Discuss the historical development and progress in educational sector from the early educational system to the 19th century

Discuss the historical development and progress in educational sector from the early educational system to the 19th century
Discuss the historical development and progress in educational sector from the early educational system to the 19th century

Discuss the historical development and progress in educational sector from the early educational system to the 19th century


Formal education was introduced into Nigeria in the 1840s through trade links from Lagos, Calabar and other coastal cities. The Christian missionaries played major roles in not only setting up but operating the schools in all the southern part of Nigeria. The aim of education at that time was to enable the recipients read the Bible in the English Language.

 Imam, (2012). What the British Government did was to give grants to some mission schools instead of expanding the educational system entirely. As formal education was taking its root in southern Nigeria, Northern Nigeria proscribed Western education. Northern leaders rather established Islamic schools that gave attention only to Islamic education. Thus, the educational pattern in Nigeria was lopsided Western education on one hand, and Islamic education on the other. It should also be noted that, the kind of education introduced was limited to only the primary and secondary strata.


 At the inception of the 20th century, Nigeria had only two tertiary educational institutions; namely, Yaba Higher College and the University of Ibadan founded in 1934 and 1948 respectively. The University of Ibadan, at its foundation, was only a college of the University of London until two years after Nigeria’s independence that it became autonomous. The belief then was that Great Britain was not interested in educating Nigerians; hence, did not promote education in Nigeria.

However, after independence, more universities were established, like the University of Nigeria, the University of Ife, Amadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Lagos. From the 1970’s upwards, more universities were set up; Polytechnics and some Monotechnics were also set up. Saint, Teresa, Hartnett and Strassner (2003), “… by 1984, Nigeria had established a well –regarded higher educational system, offering instructions of an international standard in a number of disciplinary areas. However, some decades after these escapades in education there is still much hue about fallen educational Standard, crisis in Nigerian education system and much more.


Discuss the historical development and progress in educational sector from the early educational system to the 19th century


The reports of the two Phelps- Stoke’s committees that visited West Africa in 1920 and East and Central Africa in 1924, criticized the system of education being given to Africans as being classically book based. They accused the missionaries for following the ideals prevailing in their home countries, which might not work functionally in Africa. The reports further condemned the subjects being taught to Africans as being direct copies of the subject contents from British and America schools with little attempt to use local materials in the teaching of the subjects like history and geography.

The two commissions however recommended that:

  1. Education should be developed along the vocational and cultural lives of the people.
  2. The needs of African societies to met through education so as to promote development.
  3. Educational and Religious responsibilities of Government should be effectively organised and supervised.

These criticisms and recommendations undoubtedly laid the foundation for the evolution of the colonial educational policies in Africa, for it influenced the British Government to asses sits responsibilities on education to its colonies. In 1923 therefore, it decided “to approve the establishment of an advisory committee on native education in tropical areas to advise the Secretary of state for the colonies on matters of native education and to assist him in advancing the progress of education in the British tropical Africa”(Adesina)The committee worked tirelessly and produced a thirteen point memorandum, which provided for the first time, a sound basis for Nigeria’s educational policies. They are as follows:

  1. Government should control educational policies and cooperate with educational agencies. Each territory should have an Education Advisory Board on which all educational interests should be represented.
  2. Education should be adapted to the mentality, aptitudes, occupations and traditions of the various peoples, conserving as far as possible, all sound and healthy elements in the fabric of their social life; adapting them where necessary to changed circumstances and progressive ideas, as an agent of natural growth and evolution.
  3. Government should be concerned with religious and character training.
  4. Education service must be made to attract the best men from Britain, whether for permanent career or for short- service appointment.
  5. Grant should be given to aid voluntary schools which satisfy the requirements.
  6. African languages, as well as English, should be used in education.
  7. African teaching staff must be adequate in number, in qualification, and in character, and should include women.
  8. The system of specially trained visiting teachers is commended as a means of improving village schools.
  9. A thorough system of inspection and supervision of schools is essential.
  10. Technical Industrial training should best be given in a system of apprenticeship in government workshops. Instructions in village craft must be clearly differentiated from the training of the skilled mechanic.
  11. Vocational, other than Industrial training should be carried out through a system of learning in government departments.
  12. The education of girls and women is of vital importance, though with its own problems. Educated mothers mean educated homes. Health education is important. Therefore, there must be trained women teachers. Education must provide for adult women as well as schools for girls.
  1. A complete education, including infant; secondary education of different types;technical and vocational schools and institutions, some of which may hereafter reach university rank, for such subjects as teacher education, medicine, agriculture and adult education. The education of the whole community should advance pari-passu.

