Educational System in Nigeria | Education Statistics and Overview

Educational System in Nigeria | Education Statistics and Overview
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We shall take a look at an overview of the structure of Education in Nigeria, History of the Educational System, Challenges and statistics on other related information. This analysis and data was gotten by our management and are all genuinely sourced.

According to Internetworldstats, Nigeria is the 7th most populous country in the world with a population of 206,139,589 as of 2020. Nigeria is bordered on the east by Cameroon, on the northeast by Chad, on the north by Niger, and on the west by the Republic of Benin

In mid-2016, it overtook South Africa as the largest economy on the African continent, and was, until recently, viewed as having the potential to emerge as a major global economy.

Despite the numerous ethnic groups in Nigeria, English is the common language used for education. The Federal Ministry of Education is responsible for overall policy formation and ensuring quality control, but is primarily involved with tertiary education. The National Universities Commission targets mainly the tertiary institutions.

History of Education in Nigeria

In the 19th century, the major types of education were Islamic and the Indigenous System. The Islamic was strictly religious in nature and children from four years of age were taught the Qur’an and Arabic language. In 1912, the Islamic schools in Nigeria were mostly in Northern Nigeria and were about 19,000 with 143,800 students.

The indigenous system, on the other hand, was a system of education used to teach children as young 2 years of age practical skills. This also basically teaches them the customs and traditions of their communities. These skills include farming, sculpture, music, domestic skills, e.t.c. The indigenous system of education is still common in Nigeria. Mostly in the eastern part of Nigeria where there are master craftsmen and apprentice students.

The current western-type of education was introduced in the 1840s by the British Missionaries. During the colonial era, the colonial government provided adequate financial assistance for the Anglican Church Missionary Society, CMS who started many schools in the western part of Nigeria. At the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorate, Nigeria had 11 Secondary Schools, 91 Mission Schools and 59 Government Elementary Schools.

In 1952, Nigeria fully adopted the British system if Education which is the (1)-6-3-3-4 formula: one-year pre-primary education, six years primary, three years junior secondary, three years senior secondary, and a minimum of four years tertiary education.

In 1976, a law was passed making education compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 12. This resulted in approximately 16,000,000 students i.e. 98% of this age group being enrolled in primary school. Despite all these efforts, the quality of education in Nigeria gradually deteriorated.

Nigeria’s Educational Structure

Nigeria uses the (1)-6-3-3-4 formula: one-year pre-primary education, six years primary, three years of junior secondary, three years senior secondary, and a minimum of four years tertiary education.

According to Nigeria’s latest National Policy on Education (2004), basic education covers nine years of formal (compulsory) schooling consisting of six years of elementary and three years of junior secondary education. Post-basic education includes three years of senior secondary education.

At the tertiary level, the system consists of a university sector and a non-university sector. The latter is composed of polytechnics, monotechnics, and colleges of education. The tertiary sector as a whole offers opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and vocational and technical education.

The academic year typically runs from September to July. Most universities use a semester system of 18 – 20 weeks. Others run from January to December, divided into 3 terms of 10 -12 weeks.

Basic Elementary Education in Nigeria

Elementary education covers grades one through six. As per the most recent Universal Basic Education guidelines implemented in 2014, the curriculum includes English, Mathematics, a Nigerian language, basic science and technology, religion and national values, and cultural and creative arts, Arabic language (optional). Pre-vocational studies (home economics, agriculture, and entrepreneurship) and French language are introduced in grade 4.

Nigeria’s national policy on education stipulates that the language of instruction for the first three years should be the “indigenous language of the child or the language of his/her immediate environment”, most commonly Hausa, Ibo, or Yoruba. This policy may, however, not always be followed at schools throughout the country, and instruction may instead be delivered in English. English is commonly the language of instruction for the last three years of elementary school. Students are awarded the Primary School Leaving Certificate on completion of Grade 6, based on continuous assessment.

Junior Secondary Education in Nigeria

Progression to junior secondary education is automatic and compulsory. It lasts three years and covers grades seven through nine, completing the basic stage of education. The curriculum includes the same subjects as the elementary stage but adds the subject of business studies.

At the end of grade 9, pupils are awarded the Basic Education Certificate (BEC), also known as  Junior School Certificate, based on their performance in final examinations administered by Nigeria’s state governments.  The BEC examinations take place nationwide in June each year and usually last for a week. Students are expected to take a minimum of ten subjects and a maximum of thirteen.  Students must achieve passes in six subjects, including English and mathematics, to pass the Basic Education Certificate Examination.

Senior Secondary Education

Senior Secondary Education lasts three years and covers grades 10 through 12. In 2010, Nigeria reportedly had a total 7,104 secondary schools with 4,448,981 pupils and a teacher to pupil ratio of about 32:1.

Reforms implemented in 2014 have led to a restructuring of the national curriculum. Students are currently required to study four compulsory “cross-cutting” core subjects, and to choose additional electives in four available areas of concentration. Compulsory subjects are: English language, mathematics, civic education, and one trade/entrepreneurship subject. The available concentration subjects are Humanities, science and mathematics, technology, and business studies.

SSC examinations are offered by two different examination boards: the West African Examination Council and the National Examination Council (NECO). The examination is open to students currently enrolled in the final year of secondary school.

WAEC Grading System in Nigeria
SSCE Grading System in Nigeria


Admission into Universities in Nigeria

Admission to public universities in Nigeria is competitive and based on scores obtained in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination as well as the SSC results. (The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination is discussed in greater detail  below.) Most universities require passes in at least five SSC subjects and take into consideration the average score. Students must score an average grade of at least ‘credit’ level (C6) or better to be considered for admission to public universities; some institutions may require higher grades.

