Teacher Education: Quantity Without Quality


By Maureen Chigbo  |

THE realisation that quality teachers are the bedrock of education in the country has been on even before Nigeria gained independence in 1960.  There have been several panel reports on improving the quantity and quality of teachers and their welfare to enhance the quality of education in the country. Right from the beginning when the missionaries dominated teacher education, emphasis had been on improving the quality of teachers who impact knowledge to pupils and students, whether in the primary, secondary or tertiary institutions. Despite all the efforts, the quality of teachers has declined over the years with attendant fall in the quality of education in the country.

This has necessitated the question as to what went wrong? Could inconsistency in the education policy over the years wrecked the quality of teachers produce in teacher training institutions? If yes, what can be done to remedy the situation? To be able to ascertain what went wrong with teacher education in the country, a beam into the past policies is desirable.


Before independence, teacher training was mostly in the hands of missionaries. Despite the lean resources available to them, they were able to train teachers through the pupil-teacher system, a kind of apprenticeship system whereby the missionaries and pupils lived together. The missionaries devoted their attention initially to the development of elementary (primary) education in the country. The quality of teachers then was never in doubt because they were well supervised and managed by the missionaries.

The apprentice-ship training method later gave way to other government policies which emanated from different panel reports. They included the Phelp-Stokes report of 1925, which criticised the teacher training system describing it as unsatisfactory. In order to address the problem, the Phelp-Stokes report recommended two types of teacher-training institutions – the Elementary Training College, ETC, for lower primary school teachers; and the Higher Elementary Training College, H.E.T.C. The Elementary Training College course lasted for two years and culminated in the award of Grade III Teacher’s Certificate, while the H.E.T.C. course also lasted for two years and led to the award of Grade II Teacher’s Certificate. Any candidate willing to go for the E.T.C course would have served as a pupil teacher for two years and on the successful completion of the Grade II course had to teach again for at least two years before proceeding to the Higher Elementary Training College for the two-year Grade II course.

There was also the Ashby Commission which introduced the idea of degree courses in education which was never there before. The Ashby commission report observed that there was a “gravely inadequate supply of trained and educated teachers” in Nigerian Secondary Grammar Schools, to cope with an increase in demand for more of this category of education institutions. With reference to teacher-education, the most relevant recommendations of the  Commission were: the opening of more universities, the institution of a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, B.Sc. (Ed.), or B.Ed; the training of more teachers for the nation’s secondary schools.

Also, the decade following the attainment of independence by Nigeria witnessed a rapid expansion of teacher education facilities. The decade ended with the production of another educational document which was the report of the National Curriculum Conference of 1969 which spelt out the objectives and contents of all levels of education, including teacher education in Nigeria. The 1969 Curriculum Conference provided the basis for the National Policy on Education of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1977, which was revised in 1981.


The National Policy on Education opened a new page in the development of teacher training programmes in Nigeria. With the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 education system, there was the need for a new orientation of secondary school teachers and students. The new curriculum was a challenge to both the students and teachers who needed to acquire the basic knowledge, and for the teachers, the skill to teach the new curriculum, writes A.A. Jakayinka of the Department of Curriculum Studies and Education Technology, University of Ilorin, in her paper on Development of Teacher Education in Nigeria.

The National Policy on Education also stated that all teachers in the nation’s educational institutions, from pre-primary level to the university, would be professionally trained. The implication of this, according to Jakayinka, is that more Grade II Teachers’ colleges and more tertiary institutions were established for the training of these teachers. “This is what happened in the years following 1977 with considerable emphasis on the opening of tertiary institutions for the training of secondary school teachers in order to ensure that teacher education objectives are realised.”

With regards to  the National Policy on Education, the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1981 stated that “no nation can achieve economic, social and technological progress and self-sufficiency without a good system of education to sustain its achievement.” The training and production of the manpower required for the attainment of national objectives should be framed on the quality and quantity of teachers. Before the national policy on education, the missionaries devoted their attention initially to the development of elementary (primary) education in the country before the publication and subsequent implementation of the Ashby Commission report. Certain categories of educational institutions are charged with the responsibility of giving the required professional ‘training for teachers. These are Grade II Teacher’s Colleges, Advanced Teacher’s Colleges, Colleges of Education, Institutes of Education, and the National Teachers’ Institute.


Prior to this, and in preparation for the Universal Primary Education, UPE, scheme, the federal government had approved emergency teacher training programmes which began in September 1974. The scheme was meant to produce 163,000 additional teachers estimated for the scheme. To obtain this large number of teacher trainees, the government mounted four different teacher education programmes for four different categories of school leavers. These were one-year course for holders of the West African School Certificate, two-year course for those who attempted WASC and failed or those with Grade III Teacher’s Certificate, three-year course for holders of Modern III Certificate or S-75 Certificate, that is, recognised Secondary Class IV Certificate, five-year course of holders of Primary School Certificate. In 1957, the University of Ibadan introduced a one-year course for graduates leading to a diploma of education. In 1961, the university started a one-year Associateship course for selected Grade II teachers who would take over the headship of primary schools after the successful completion of their studies.

The Ashby Commission’s recommendation for Teacher’s Grade I colleges, according to Jakayinfa, was modified to give rise to a new programme and a new certificate – the Nigerian Certificate in Education, NCE. This programme was meant for the training and preparation of teachers for the lower forms of secondary schools, and the teacher training colleges. The schools were popularly called the “Advanced Teachers’ Colleges”. They were established in Lagos (1962), Ibadan (1962) but transferred to Ondo, where it became the Adeyemi College of Education; Owerri (1963), Zaria (1962), Kano (1964) and Abraka (1968).

Admission to these advanced teacher’s colleges was open to candidates who held either the Teachers’ Grade 11 Certificate and passed in two subjects at the ordinary level of the General Certificate of Education, GCE, or the West African School Certificate with Credit in at least two subjects, or the G.C.E. (O level) in five subjects including English Language. To be awarded NCE,  a candidate must pass a final examination in two science or two arts subjects, education and practical teaching, and must have passed in ancillary subjects like general English, Library work, Health and physical education, offered during the programme. The Ashby Commission also recommended teacher education programme at the university level, observing that the new crop of Grade I teachers popularly referred to as “well qualified non-graduate teachers” should be trained to man the lower levels of secondary schools and teacher-training colleges.

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