Education in Nigeria is an instrument par excellence for effecting national development. It has witnessed active participation by non-governmental agencies, communities, and individuals as well as government intervention. It is, therefore, desirable for the nation to spell out in clear and unequivocal terms the philosophy and objectives that underlie its investment in education.

The National Policy on Education seeks to fulfill that role. Government has stated that for the benefit of all citizens, the country’s educational goals shall be clearly set out in terms of their relevance to the needs of the individuals and those of the society, in consonance with the realities of our environment and the modern world.

The need for a national policy on education came about as a result of the 1969 National Curriculum Conference which was attended by a cross section of Nigerians. The conference was a culmination of expressions of general dissatisfaction with the exiting education system which has become irrelevant to national needs, aspirations and goals. (Adesina, O. 2004)

 However, according to Nwankwo, G.N. (2016) After the National Curriculum Conference, a seminar of participants drawn from a wide range of interest groups within Nigeria was convened in 1ST3 ~he seminar, which included voluntary agencies and external bodies, deliberated on what a national policy on education for an independent and sovereign Nigeria should be.

The outcome of the seminar was a draft document which, after due comments were received from the states and other interest groups, led to the final document, the National Policy on Education, first published in 1977, the 2nd and 3rd editions were published in 1981 and 1993 respectively in keeping with the dynamics of social change and the demands on education. The fourth edition was in 2004.

This edition was necessitated by some policy innovations and changes, and the need to update the 3rd edition (1998) .the fifth edition was published in 2007 while the six edition in 2013.


The Concept of National Policy on Education

The National Policy on Education in Nigeria is a declaration of the government’s objectives, rules, anticipations, expectations, requirements, and standards to guarantee the country’s education system is delivered to a high standard. Nigeria has changed throughout the years, and the educational system appears to have undergone a technological makeover. There is currently a discernible electronic education system in Nigeria as a result of technical development and national policy reforms.

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The Concept of Education

Education is a notion that does not adhere to a clear-cut description. This is because it is a lifelong process that begins when we start college and lasts for life. Depending on the experiences of those who are attempting to describe it, the meaning can also vary.

Awolowo (1963), quoted by Akanbi, G. O., & Jekayinfa, A. A. (2019), defined education as “the physical and mental culture mechanism by which the personality of a man is formed to the fullest” as he defined literacy as the basis on which a sound education building can be constructed.

Drawing a distinction between education and literacy, Gbadegesin (2010, p. 11) argued that “although literacy is a significant aspect of education, it is not equal and may jeopardize the purpose of true education, which is the complete creation of a human being’s entire personality.” “Ryan and Cooper (2013, p. 28) described education in line with the above submission as” a process of human development through which one gains greater understanding and control over oneself and one’s environment.

It includes our minds, our bodies, and our relationships with the people and the world around us, and it is characterized by continual growth and change, far more open-ended and all-inclusive than education, and both formal and informal learning are included.

It was aimed at creating white-collar job seekers in an agrarian environment, making it difficult for students to gain a more complex understanding and influence of themselves and their world. Eventually, as the colonial government showed interest in education, the development of messengers for the white masters and clerks in the administration of the colonial government was further reinforced.

Brief history of formal education in Nigeria

According to Taiwo, C.O. (1980). Historically, formal education in Nigeria can be traced to the advent and activities of European Missionaries and Colonialists. However, the scope of education in Nigeria during this era was not only narrow, it also lacked a properly defined focus. To make education have a definable focus, a national policy on education became extremely necessary in Nigeria.

This need became even more pressing following the National Curriculum Conference in 1969, where experts in the field of education expressed dissatisfaction with the then existing education systems, which had become irrelevant to national needs, aspirations and goals. After the conference, a follow up seminar of experts in this regard was convened in 1973. The outcome was a draft document, the final of which became the national policy on education first published in 1977. In 1981 as well as 1998 the policy was revised.

Osokoya, O.I. (1987) opine that the important features of Nigeria’s Education policy as at 1998 are its outline of a philosophy for the country’s education, promotion of the teaching of Nigerian languages, introduction of guidelines and counselling in schools diversified curriculum with prevocational and vocational technical subjects.

(Vanguard, May 25 2006). This particular policy was also characterized by a 6-3-3-4 educational structure, which required that an average Nigerian child would spend a minimum of 6 years in primary school, 3 years in junior secondary school, 3 years in senior secondary school and minimum of 4 years in the university.

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In 2004, the National Policy on education was revisited and revised. Although this latest policy incorporated the features of the previous one, the 2004 policy had a few new additions, the most outstanding being the 9-3-4 education structure, backed up by the Universal Basic Education.

The 9-3-4 structure requires 9 years of basic education, (which combines 6 years of primary and 3 years of junior secondary education) 3 years of senior secondary education and a minimum of 4 years of university education.


