Educational Policy and its Relevance

Different meanings have been given to the concept of policy by different scholars. Most often than not, the concept of policy is either used interchangeably or confused as being synonymous with other similar concepts like strategy, rules, regulations and procedures. In this wonderful article, we shall be reviewing the History of Educational Policies and its Relevance.

Policy is a guide or plan of action designed to achieve the organizational goals, while strategies or procedures are the instruments which administrators employ to translate policies into specific course of actions.


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Etymologically, the concept of policy is multi-rooted but basically, it is a fourteenth century recorded word. From Latin “Politica” representing the State, civil administration and Greeks ‘Ploliteia” meaning State administration, government and citizenship.

According to Egonmwan (1991), policy is simply a government program of action. Kalejaye (1998) defined body of principles underlying the activities of an organization.

Educational policy concerns the documentation of definite course of action adopted by the government or its representatives, on issues and problems considered expedient in education. Education policy may take the form of ordinances, codes, laws, acts, edicts or decrees.

Historical Development of Education Policies

From the historical root, the development of policies in Nigerian education has transformed from the pre-illiterate era to the presents, and has passed many stages. There are many policies in the annals (reports of the work of a learned body) of educational development in Nigeria.

These policies are classified according to the following stages.

  1. The Era of Exclusive Missionary Enterprise (1842 -1900).
  2. The Era of Dual (Mission and Government) control of Education (1900 – 1951).
  3. The Era of Regionalization in Nigeria Education (1951 – 1966).
  4. The Era of education under the military Regime (1920 – 1999).
  5. The Era of post 1999 Reforms in Nigerian Education.

The Era of Exclusive Missionary Enterprise (1842 – 1900)

Nigeria as at 1842 – 1900 had not been colonized by the British masters, he Christian missionaries that opened and operated school in Nigeria did so through the extension of friendship extended to them by the rules of the communities where they established schools as some of them strife complete rejections from the local people in most cases.

The Church Missionary Society (CMS) established the first secondary school in the Bariga district of Lagos, Nigeria otherwise called CMS Grammar School on June 6th 1859). The united Presbyterian church of Scotland mission established by Hope Waddell Training Institute in Calabar in 1895.

The Roman Catholic Mission established St. Gregory’s College, Lagos in 1928, and Christ the King College, Onitsha in 1933. Each mission adopted her rules of training, and condition of service for her teachers until 1882 when the colonial government shoed interest on educational matters through the act of various educational matters through the act of various education ordinances.

The principles that guided the operations and policies of education in Nigeria during the mission era were the same, irrespective of coloration.

Christian mission’s primary purpose of education was to spread the Christian faith and to convert to Christianity through the use of education. Two ordinances were passed during this period and they were the stepping stone to colonial education.

The 1882 Education Ordinance

Education legislation began in Nigeria with the introduction of the 1882 Education ordinance for British West African territories that is Lagos, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone and Gambia. It prescribed the following criteria.

  1. Award of grant for organization and discipline, with special grant for schools which obtained high percentage of passes, and thus attained high standard of general excellence.
  2. A capitation grant for each subject.
  • A capitation grant in proportion of the average attendance at school.
  1. Other provisions of the ordinance are: annual evaluation of pupils, method of granting teachers certificates a system of grant-in-aid.
  2. The establishment of a General Board of education with the power to establish local boards. The ordinance also recommended that on-third of the salary of the inspector of schools for the Gold Coast should be paid by the Lagos Colony. Lagos and Gold Coast were jointly administered.

The 1887 Education Ordinance

Consequent upon the separation of Lagos colony from the Gold Coast in 1886, it became mandatory that a purely Nigerian Education ordinance be enacted. The ordinance was enacted in 1887. Given below are the provisions of the 1887 education ordinance for the colony of Lagos.

  1. Grants-in-aid to schools and teachers training institutions.
  2. The power of board to make, alter and revoke rules for regulating the procedures of grants-in-aid.
  • Certificate of teachers.
  1. Admission into an assisted school of pauper and alien children assigned to it by the Governor.
  2. Establishment of scholarships for secondary and technical education.

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The Era of Dual (Mission and Government) Control of Education (1900 – 1951)

In 1900 most part of Nigeria falls under the British crown. The hallmark of this ‘fall was the amalgamation of the Southern Nigeria with the protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1914 and Lord Fredrick Lugard was appointed Governor General of Nigeria.

