The New Curriculum Controversy: Unveiling the Third Perspective and Opportunity to Spread Christianity

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New Curriculum

An element in the new curriculum developed by the Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) has been generating serious controversy. Although, the fragile unity among ethnic nationals in Nigeria has never ceased from experiencing onslaught by forces that would rather have it dissolved, current situation seems quite ugly, because it involves the education system versus religious sentiments. No thanks to our propaganda machine – social and online news media where certain individuals push out distorted information, and undiscerning others spread it via copy and paste.

Falsehood about the New Curriculum

  • That the whole secondary school is affected in the controversy
  • That Christian Religious Studies was removed and replaced with Islam/Arabic studies
  • That the curriculum in question was authored by the current government regime
  • That students will be forced to offer Islamic studies where French teachers are unavailable.

Debunking the Falsehood about the New Curriculum

  • That the whole secondary school is affected in the controversy is not true. Only the Basic Education levels, up to JSS 3 is involved. CRS and IRS remain substantive subjects, either of which should be offered by students at senior secondary school levels (SSS) in the field of Humanities.
  • That Christian Religious Studies was removed and replaced with Islam/Arabic studies is not true. Both CRS and IRS are to be taken as themes (call it modules or topics if you like) under the new subject named Religion and National Values (RNV). Separate classes will be run for Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Studies themes based on respective student’s believes.
  • That the curriculum in question was authored by the current government regime is also not true. This is because NERDC which is an agency under the Federal Ministry of Education is responsible for continuous research and development of education policies at the Basic and Senior Secondary School levels. The new curriculum was introduced in 2011 and was gradually implemented till the old one was totally phased out recently. So, the current regime which came to being in 2015 couldn’t have been the author of the curriculum. They don’t even have any strong plan for education.
  • That students will be forced to offer Islamic studies where French teachers are unavailable. This is somewhat misleading. What sensational writers could have said is – students being forced to offer Arabic language where French teachers are not available, despite that, Arabic language is generally perceived as akin to Islamic Studies. But the latter is also not true, because Arabic language is the only optional subject in the curriculum, French is one of the minimum nine subjects to be offered by all, not optional. In essence, students have their volition to offer or not offer Arabic language.

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What is Really Wrong with the New Curriculum?

Firstly, let’s examine the new curriculum subjects for Basic Education (JSS 1-3) as published on NERDC’s website. I will lay emphasis only on the subjects, pertinent to this discussion. Students are to take minimum of nine subjects and maximum of ten subjects.

  1. English Studies
  2. Mathematics
  3. Nigerian Languages: Schools are free to select such Nigerian language to be taught.
  4. Basic Science and Technology (BST)
  5. Religion and National Values (RNV)

    • Listed components will serve as themes in RVN curriculum
    • Contents are planned for all children to take Social Studies, Civic Education, and Security Education themes
    • Separate classes should be run for Christian Religious Studies theme and Islamic Studies theme
    • Consumer education and Disaster Risk Reduction Education are infused into the Civic Education, Social Studies and Security Education themes.
    • Create enabling environment for the subject in all schools
    • Important for the preservation of our cultural heritage and fostering creativity.
  6. Cultural & Creative Arts
  7. Arabic Language: Optional
  8. Pre-Vocational Studies
  9. Business Studies (Junior)
  10. French Language:

    • Nigeria’s second Official Language
    • Nigeria is surrounded by Francophone countries
    • The study of French will make our children more competitive at the global level.

Inclusion of Arabic language in the curriculum, though optional, without revealing the justification for doing so is not right. When I took time to peruse WASSCE syllabus for Arabic language, about 90% borders purely on the language and its communication. The remaining fraction reflects "Poetry and Prose in the Islamic Period" under which sermons of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) and clerics in the Islamic faith feature. Indeed, I don’t know how Arabic language will be thought without reference to the institution that popularized the culture. While this is not impossible, the situation in Nigeria is volatile. So, adherent of the other religion cannot but feel that something is fishy, if not, why not teach History instead?

By implication, authors and publishers of those subjects face the threat of recording loss. They’ll even lack motivation to reinvent their contexts owing to the doubtful outcome of this controversial situation. Hypothetically, that their displeasure lie somewhere behind the propaganda on online media may not be out of place.

Unveiling the Third Perspective about the New Curriculum

In the third perspective, Christians under the auspices of CAN, could see this as an opportunity to reach more Arabic speaking world with their message. If the Northern section of the country would refuse English studies due to the purported western influence, but they won’t mind being educated in Arabic language; then it’s an opportunity to publish Bibles in Arabic, sponsor Christian researchers & educators in Arabic language, and get actively involved in the game. This perspective is about taking advantage of the message in the mess, with a high sense of mission!

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Related post: Why We Added Arabic Language to the New Curriculum

Christian Court in Nigeria – Diverse Perspectives!


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