989, the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) was formed to oversee them.
These events have made it such that today, the most popular route to working as a primary or secondary school teacher in Nigeria is to attend a college of education. These institutions purport to be fulfilling the mandate of the NCCE to strive for excellence in teacher education.
However, looking at the abysmal state of education in Nigeria, which is closely linked to poor teacher quality, it becomes imperative to re-evaluate the present teachers training model. The present model entails a two-tier system in which the majority of teachers are trained within the colleges of education, while a few passes through the university education system. The separation of teacher training has constituted a segregation system where teachers from colleges of education occupy the lower caste. The way forward is therefore a total overhauling of the colleges of education, by upgrading them to university status to strengthen and standardize the teachers training process.
A Brief History of Colleges of Education in Nigeria
The National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) was established by Decree (now Act) 3 of 13th January, 1989 (Amended Act 12 of 1993) to, amongst other things, advise the Federal Government on all aspects of teacher education falling outside the universities, and polytechnics and other matters ancillary thereto. As previously mentioned, there were already functioning colleges of education at that time. Although it is not clearly stated what necessitated teacher training outside universities in the first place, at least two things are inferable: first, that there were matters of teacher education that were not being attended to by the existing universities. Secondly, there was an increasing demand for education in general, leading to a need for more teachers. It then seems that the proliferation of colleges of education was mainly a quick fix to a supply problem. Today, there are 152 colleges of education, comprising 21 federal colleges, 47 state colleges, 61 Private Colleges, 9 Polytechnics offering NCE and 14 other NCE-awarding institutions. The NCE is the minimum required qualification for teaching. It takes 3 years, and involves general studies, teaching practice, and studies in the students intended field of teaching. From 2009 to 2014, the average annual number of those admitted was 335, 123 students.
Teacher Education within Universities Alone
Teachers should be educated at Universities like other professionals for several reasons, but the most important is to restore the sense of equality in professional dignity. There are schools whose separation from others has bestowed added importance on their graduating students, like law and medical schools. But in the case of colleges of education, people perceive the graduates as less significant or as occupying lower echelons of the professional community. In many instances, specialized institutions provide a path to attaining the peak of a career, but for colleges of education, it only serves as a means of entrance into the teaching profession. Reaching the zenith of teaching profession requires a university education, colleges of education therefore serve a more mundane purpose and confers less professional pedigree on its recipient.
The touted advantage to the present model of colleges of education is that they have a lower entry barrier, as lower pass marks in exams like WAEC and JAMB, which therefore increase the supply of aspiring teachers. While acknowledging the validity of these claims, it is important to see the danger in signaling to society that smart people do not pursue teaching, or that teaching is not a viable career choice, or worse still that our school system is not good enough to accommodate the best minds. Although, there are multiple factors to consider like wages, working conditions, and opportunities for career development, and these should get their proper attention in policy discussion fora, but it remains that Nigerian education would be taking a step in the right direction if teachers were afforded the same level of scholarship, technology and other facilities as in universities. So, it is more than just geographical sameness for their education, it is the equalizing of the standards of education and the development of a similar social perception towards education degrees as to other professional degrees.
As an example, Nigeria may want to look at Finland, which moved its teaching candidates into universities in what has become a marked reason for the high prestige on the profession.It is not the mere fact of having aspiring teachers in universities that has brought about this change, but what it implies. Finnish teachers have been successful in meeting the high entrance, progress, and completion standards of universities, and so they can be trusted more with their own students.
To minimize the supply problem that this change might create, it should be preceded by an improvement in the remuneration of teachers to attract the best pools of candidates for teaching programs. Also, the existing colleges of education should be upgraded to universities with all their rights and privileges. Granted it will be an expensive and slow process, but it is a worthwhile transition to make and ultimately, it is the benefit of the higher education system in terms of quality and supply of education.
In conclusion, it is now apparent that over time, Nigerian teachers have been separated into a class of their own professionally. While this may have been deemed good and even necessary at its inception, it is now a hindrance to sustained growth in the quality of teaching that is obtainable in our schools. There is a need for government to show clearly to the people that it recognizes the critical nature of the work of teachers. They should be educated in the same environment, for the same amount of time, not less, and with the same outlook on their professional careers: that they possess skills other people do not.
This piece was written by Ene Ikpebe, Research Intern at CSEA
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