The general goals of education in Nigeria are the:

  • Development of the individual into a morally sound, patriotic and effective citizen;
  • total integration of the individual into the immediate community, the Nigerian society and the world:
  • provision of equal access to qualitative educational opportunities for all citizens at all levels of education, within and outside the formal school system:
  • inculcation of national consciousness, values and national unity; and
  • Development of appropriate skills, mental, physical and social abilities and competencies to empower the individual to live in and contribute positively to the society.

However, the specific goals of education in Nigeria are to:

  • Ensure and sustain unfettered access and equity to education for the total development of the individual;
  • ensure the quality of education delivery at all levels;
  • promote functional education for skill acquisition. job creation and poverty reduction;
  • ensure periodic review. effectiveness and relevance of the curriculum at all levels to meet the needs of society and the world of work;
  • collaborate with development partners. The private sector. Non-Governmental Organizations and local communities to support and fund education; and
  • promote information technology capability at all levels.


The Philosophical background of Social Studies simply means the Philosophies, source or origin, fundamental principles and essence, general view or outlook, tenants, guiding belief and moral background on which the subject Social studies is founded. However, each person understands and interprets their own philosophical backgrounds when it comes to studies.

I would say that the general background is an understanding of humanity, its interaction within the environment, geography, history, sociology, other cultures, political studies & sciences, religious influence, and an overall understanding of the human psychology. People have constantly yearned for more information in their conquest & exploration of their existence.

The idea of critically analyzing their circumstances and finding solutions to their problems is usually essential to the human curiosity. These advancements & explorations create a more productive way to live in a society that meets each person’s essential needs.


Social studies as a discipline has help in shaping the young minds in the following ways;

1 The inculcation of national consciousness and national unity;

  1. The inculcation of the right type of values and attitudes for the survival of the individual and the Nigerian society;
  2. The training of the mind in the understanding of the world around; and
  3. The acquisition of appropriate skills and the development of mental, physical and social abilities and competencies as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to the development of the society.
  4. To educate students to become useful citizens of the country and understand their environment.
  5. To make them understand the effects of environment on man and the interaction of man with them.
  6. To help them appreciate the achievements and roles of the society.
  7. To help them realize the need for interdependence with various groups of the society and the world at large.
  8. To inculcate in students the values, ideals, knowledge and skills in order to enable them to function properly and play their roles as members of the society.
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In conclusion, the goal of education in Nigeria as streamline into the national policy in education is of immense benefit to Nigerians but the aspect of  implementation of educational policies in Nigeria are constrained by the following factors. Most educational policies are well focused but the planning is often defective, making implementation difficult. Resources available for the implementation of a given educational policy are often overestimated and thereby elicit unrealistic expectations that fail to materialize.

Since educational policies are usually translated into plans before implementation, studies have shown that the cost of implementing such plans have often been underestimated. Most educational policies have become stalled at the planning stage. Reliable data have not been a popular feature in planning education in Nigeria.

This situation has not facilitated the effective implementation of educational plans. The implantation of educational policies is also often hindered by the interplay of policies, which may sometimes relegate reality to obscurity. Qualified teachers are not in sufficient numbers in the entire educational system in Nigeria.

Finally, the importance of social studies education is clear.  Students should learn about social studies because it promotes and helps evolve critical thinking skills when dealing with humanistic issues.  This is vital to a student and their ability to understand and promote their communities and their own ideas about how to serve society.


Adesina, O. (2004). The Guardian Newspaper, Monday, 1 November, p.16.

Akanbi, G. O., & Jekayinfa, A. A. (2019). Education and emancipation, educational policies and «deemancipation»: A history of the Nigerian education system from 1914 to 2014. Espacio, Tiempo y Educación, 6(2), pp. 177-196. doi:

FRN – Federal Republic of Nigeria (1998). National policy on education. Lagos: NERDC.

FRN – Federal Republic of Nigeria (2000). Implementation guidelines for the universal basic education (UBE) Programme. Abuja: Federal Ministry of Education, p. 22.

FRN – Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004). National policy on education. Lagos: Federal Ministry of Education.

FRN – Federal Republic of Nigeria. (1977). National policy on education. Lagos: NERDC.

FRN – Federal Republic of Nigeria. (1981). National policy on education. Lagos: NERDC.

Nwankwo, G.N. (2016) The Cost of Free Primary Education in Nigeria. In S. Adesina, S. & S.K Babalola (Eds.), Universal Free Primary Education in Nigeria. Seminar Proceedings Organized by the Nigerian Union of Teachers.

Osokoya, O.I. (1987). 6-3-3-4 Education in Nigeria: History, Strategies, Issues and Problems. Lagos: Bininaike Educational Publishers.

Taiwo, C.O. (1980). The Nigerian Education System Past, Present & Future. Lagos: Thomas Nelson (Nigeria) Limited.

Mr. Harrison

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