Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Prof Paulinus Chijoke Okwelle, has expressed concern over the dwindling enrolment figures of candidates into Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) programmes in the country.
He, subsequently, asked the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to lower the entry requirements, including accepting a Pass in Mathematics and English Language as pre-requisite for admissions to attract more candidates to enroll for NCE programmes.
While he decried the dwindling enrolment into NCE programmes, Okwelle warned that the country is under threat if urgent remedial action is not taken. He said efforts must be made by relevant agencies, including JAMB, to put in place necessary collaborations to boost the fortunes of NCE programmes.
As part of the remedial measures, Okwelle urged JAMB to devise separate and realistic entry requirements for colleges of education as against that of degree-awarding institutions, to boost enrollment. He noted that uniformed entry requirements to tertiary institutions, have adversely affected enrollment into NCE programmes.
He subsequently proposed that admission requirements into NCE should allow for Pass in Mathematics for candidates seeking admissions into Arts and Humanities, and Pass in English Language for those seeking admissions into Sciences, vocational and technical-based courses. Similarly, he proposed that NCE certificate should be considered the only requirement for admission into Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) programmes in the nation’s universities to encourage more entrants.
ESTABLISHED in the 1960s to address the dearth of qualified teachers in primary schools, Nigeria’s colleges of education have, for decades, been systematically plugging the gap. However, over time, these institutions have been faltering.
Presently, there are 152 accredited colleges of education, 21 owned by Federal Government, 49 by states and 82 privately owned.
Concerns over teachers’ skills
A recent report on a basic literacy and numeracy competency test for teachers in public primary schools in one of the northern states showed that out of 17,229 teachers, only 5,439, representing 31.6 per cent were competent to teach; 3,815 or 22.1 per cent were incompetent and not trainable, while 7,975 others, representing 46.3 per cent, were not competent enough but trainable.
Similarly, in Kaduna State, about 66 per cent of 33,000 primary school teachers who sat for a primary four pupils’ test in 2017 failed to score 75 per cent, leading to massive sack. Though there was a remarkable improvement in Kaduna teachers’ performance in the latest competency test conducted in December 2021, several teachers were asked to retake the test for failing to score 75 per cent.
About 165 of the 27,662 teachers who sat for the test scored below 40 per cent and were asked to leave. Stakeholders warned that incompetent teachers would destroy the future of the college and that of the children.
For about a decade now, colleges of education have faced hurdles that restrict them from living up to expectations. From deteriorating infrastructure to poor funding, the colleges, particularly government-owned, are confronted with challenges, which affect academic standards and, consequently, quality of teachers produced.
This has led to shortage of qualified teachers in primary and secondary schools, a problem the colleges was meant to solve in the first place. For instance, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), said of the 1,761,262 candidates that sat for this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), only 24,069 applied to colleges of education across the country. This represents one per cent of total applications. In 2021, of the 1,351, 284 that sat for the examination, only 15,747 chose COEs; this is 1.17 per cent of the total figure. Private colleges are worst hit. Some of them could only get a total of 177 candidates in 2021, despite JAMB’s quota for them to admit more than 17,000 students.
For many students, enrolling at colleges of education is usually the last choice after failing to gain admission into universities. For many students, enrolling at colleges of education is usually the last choice after failing to gain admission into universities.
The number of students enrolled in colleges of education varies yearly. In 2019, 69,810 students were admitted, but enrolment dropped significantly in 2021 to 47,920 out of the 235,240 slots allotted.
The disinterest stems, in part, from poor rewards for teaching across Nigeria’s educational system. At entry level, a teacher with an NCE qualification earns an average of N40, 000 in government-owned primary and secondary schools and even lower in private schools.
President of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU)
Dr Smart Olugbeko, said COEs lack the needed infrastructure to train students to make them 21st century compliant. He said a committee set up by the Federal Government carried out a needs assessment of colleges of education and recommended that N366 billion was needed to bring them to the global standard.
“The Federal Government later reviewed the report and came up with N465billion as amount needed to reposition colleges of education but, till now, the government has not released any fund to pursue this goal.
“That is why we are having problems. This will definitely affect products and that is the situation we have found ourselves,” Olugbeko lamented. A professor of Educational Management, Nike Ijaiya, said to appreciate where Nigeria’s colleges of education should be in the 21st century, an understanding of what should be the quality of a 21st century student is imperative.
“When teacher educators know what their students should be or know, it helps to direct their teaching strategies. Based on the rapidity of change and widespread nature of the ICT revolution, today’s students should possess certain qualities. They should be broad-minded and demonstrate deep understanding of the world and its diversity and challenges; make interdisciplinary connections – mathematics, sciences, history, social sciences, among others,” Ijaiya said.
A professor of Adult Education, Stella Nwosisi, noted that by law establishing them, colleges of education are expected to produce qualified teachers for basic education, but sadly, teachers now produced are not properly trained, adding that reviewing the entry requirements at this time will further worsen the case of the sub-sector.
Besides, she noted that some of the colleges awarding certificates do not deserve to be granted licenses, as they do not emphasise quality. Nwosisi added that poor motivation of lecturers is a major factor responsible for colleges’ persistent descent into ineffectiveness, noting that some of the colleges pay as badly as N40, 000 per month, which may not also be regular.
“How do you expect those lecturers to teach effectively in such an environment?”With adequate motivation, Nwosisi said colleges of education would attract more students without necessarily reviewing entry requirements.
How to revive colleges
A retired principal, Alade Oluranti, said there should be a political will to secure the place of colleges of education in providing quality teachers at the basic education level.
Rather than lower entry requirements, Oluranti said factors such as improved funding, staff motivation, infrastructural development and conducive working environment should be improved upon to revitalise colleges of education.
On his part, Dr Siji Oladunjoye, said there is a need to regularly review the curriculum to make it more practical and market-oriented to produce skilled and highly educated NCE graduates needed by private and public sectors. Oladunjoye said stakeholders must review entry procedure into the country’s CoE, as the present structure debases teacher training institutions. He, therefore, sought a collaboration that will improve the admission status of the colleges and eliminate the concept of lowering standards to attract students.
He said, “Notwithstanding the overwhelming preference for admission into university, the provision for college of education as third choice in the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) form sought to obscure the system from others. After the selection of the very best from the first choice list, colleges of education are left with the low performing candidates and this does not augur well for teacher education.
Former chairman of COEASU, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED) chapter, now Lagos State University of Education (LASUED), Michael Avosetinyen, said lowering entry requirements would negatively affect teacher education.
According to him, teacher education institutes are structured to produce highly motivated and conscientious individuals for all level of education. Teaching is the mother of all profession, so, lowering entry requirements of colleges where the best candidates are supposed to be trained is not the best.
“CoE is not a dumping ground, and when you look at the criteria for NCE and the qualifications for any secondary school leaver coming for NCE, it is the same five credits including English and Mathematics. It is not the best for the country.”
To raise the standard of those admitted into the faculty of education, the government has been called upon to review admission requirement for students studying education courses, as those mostly admitted are students with no interest in education or did not meet admission requirement in other courses.