(Adesina)The ordinance of 1926, the colonial development act of 1929 and the 1948 educational ordinance merely re-echoed the provisions of the Phelps-stokes recommendations, which led to the decentralization of education and got the government to be more involved in the control and supervision of education. Curriculum content became more expanded and the training of indigenous teachers pursued more vigorously.

Between 1945 and 1970, Nigeria began to develop its higher education system. The various committees reports set to examine the possibility of developing the sector were studied by the government with a view to implementing the recommendations right away. In line with this therefore, the Government studied the Elliot commission reports, which was established in 1943 to examine the possibility of establishing university colleges in Nigeria, the Gold Coast(Ghana) and Sierra Leone. The report suggested the establishment of the university college, Ibadan, which came into being in 1947.

In 1959, the government appointed another commission headed by Eric Ashby “to conduct an investigation into the Nigeria’s need in the field of post secondary school certificate and higher education over the next twenty years”. (Fafunwa).

This was the first time in Nigeria’s history that “Nigerians, represented by the minister of education, decided to examine the higher educational structure in terms of the needs of the country”. (Ibid)This afforded the Nigerian educationists to work, for the first time, together with their counterparts from Britain and America to fashion out the best practicable suggestions in the field of education. It was also the first time that a comprehensive review of education in Nigeria was undertaken by experts.


The recommendations of the commission, which paved the way for the development of higher education in Nigeria is as listed below:

  1. The Federal Government should give support for the development of new university planned for 1955.
  2. A university should be established in the North using the old site of the Nigeria College in Zaria as its base.
  3. A university should be established in Lagos with day and evening degree courses in business, commerce and economics.
  4. University College Ibadan should move from its conservative position, widen its curriculum and develop into a full university.
  5. All Universities in Nigeria should be national in outlook.
  6. There should be wider diversity and greater flexibility in university education.
  7. All the universities should have B.A (Education) degree courses.
  8. Courses in Engineering, Medicine, Law, Commerce, Agriculture, etc, should be offered.
  9. The new Nigerian universities should be independent of one another and each should confer its own degrees.10. A National Universities Commission should be set up to have undisputed control over the affairs of the universities; particularly, in terms of finance, staff and courses.

Looking at the trends in the development of education since the ‘40s’, you will notice that the development was becoming increasingly systematic. Series of educational plans right from 1942 saw the upsurge in the development of primary, secondary, teacher and university education. These will now be considered separately.


The development of primary education after independence was based on the Ashby recommendations. The Government of the Northern Region felt that the greatest need was to accelerate the expansion of the primary schools. Its aim was to attain the Ashby report target of 25% of children of school age to be in school by 1970. The Government also designed a programme that was to advance the region into Universal Primary Education as soon as possible. At the same time infrastructures were to be laid in terms of post-primary facilities in order to ensure a balanced education development.

The Eastern and Western Regions were already enrolling a high proportion of primary school population through their universal primary education programmes. However, problems were becoming enormous because of poor quality staff and falling standards amidst the high cost of education. The East had to scrap its own UPE and directed its attention to teacher training with a view to achieving high quality work in the schools. In the West, the successful implementation of the UPE since 1955 left them with the time to concentrate on raising the standard of teaching in schools.


