Major Levels of Education in Nigeria


National Policy on Education (1982, pp 10-41) also spelled out the aim and objectives of education in the following levels of education, namely pre-primary education, primary education, secondary education, higher education including professional education, technical education, adult and non-formal education, special education and teacher education.

It is through these aims and objectives of education that is hoped that education will reach everyone in Nigeria, including children and adults, and will also be a tool to achieve the five national objectives as contained in the second National Development Plan. The government set out different measures, which will be taken to implement each area of education in Nigeria. If the aim and objectives at all levels are realized, the five national objectives as in the second National Development Plan will be realized.

Pre-primary education

In the National Policy on Education (1981, p 100) the ideal age of Pre-primary education is between 3 and 5 years, and the purpose of pre-primary education should be:

  • To provide adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work (on the farms, in the markets, offices, etc.
  • To inculcate social norms
  • To inculcate in the child the spirit of inquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, and the local environment, playing with toys, artistic and musical activities
  • To teach cooperation and team spirit
  • To teach good habits, especially good health habits

Also, it should be an avenue for teacher training institutions for student teachers who want to specialize in pre-primary education. It is stated in the document that the medium of instruction should be the mother tongue.

Achievements: To achieve the aim and objectives, the government will review and enforce the educational laws empowering the establishment of nursery schools to make sure that the schools are well-run and the Ministry of Education will inspect the schools.

Primary education

In primary education, the ideal age for children is between 6 to 11 +. The objectives of primary education as stipulated in the document (NPE 1981, p 12) include:

  • To see citizenship education as a means basis for effective participation in and contribution to the life of the society
  • To promote character and moral training and the development of a sound attitude
  • To give the child opportunities for developing manipulative skills that will enable him to function effectively in society within the limits of his capacity.
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Achievements: In pursuance of the above objectives, the government has made primary education free and universal by implementing the universal primary education scheme in September 1976. The government will provide junior libraries for primary school children and will also make available materials and teaching staff personnel for the teaching of science. The medium of instruction in primary school is initially the mother tongue and later English. The government will establish a school library service and ensure that aid is given in-service training in the management and organization of school libraries, audio-visual aids, the specialist teachers for particular subjects such as science, physical education, music, fine art, and domestic science.

Secondary school education

The broad aim of secondary school education within the overall national objectives of education according to the policy (NPE, 1981, p 16), should be the following:

  • To prepare useful living within the society
  • To prepare for higher education
  • To diversify its curriculum to cater to the differences in talents, opportunities, and roles possessed by or open to students after their secondary school course
  • To develop and protect Nigerian culture, art, and language as well as the world’s cultural heritage
  • To raise a generation of people who can think for themselves, respect the views and feelings of others, respect the dignity of labor, and appearance those values specified under our broad national aim, and live as good citizens.
  • To inspire its students with a desire for achievement and self-improvement both at school and in later life.

Achievements: To achieve those objectives the government plan that secondary education should be of sex years duration and be given in two stages, a junior school and a senior secondary school stage, three years duration for each stage. The junior secondary will be for those who can have completed six years of primary education. Also, the government will cater to dropouts and those who cannot receive formal education as an avenue for self-education. The state ministries of education and the federal inspectorate will be responsible for the inspection of all secondary schools.

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Technical education

There are five types of technical education institutions, pre-vocational and vocational schools, at the post-primary level, technical colleges, at the polytechnics, and colleges of education (Technical) at the post-primary level. The aim of Technical Education according to the National Policy on Education (1981, p 28 should be the following:

Achievements: Since the government is aware of the role of industry in providing technical training, some measures for the development of technical education were adopted, expansion of facilities for training technical teachers, and the recruitment of teachers, for technical institutions.

Special education

Special education is the foundation for children and adults who have learning difficulties because of different sorts of handicaps, blindness, partial sightedness, deafness, hardness of hearing mental retardation, social maladjustment, physical handicap, etc.

The purpose and objectives of special education according to the National Policy on Education (1981, p 36) should be as follows:

  • To give concrete meaning to the idea of equalizing educational opportunities for all children their physical, mental, emotional, and disability notwithstanding

Achievements: The government has already directed that all children including the gifted as well as those with physical, mental, and learning difficulties must be provided for under the educational system. The corollary of universal primary education, therefore, is that special education arrangements must be made for the handicapped and the exceptionally gifted.

Higher education/professional education

Higher education covers the post-secondary section of the national educational system  – universities, polytechnics, colleges of technology, and colleges of education. In the National Policy on Education (1981, p. 22), Higher Education should aim at the following:

  • To develop the intellectual capacities of individuals to understand and appreciate their environments
  • To acquire both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to develop into useful members of the community
  • To acquire an objective view of the local and external environments

Achievements: Higher education should pursue these aims through teaching, research work, and dissemination of existing and new information. Given the above points, there is a need to intensify and diversify university programs for the development of high-level manpower within the context of the needs of the economy. The university should serve the community by assisting national development through its extra-mural and extension services departments. The university should serve as an instrument of national unity. In pursuance of this, the government has established new universities to ensure more even geographical facilities as a means of achieving national unity.

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Adult and non-formal education

Adult and non-formal education consists of functional literacy, remedial, continuing, vocational, aesthetic, and cultural and civic education for youths and adults outside the formal school system. The objectives of adult and continuing education according to the National Policy on Education (1981, p 32) should be as follows:

  • To provide further education for different categories of computers in the formal education system to improve their basic knowledge and skills
  • To provide in0service on-the-job, vocational, and professional training for different categories of workers and professionals to improve their skills
  • To give the adult citizens of the country the necessary aesthetic, cultural, and civic education for public enlightenment

Teacher Education

Teacher education in Nigeria today takes place in the state and Federal Colleges of Education, National Teacher’s institutes, and Faculties of Education in our universities. The National Policy on Education (1981, p 38) in agreement with the dictum which says that no educational system can rise above the quality of its teachers, sets out to lay more emphasis on teacher education in our educational planning. The general purpose of Teacher Education according to the documents should be the following:

  • To provide highly motivated, conscientious, and efficient classroom teachers for all levels of our education system


It is also stipulated in the policy that a greater proportion of education expenditure will be devoted to science and technology and that the internal organization and administration of each university, and the duration of the university courses will in future be extended to a minimum of four years instead of three years.

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