The Committee of experts drawn from various disciplines in the Nigerian Universities to harmonise the online drafts of the curriculum review coordinated by the National Universities Commission (NUC) last week converged for a face-to-face interaction on the new Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) documents to finalise activities on the report which began within the last one year.
Declaring open the interactive meeting at the Idris Abdulkadir Auditorium, Abuja, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, recalled that what used to be called the Minimum Academic Standards (MAS) started way back in 1989, for 13 disciplines and largely prescriptive then.
He added that the review of the MAS curriculum by 2004, led to the evolution of the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) with other forms of review conducted in 2007, explaining that unfortunately successive attempts to review the developed BMAS further in 2011 and 2018 were not successful.
Represented by NUC Director, Academic Planning (DAP), Dr. Biodun Saliu, the Executive Secretary noted that cognizant of this setback, the management of the NUC resolved to reverse the trend with the commencement of a comprehensive review of the curriculum of the Nigerian University System (NUS). The whole essence, he stated, was to make it at par with global trends where universities based on their unique features were supposed to drive the development of the curriculum.
He highlighted that several online reviews had gone into the process since the last 10 months, with a robust engagement by representatives of the various academia in diverse fields, professional bodies and the private sector, getting the document to now face-to-face review by the stakeholders.
He reminded the experts that the curriculum being reviewed had some striking and exciting features such as unique attributes, where NUC was only providing 70 per cent of the compulsory courses, while the universities were to determine the balance of 30 per cent of the courses. He emphasised that the curriculum was being expanded from 14 to 17 disciplines, while at the programme levels it increased from 188 to 238.
Prof. Rasheed expressed his delight and confidence on the caliber of experts and human resources assembled to harmonise the reviewed documents and their robust contributions which would bring more impetus to the nation’s quest for national and international development. He assured the experts and Nigerians of NUC’s unflinching support for the continuous efforts at curriculum re-engineering so as to meet global trends and optimal service delivery.
Speaking in his own capacity as the Director, Academic Planning, Dr. Saliu in a presentation titled “the Journey So Far on the Curriculum Review,” thanked all the members of the NUC Strategy Advisory Committee (STRADVCOM), both internal and external as well as Chairmen and Co-chairmen of the various disciplines/programmes as well as NUC representatives in the assignment.
The DAP said that quality generally was what influenced a number of factors in the input and output of any process including curriculum, noting that curriculum played a major role in quality delivery of teaching and learning processes.
He also noted that curriculum gave definition to the content of the knowledge being impacted on the students and in addition a necessary requirement to effectively impart knowledge, stressing that historical element of any university the world over was the quality of their graduates, with curriculum playing a major role in these identified areas.
He cited a reference document of Prof. Peter Okebukola in 2007, which canvased for the input-process and the output domain for the NUS. According to him, it played a distinct role in the curriculum process which required a well-developed curriculum for knowledge to be impacted on learners.
He said that effective teaching and learning delivery could not be achieved in the absence of a good curriculum.
Dr. Saliu explained that curriculum development predated NUC, as the first university in Nigeria, University of Ibadan, (which operated then as a University College, London) and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which started in 1960, both had their peculiarities in programmes before the advent of the Commission in 1962. While the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, and University of Lagos followed suit in 1962 and later the University of Benin that joined in 1970.
Dr. Saliu, who chronicled that the NUC only came onboard in 1962 and became a statutory body in 1974, only had the power to superintend over the curriculum by the 1985 Minimum Education Standards Requirements Decree as Amended, Act 2004, which then placed the burden of academic regulations on the Commission leading to the development of the first MAS in 1989.
He said, the major review of the curriculum was in 2004, regarded as the BMAS where the outcome-based and prescriptive approaches of MAS in 1989 were both merged. The BMAS encapsulated such issues as philosophy/ objectives of the programme; the minimum floor space, studio and laboratory specification, libraries, among others. He disclosed that other reviews attempted in 2011 and 2018 could not produce any workable curriculum, leading to where the NUS is currently.
He informed the meeting that when Prof. Rasheed became the Executive Secretary in 2016; one of his major focuses was the re-engineering of the curriculum through NUC STRADVCOM, which was the second most important core in the NUC Act, which was curriculum review of the system. The vision was that the curriculum of the NUC would be among the best rated in Africa in terms of its relevance and global competitiveness.
He said curriculum review was also part of the African Union (2063) African Quality Assurance Framework goal and objective based on the Arusha Convention. He further informed the gathering that as the incumbent DAP, the Executive Secretary had given him a matching order that the curriculum of NUS must be reviewed before the end of first quarter 2021, but was delayed due to Covid-19 pandemic and disruptions of global activities. He however, expressed satisfaction that it would be concluded before the end of the first quarter of 2022, which is the reason for this face-to face meeting.
The DAP recounted that a multi-stakeholder approach was adopted in the management and process of the review with eminent professors of repute, representatives of professional bodies and the industry participating. He intimated the meeting that the CCMAS is expected to be launched in March this year.
The Director highlighted that the BMAS document which the NUC had as at 2018 was sent to the Committee of experts and the NUS in general with comments harvested from same, while curriculum of other world class universities were downloaded and compared with the ones of the NUS, just to ensure comparability in terms of quality.
He recalled that the online review commenced effectively in April 2021 and was just about to wind down with the current process. He noted that the expectations of the curriculum were that it would meet both national and international requirements with specific production of comparable graduates aligned to the 21st Century with ICT-oriented knowledge, artificial intelligence, skill acquisition and soft skills in the areas of entrepreneurship re-engineering, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities and innovative pedagogy. The other end of the process was the training and retraining of academics in line with the present realities that must be conversant with the teaching pedagogy.
Dr. Saliu also outlined that the major features of the new curriculum was the change of nomenclature from BMAS to CCMAS, which brings it at par with the global world, as no one identify with BMAS anywhere.
He told the gathering that NUC was working on handing over the development of curriculum back to Nigerian universities in line with global trend and had proposed to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities for a start of the process with a 50-50 provision, which was greeted with so much shock and trepidation and described as too drastic. He said the NUC decided that the universities would do 30 per cent, while NUC provide 70 per cent. There was also provision on the new curriculum for blended learning, which became very well pronounced with the Covid era, leading to massive shut down of the system. So the blended learning would give Universities opportunities to have a dual mode system with online classes.
The Committee were charged to do minor corrections, look at the unique features and include what they think was vital without changing the structure.
Meanwhile, at the end of the review meeting, the various disciplines Chairmen commented and updated the Commission on the various harmonization processes they carried out as contained in their modus operandi.
When prompted on the aspect of the training and retraining prog mme for academics to deliver on the new curriculum pedagogy, the Director Academic Planning, Dr. Saliu noted that this component would certainly be carried out after the curriculum launch.
At the ceremony include Pro-Chancellor of Federal University, Birnin-Kebbi, Prof. Brecketh Representative of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) Prof. Prof. Tope Topgun, some members of the NUC STADVCOM, Emeritus Prof. Nimi Briggs, who was the Chair of the curriculum sub-committee; former Minister of Education, Prof Ruqayatu Ahmed Rufa’I, OON, immediate past Deputy Executive Secretary, Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf and Emeritus Prof. Godwin Soglo, among others.