The Post Independence development of secondary education centered around the following problem areas:

  1. The expansion in primary education created a high demand for secondary education.
  2. The Ashby Commission had called for increased number in the secondary school population and a revision of its curriculum.
  3. Some commissions appointed to review the educational system found out that the content of secondary school education as well as the methods of instruction in such schools were inappropriate.
  4. Other problems identified included the over emphasis on book education in the secondary schools. Pupils despised manual work. Science curriculum was poor. All these contributed to the so-called falling standards in education.


Government saw the root cause of all these problems as the poor quality and quantity of secondary school teachers. The graduate teachers were in very short supply. Government tried to have expatriate teachers to meet this demand. But paying for the passages and allowances of the expatriate teachers meant much on the lean resources of the regional governments. And, worse still, many of these hirelings stayed only for a term of two years or three and refused to renew their contract.

However, to meet the increasing number of secondary school students, Government opened many new secondary schools. Generally, the curriculum was English Language, Mathematics, History, Geography, Religious Knowledge, Local Languages, Fine and Applied Arts, General Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. French was introduced gradually to replace Latin and Greek.

The grammar school kept its lead and remained the darling of both parents and students. The higher school i.e. sixth form was not so successful except in a few government well established schools with enough graduate teachers and laboratory equipment. This was because the curriculum was tailored to meet the requirement of foreign examinations. Available resources in the schools could not meet these.


After independence the government of the Northern Region established twelve craft centre sand three technical schools all over the region. A technical institute at Kaduna admitted students from all parts of the North. By 1960, the Eastern Region had thirty-three technical and vocational institutions of various kinds. A College of Technology, now the Institute of Management and Technology was established at Enugu. In the Western Region, government established four trade centres and the women’s occupational centre at Abeokuta. A Technical Institute now the Auchi Polytechnic was established at Auchi. In Lagos, we had the Yaba College of Technology and the Yaba Trade school at Surulere.

It is important to observe that a number of the bigger industrial firms like the United African Company (UAC), departments and corporations like the Public Works Department (PWD) or the Ministry of Works, Posts and Telegraph (P&T), the Nigerian Railways and the Nigerian Coal Corporation had technical schools in which they trained artisans in their specific industries. Last but not the least are the roadside mechanics who acquire their skills from self-employed artisans while many girls acquire skills in needle work, sewing, catering and domestic science from such roadside artisans as well.


After independence, teacher education had two major problems – low output of teachers and poor quality of the teachers produced. To meet the two problems government granted the provision of additional Grade II Training Colleges and extra streams to the existing ones. To make up for the poor quality, government approved the up-grading of most of the Grade III Training Colleges to Grade II. Then, new Grade II Teachers’ Colleges were to be established.

Unfortunately, the Ashby recommendation for the establishment of Teachers’Grade I Colleges was not vigorously pursued. However, the Western Government introduced the Ohio Project, a normal science centre admitting teachers with Grade II teacher’s certificate. Lagos had the Government Teachers’ Training College at Surulere. The Eastern Region established a science centre at Umudike, near Umuahia for the production of Teachers Grade I Certificates.

Soon, the Teachers’ Grade I programme gave way to the Nigerian Certificate in Education(NCE) for the preparation of teachers for the lower forms of secondary schools and for the teacher training colleges. They were three-year – programme institutions. The Advanced Teachers’ Colleges as they were initially called were established in Lagos in 1962, Ibadan 1962 (but in 1964 it became Adeyemi College of Education Ondo), Zaria in 1962 (but moved to Kano in 1964) and Owerri in 1963. In 1968 one was established at Abraka in Bedel State but took the name College of Education.

When the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was established, it took the lead in starting a new teachers programme known as the B.A., B.Sc. and B.Ed in Education. This meant that a student could combine education courses with one or two teaching subjects and offer them throughout the student’s four years to graduate. This replaced the traditional system of taking a degree before coming for a one year diploma in education.

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of onlineproject.com.ng. A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.