Education in Nigeria is supervised by the Federal Ministry of Education. Local authorities are responsible for the implementation of state-controlled public education and public school policies. The education system is divided into nurseries, primary education, secondary education and higher education.

primary education in nigeria

Secondary Students in Classrom

The central government of Nigeria has been in a state of instability since the declaration of independence from the United Kingdom, so a unified set of education policies has not yet been successfully implemented.

Regional differences in quality, curriculum and funding are characteristic of the Nigerian education system. Currently, Nigeria has the largest population of out-of-school young people in the world.



Primary education in Nigeria for most pupils begin around the age of 5. Students study in primary school for six years and receive their first certificate of departure.

Subjects taught in primary schools include Mathematics,English, Christian Religious Knowledge,Islamic Knowledge studies, Agricultural Science, Home Economics and one of the three main indigenous languages and cultures: Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo, computer science, French and Fine Arts.

Primary school students must take the general entrance examination in order to be eligible for secondary school. Until 1976, education policy was still largely dictated by British colonial policy.

In 1976, the universal primary education programme was established. The programme faced many difficulties and was subsequently revised in 1981 and 1990. Universal basic education replaces universal primary education in Nigeria, which aims to improve the success rate of the first nine years of Education.

Pupils playing

Pupils in a rural primary school in Nigeria

UBE involves 6 years of primary education and 3 years of early secondary education, culminating in 9 years of uninterrupted education,the transition from one class to another is automatic, but determined by continuous assessment.

The plan is overseen by the Universal Basic Education Committee (UBEC) and makes it”free”,”compulsory”and the rights of every child


Secondary education in Nigeria involves students spending six years in school, i.e. 3 years of Jss (Junior High School) and 3 years of Sss (high school). In three years of junior high school education, students will study subjects such as mathematics, English, Social Studies, home economics or Fine Arts.

The high school curriculum is based on 4 core subjects and is completed by 4 or 5 elective subjects. Core subjects are: English; Mathematics; Economics; civic education; one or more elective subjects in biology, chemistry, and Physical Sciences; One or more elective English Literature, History, Geography, agricultural science or vocational subjects, including: bookkeeping, business, food and nutrition, technical drawing and other 17 subjects.

State-owned secondary schools are funded by the state government and are on par with federal government colleges. While education in Nigeria should be free in most state-owned institutions, students need to buy books, uniforms and pay miscellaneous fees, which cost an average of 50,000 naira ($130) in a school year.

Teachers in state-owned institutions usually have a National Education Certificate or Bachelor’s degree, but this is not always the case, as many secondary schools in Nigeria are full of unqualified teachers who end up unable to motivate their students, which are often understaffed due to low state budgets, lack of incentives and staff salary payment irregularities.

Private secondary schools in Nigeria tend to be quite expensive, with an average annual cost ranging from 250,000 Naira to one million naira ($652.00–$2600.00). These schools have smaller class sizes (about ten to twenty students per class), modern equipment and a better learning environment. Most teachers at these institutions have at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific course area and regularly attend workshops or short-term courses.

The General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE) is replaced by the High School Certificate Examination (SSCE). SSCE takes place at the end of secondary school studies in May/June. GCE is conducted in October/November as a supplement to students who do not receive the required credits from SSCE grades. The criteria for both exams are basically the same.

A body called the West African Examination Commission (WAEC) is responsible for SSCE and GCE. Each student enrolls in a maximum of nine and at least seven subjects,with math and English as compulsory subjects.

Each subject is divided into up to nine levels:A1, B2, B3 (equivalent to excellent level);C4,C5, C6 (equivalent to the credit level); D7, E8 (just passed the level); F9 (did not pass the level). Credit rating and above is considered to be academic enough to enter any university in Nigeria. In some study programs, many universities may require higher grades to be admitted.


The government has majority control over university education. Higher education in Nigeria consists of universities(public and private), Polytechnics,biotechnology and educational colleges. A total of 153 universities in the country are registered by NUC, of which 40 and 45 are owned by the federal and state governments, respectively, while 68 are privately owned.

First-year admission requirements for most universities in Nigeria include: minimum SSCE/Gce general level credits, up to two times; minimum score value of 180 and above for Joint Admission and preparatory entrance examination (JAMB), up to 400 points. Candidates with a minimum qualification of at least 5 o/L credits in the National Certificate of Education (NCE), National Diploma (ND) and other advanced level certificates can go directly to the corresponding undergraduate degree program.


One in five out-of-school children in the world is in Nigeria. Although primary education in Nigeria is officially free and compulsory, approximately 10.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 do not attend school throughout the country. Only 61 per cent of children aged 6-11 attend primary school on a regular basis, and only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education. In the north of the country, the situation was even more bleak, with a net attendance rate of 53 per cent.

Northern Student's

Student’s in the Northern region of Nigeria

Re-education of out-of-school children is a huge challenge. Gender, like geography and poverty, is an important factor in the pattern of educational marginalization. Net female primary school enrolment in the north-east and North-West cantons was 47.7 per cent and 47.3 per cent, respectively, meaning that more than half of girls did not attend school.

The lack of education in northern Nigeria is caused by a variety of factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that hinder access to formal education, especially for girls. In the education sector, this situation exacerbates existing problems.

Ongoing student protests and strikes have rocked Nigerian universities for years, a symptom of a serious underfunding of the higher education system. The austerity measures taken by the Nigerian government in the wake of the current crisis have further reduced the education budget. In 2016, students at many public universities experienced rising tuition fees and deteriorating infrastructure, including shortages of electricity and water supplies.

The crisis has also depleted scholarship funds for Foreign Studies, limiting the flow of international students from Nigeria. However, for all the short-term turmoil, the factors driving the outflow of Nigerian students have largely remained unchanged. These measures include:

  • Nigeria’s education system fails to meet booming needs
  • The quality of its universities is often poor
  • The number of middle-class families able to send their children overseas is growing rapidly



The lack of adequate education for Nigerian children weakens the foundations of the Nigerian system. To solve this problem, thousands of new schools have been built in recent years. The official goal of the Nigerian government is to achieve universal access to free basic education for all children. However, despite recent improvements in gross enrolment in primary schools, the basic education system remains underfunded; facilities are often poor, teachers are under-trained and participation rates are low by international standards.


Although the enrolment rate is low, it is a significant improvement from 10 years ago, when the proportion was close to one in ten university enrolment. But the admissions crisis remains one of the biggest challenges facing higher education in Nigeria, especially given the strong growth of its young population. Nigeria’s education system currently has more than one million qualified university-age Nigerians without access to higher education every year.


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