Religious studies won’t be forced on students – NERDC
There were stories on social media recently that religious studies would be forced on students, how correct is that?
It is completely untrue. The curriculum has been designed in such a way that the Christian Religious Studies (CRS) will be taught independently to Christian children just like the Islamic Studies (IS) is independently taught to Muslims. So one can say, there is some kind of mischief for circulating this kind of information.
But five subjects namely; Social Studies, Security Education, IS, CRS and Civic Education appeared under one umbrella called Religious and National Values?
That is another misconception and it’s absolutely not true. Sometime in 2010 there was a presidential summit on education and in that summit it was decided after thoroughly examining the entire curriculum that there was overloading. You find that in other countries, schools offer only four subjects; in Singapore schools offer only four subjects in the basic education level and about eight subjects in Kenya. And prior to 2012, we had about 21 subjects in Nigeria. So, we have been trying to see how to go about the global trend in reducing the numbers. As a result of that, we tried to bring subjects related to each other under one umbrella, and religion and national values happen to be some of them. If you are going to teach a child about civic responsibility and social wellbeing of the society which is done through the Civic Education curriculum and Social Studies, you need a religion to reinforce it. So, it was decided that they should be under one grouping but each would be taught independently. And even before they were grouped together, there were teachers for each subject. Where would you even get a teacher that will teach both religions at once? So, it is absolutely not true.
We trained the teachers on how to implement the curriculum during which we said the best way to teach in schools where you have students from both religions is to separate them during religious lessons.
But the slots (periods) for IS and CRS are the same…?
That is true but the students will be separated during lessons.
In a situation where one of the religious teachers is not around, will his students be asked to remain in the class during lesson?
No. It’s the responsibility of the states to provide teachers for both subjects. The curriculum does not allow students taking courses in different religious subjects to be under one class.
There are some publishers that are very greedy and instead of publishing separate books for the subjects, they published only one text book. You can imagine a primary one pupils carrying a bulky textbook consisting of five subjects to school. We had a meeting with the publishers where we asked them to publish separate textbooks for each of the subjects in the curriculum. You hardly find these books in public schools. We have separate teachers guide, one for each subjects including religious studies. They have different contents.
How many subjects are students supposed to take at the basic level?
They have a minimum of nine subjects including English, Mathematics, Religion and National Values, Vocational, French (Primary Four), Nigerian Languages and Business Education (JSS). So, there are nine subjects. Arabic is optional but anybody taking IS is required to take Arabic Language.
The subjects under Religion and National Values are not optional; there is no option, all the subjects should be taken by every child. However, a student can choose only one religious study.
The curriculum was revised in 2012, when next do we expect another revision?
The curriculum should be revised after five years. We started operating this curriculum in 2014. The society is dynamic and so, the curriculum should also be adjusted according to societal needs. Before now, security was not a big deal but with the recent terror attacks, it was introduced as a subject of study. Also, there were issues emerging in the past like climate change, flood and drug abuse. We infused these emerging issues into the curriculum during the revision. Computer education was introduced in recent years.
We start the revision process first with a stakeholders meeting, which comprises of all interests from the schools, markets, religious organizations, etc where we notify them of our intention to revise the curriculum and after reaching an agreement, a high level committee comprising of stakeholders in education is formed. Then we move in to planning which will involve teachers and school administrators. The planning process is brought before the Joint Consultative Committee on education (JCC) which has both reference committee and plenary. The reference committee comprises of assistant chief education officers of ministries of education, who also set up committees of various fields to study the content of the curriculum. When they finish, they pass it to the JCC (plenary) where you have higher level officers from all the ministries of education from the states and FCT. When they finish and come to a consensus, they will push it to the highest body which is the National Council on Education where all the state commissioners and the minister as its chairman deliberate.
Once it is approved there, then every state will start implementing it. So, all these issues we are talking about have gone through these processes, including quality assurance. We then print and distribute the curriculum to states. The quality assurance department of the ministry will ensure the implementation of the curriculum.
Some parents are saying that the number of subjects offered in schools is too much for the students…?
That is part of the problems we are facing. We are being faced with so many problems that everybody will want to have them as a subject of study. For example, the Federal Road Safety Corps approached us and said they want road safety to be taught as a subject. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency said drug abuse should be a subject, Stock Exchange came and also Consumer Protection Council. With recent disasters, the National Emergency Management Agency suggested that it should a subject in schools. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control also want to be incorporated into the curriculum. Now, we are facing financial literacy from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
We are being faced by challenges and we realized that it’s only in the school system that you solve them when you catch the people young. They said prevention is better than cure and we agree with that. Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission approached us on the issue of corruption and financial crimes. We try to infuse these issues into the curriculum. We had to reduce the subjects from 21 to what we have now. We are now grouping the subjects without necessarily losing the content.