As we have previously explained in a preceding article Education is the practice of teaching and learning of knowledge and skills from the master to the protege, for the sake of building a better life for the individual, which in turn translates to building society at large.

Some of its earliest traces of a formal education system are found in ancient Greece, where education meant teaching the values and traditions of the Society to the younger generation, plus all the basic survival skills that they would need to stay alive and fend for themselves. By the grace of this educational system, the Ancient Greeks ended up building a healthy population, for many years unequaled by any civilization.

Education In Nigeria

Education in Nigeria is regulated by the government through the Ministry of Education. Local Education Departments (LED) are the unitary authorities responsible for implementing a state-produced policy regarding public education as well as the running of state schools. The education system in Nigeria is divided into Kindergarten, Primary education, Junior Secondary education, Senior Secondary School, and Tertiary education (universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education).

Education does not just magically appear in the minds of the students or pupils. There have to be places specially designated to the course of imparting knowledge and life skills to people- the official parlance is Institutions of Education. In this article, we want to examine the various types of educational institutions in Nigeria, and also look at the various functions of each individual institution (some of which have been mentioned above), and look at the contributions that they each make into the development of the Nigerian educational system. Let us now look at them one by one.

Types of Educational Institutions in Nigeria

Primary education starts around or before the age of 5 for the majority of Nigerians. Students spend six years in primary school after which they are eligible for a school-leaving certificate. Subjects that are taught at the primary level include the English language (for efficient communication), mathematics, Christian Religious Knowledge, Islamic knowledge studies (both religious studies teach core morals), agricultural science, home economics and any one of the three main indigenous languages and cultures which are Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo.

Many private schools also offer basic computer education, French Language, and Fine Arts. Primary school students, after the completion of about 6 years of schooling are required to take an entrance exam called the  ‘Common Entrance Examination’ to qualify for admission into Secondary School, whether they are Federal, State, or Privately Owned  Secondary schools. So what does the Nigerian Secondary School System look like?

  • Secondary education

Students in Nigeria generally spend six years in Secondary School which some call the primary school, which is 3 years of Junior Secondary School (JSS), and then 3 years of SSS (Senior Secondary School). As per new law, Junior Secondary School, JSS is now part of the Universal Basic Education, and is now Compulsory, with a criminal penalty attached to defaulters.  It leads to the BECE examinations, which opens the gate to Senior Secondary School education.

Senior Secondary School curriculum is based on 4 core subjects completed by 4 or 5 elective subjects. Major subjects are: English language, mathematics, Economics; Civic Education. For science-oriented students, one or more electives out of biology, chemistry, physics, agricultural science or integrated science; for art-oriented students: one or more electives out of English literature, history, geography or social studies drawing, fine arts;  or vocational subjects.

By Senior Secondary School Class 2 (SS2), some students are already taking the GCE O’Levels exam. Taking the exam at this level is not mandatory, but some students take it to prepare for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, while others, with a high level of confidence, are already preparing for tertiary education. After 6 years, the Senior Secondary School ends on the WASSCE. After the BECE exams, students can also choose to join a technical college. The curriculum for these also lasts 3 years and leads to a trade/craftsmanship certificate. Some benefits of the technical colleges are that there is a more practical approach to learning.

  • Tertiary education


Monotechnics in the Nigerian educational system are schools that offer students training in highly specified singular or individual disciplines. Examples of Monotechnics are the Nigerian Institute of Journalism and the Federal College of Marine Technology. These schools train individuals to be highly skilled in their courses of choice, thereby having much to offer to society. Courses of study last anywhere from 1 year to 3 year and students are certified to show proficiency in the course.


In the Nigerian system of education, polytechnics are tertiary institutions that offer courses of study in almost all fields of endeavour. However, Polytechnics do not require 4 years to complete their courses, but some offer 2 years, while others offer 3 year courses to study for a National Diploma certification, while another 2 years is generally needed to study for a Higher National Diploma (HND) which is equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree (B.Sc) obtainable at any of the universities.

Colleges of Education

As the name suggests, colleges of education are saddled with the task of manufacturing the next generation of educators in the country. The schools are specialized to train students on how to teach effectively. Colleges of Education do not only teach established educational practices but they also help formulate new teaching methods and styles to reach the hearts and minds of students.

The government has the biggest investment, and therefore the majority control of university education in Nigeria. Tertiary education in Nigeria consists of Universities (and there are Public and Private of these), Polytechnics, Monotechnics, and Colleges of education. The country has a total number of 129 universities that are registered by the Nigerian Universities Council, among which federal and state governments own 40 and 39 universities respectively while 50 universities are privately owned. That puts the figure at 79 to the government, and 50 to the private sector.

Efforts are underway to increase the strength in numbers as the current figure is deemed inadequate. In order to increase the number of universities operating in Nigeria from 129 to 138, the Federal Government issued 9 new private universities with their operating licenses in May 2015. Some of the new names in the Nigerian university sector that got licenses  are ;Micheal and Cecilia Ibru University, Owhrode, Delta State; Augustine University, Ilara, Lagos; Chrisland University, Owode, ; Hallmark University, Ijebu-Itele, Ogun State; Ogun State; Christopher University, Mowe, Ogun State; Ritman University, Ikot-Epene, Akwa- Ibom State; Kings University, Ode-Omu, Osun State;  Mountain Top University, Makogi/Oba Ogun state;  and Summit University, Offa, Kwara State.

In order to secure admission to study at any of the Nigerian universities students have to clear a number of hurdles including Minimum of SSCE/GCE Ordinary Level Credits at maximum of two sittings; Minimum cut-off marks in Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Entrance Examination (JAMB) {that examination is now called UTME } of 180 and above out of a maximum obtainable mark of 400. Candidates with minimum of Merit Pass in National Certificate of Education (NCE) obtainable at a college of Education, National Diploma (ND obtainable at a polytechnic) and other Advanced Level Certificates minimum qualifications with minimum of 5  GCE/ WASSCE/ NECO O/L Credits are given direct entry admission into the appropriate undergraduate degree programs to further their educational careers in their chosen disciplines.

  • Vocational education

Within the educational structure in Nigeria, vocational training and informal education dominate as the major forms of sharing specific and practical knowledge. Administration of vocational education sub-sector of the educational system in the country is overseen by the National Board for Technical Education NABTEB.

In the early 1980s, it as noted that there was a high unemployment rate among school graduates, the Nigerian government saw good reason to shift the emphasis on making vocational programs available to students. Since Nigerians rely heavily on certificates, they too are certified courses of study.

Vocational education is now available to students in Nigeria beginning at the secondary level, and the Nigerian government has severally declared its dedication to improving technical and vocational education systems through a number of commissions and programs and partnerships with NGOs.


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