Until the 1970s, Nigerian universities set their own admissions standards. Due to the growing number of universities in Nigeria’s sprawling higher education system, this practice became problematic, and, in 1978, the Nigerian government established the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to oversee a centralized admissions test called the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME).

The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is a computerized standard test. The multiple-choice test is three hours in duration and conducted once a year, typically in March.

Students who sit for the JAMB UTME must take exams in English and three subjects related to their intended major in order to be considered for admission into universities. A total of 23 different UTME subject combinations are offered in the fields of

  • Banking and finance
  • law
  • English and literary studies
  • mass communication
  • linguistics
  • philosophy
  • engineering
  • medicine and surgery
  • computer science
  • nursing
  • pharmacy
  • biochemistry
  • industrial chemistry
  • geology
  • mathematics
  • microbiology
  • economics
  • sociology
  • psychology
  • political science
  • public administration
  • accounting
  • business administration, e.t.c
  • SEE List of All Courses Offered In Nigerian Universities 

Tertiary Education in Nigeria

The National University Commission (NUC), under the Federal Ministry of Education is the government umbrella organization that oversees the administration of higher education in Nigeria. There are presently 43 Federal Universities, 52 State Universities, and 79 Private Universities in Nigeria, which brings a total of 174 Universities in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s 43 federal universities, as well as dozens of teaching hospitals and colleges, are under the direct purview of the NUC. State governments have responsibility for the administration and financing of the 52 state universities.

In addition to granting institutional accreditation, the NUC approves and accredits all university programs. Accreditation is granted for an initial three-year period and subsequent five-year periods. SEE the 160 NUC UNACCREDITED Courses in Nigerian Universities.

Bachelor’s Degree

The standard duration of undergraduate Bachelor programs in Nigeria is four years in most academic disciplines, including sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The most commonly awarded credentials in these fields are the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Social Science. Most universities use a credit system and require between 120 and 160 credits for four-year programs.

Students may take either a single-subject honours degree or combined honours.

  • For single-subject honours, students study three subjects in the first year, two in the second year, and one in the third.
  • In the combined honours program, students take three subjects in the first year and two subjects in both the second and third years.
  • In the fourth year, single-subject honours students take one subject and combined-honours students take at least two subjects.

Programs in engineering- and technology-related fields are typically five years in duration, require between 140 and 170 credits, and conclude with the award of Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Technology degrees.

University Degree Classification and Grading System

Nigerian universities use a degree classification system that ranks the overall performance of students in bachelor’s degree programs. The degree classification is relevant for graduate admissions and employment prospects. The NUC recently changed the classification system, eliminating the previously used classification of “PASS”, thereby increasing the GPA requirements for graduation. The new NUC classification system and a number of common grading scale variations are outlined below, but classification systems and grading scales may vary greatly from institution to institution.

Educational System in Nigeria
Nigeria Grading system
Education in Nigeria | Grading
Degree Classification in Nigeria


In addition to universities, there are a large number of polytechnics and colleges under the purview of the National Board of Technical Education (NBTE), the federal government body tasked with overseeing technical and vocational education. In 2017, the NBTE recognized 107 polytechnics, 27 monotechnics, and 220 colleges in various specific disciplines. These institutions were established to train students for technical and mid-level employment.

Major Challenges to Education in Nigeria

Over the years, Nigeria’s educational system has experienced a great landslide and deterioration. Below are the reasons outlined by many educational experts we got to interview around Nigeria.

1. Inadequate Funding

Funding is the biggest problem confronting Nigeria’s education system. The percentage of the budget allocated to education annually is abysmally low. In 2020, only 6.9% was allocated to education. This is far below UNESCO’s recommended 15%-26%.

Nigeria’s experience with the commercialisation and neglect of government secondary and primary school levels has led to poorer educational outcomes. Nor is privatisation the answer: it’s only likely to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. It will deny many children an affordable quality education, increase the rate of illiteracy and reduce academic performance at the tertiary level.

According to an educational consultant, “If the government continues to privatise government-owned universities, as is already the case with the proliferation of private universities with high fees, tertiary education will become the exclusive preserve of the rich upper class.”

2. Continuous Strikes

In 1978, the Academic Staff Union of Universities was established to represent academic staff in Nigeria’s universities. Since then, there have been strikes almost every year, disrupting the academic calendar.

To stop these annual disruptions, the government must increase budgetary allocations to the sector and honour agreements that have been signed with the unions. According to the association, the only way that strikes will be stopped is if the welfare of all staff, from teachers to lecturers, is prioritised.

3. Corruption and Fraud 

Nigeria is currently the 146th most corrupt country in the world according to Nigeria’s education sector is particularly vulnerable to corruption. Many experts have described Nigeria as a country where academic fraud is endemic at all levels of the education system, and misconduct ranges from cheating during examinations to more serious behaviours, such as impersonation, falsifying academic records, ‘paying’ for grades/certificates with gifts, money or sexual favours, terrorising examiners and assaulting invigilators.

Research is neglected, funds are diverted and Trust Fund resources are limited and its operations are slow, highly selective and sometimes politicised.

If these priorities are successfully implemented, Nigeria’s education system would be well on its way to realising the government’s commitment to its own policies.

In conclusion, high unemployment among university graduates has been one of the results of the poor education system in Nigeria.


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Chief Editor

Hello readers, you are welcome to your info connect. My name is Emmanuel, I am a graduate Mechanical Engineer, a blogger, and Digital Marketer. I share educational and career information and content to enable viewers who are aiming for success to attain it in their various fields. I hope you enjoy your tour here.

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