Lord Lugard sought the unification of the education departments of the north and the south in order to pursue a uniform educational policy.

He drafted an educational ordinance that would ensure that English Language is taught in all schools across the country and would become the Lingua Franca of the country. Some of the policies of this period include the following.

The 1916 Education Ordinance

The 1916 education ordinance and its education code were approved on 21st and 24th December, 1916. They were the result of Lord Lugard’s efforts to cater for the whole country as education was based on good character and usefulness to both the individual and community.

Objectives of the 1916 Education ordinance and code training on the formation of character and habits of discipline.

Co-operation between government and mission

Rural as well as Urban Education

The 1926 Education Ordinance

This ordinance was meant to increase government expenditure on education and to exercise more firm “control over educational development in Nigeria”. It provided the adaption of formal education to local conditions.

The 1948 Education Ordinance

The 1948 ordinance decentralized educational administration created a central board of education and four regional boards that is those of East, West, Lagos and North. It also recommended the establishment of local education committees and local education authorities.

The Era of Regionalization in Nigeria Education (1951 – 1959)

By 1946, Arthur Richards had become the Governor General of Nigeria. He thus introduced a constitution after his name. The ordinance was an attempt to regionalize education in the country for the purpose of creating healthy rivalry among the three regions for a rapid development in education.

By 1951, Sir John Macpherson became the Governor General of Nigeria. It was his constitution that accorded the three regions their autonomy and vested them with the power to enact and legislate the regional laws for the regulation of education in their various regions.

Some of the educational policies of this era include:

  • The 1952 Education Ordinance: The 1952 education ordinance was introduced so as to enable each of the three regions to develop its educational policies and system.
  • The Regional Education Law of 1954: Nigeria became a federation of three (Eastern, Western and Northern) as a result of the adoption of the 1954 constitution. The regions had the power of making laws for its territory and citizens. Education ordinance in 1957, the system of regional laws in education was given impetus and these necessitated the birth of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) in the West in 1955.

The Era of Military Takeover of Education in Nigeria (1970 – 1999)

There was an outbreak of the Civil War between thirty moths (July 1967 to 15th January 1970), this was caused the destruction of schools, buildings, churches and road in the Eastern region not to mention the loss of lives.

During this period, the system of education in the country was ground to a halt. Academic activities were brought to a standstill and no significant progress was made in education. The military government of the Eastern region immediately swing into action to rescue education in the region.

She enacted the public Education Edict of 1970 by this edict all schools owned and managed by voluntary agencies, private individuals, Christian bodies and local government which made up of about 80% of the total existing schools became centrally controlled.

The most significant change of the period were the take-over of school from the missionaries by the government resulting in a unified educational system based on the 7-5-2-3 educational policy which replaced the 8-5-2-3 educational policy.

The National Policy on Education 1977

This policy on education specifies the type and quality of instruction that should be provided so as to help learned at all levels of education to achieve the aims of permanent literacy, numeracy and effective citizenship. After the educational policies of the school republic 1979 – 2983, follows the Education edict of 1983.

The Education Edict of 1983 – 1999

This edict was promulgated by the Federal military government to guide and regulate the conduct of education. Such include Decree No. 16 of 1985, which was on National minimum standards and establishment of institutions.

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Scheme 1999

Nigeria returned to back to civilian rule in 1999 with president Olusegun Obasanjo as the Country’s new president. In education, the UBE was not the first attempt of the federal government at providing free education to all her citizenry.

The UBE can be regarded as an offshoot of the universal primary education scheme which was launched in the country in 1976 by General Olusegun Obasanjo. The objective of UBE was providing free and universal basic education for every Nigerian Child of school-going age.

The Education Laws of 1999 – 2004

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Decrees of 1999 states the objectives of education of Nigeria as contained in the 1979 Constitution, which includes the inculcation of national consciousness and unity, the training of the mind in the understanding of the world and the inculcation of the right types of values and attitude for the survival of the individual and the Nigerian society.

The Era of Post 1999 Reforms in Nigerian Education

Beginning from 1999, the Nigerian government has made concerted effort at ensuring educational development in the country. According to Babaola (2009) and Omelowa (2007) some of these reforms are as follows:

  1. The 9-3-4 Education System
  2. Basic Education Act
  3. Child Right Act
  4. Operation Reach All Primary Schools (ORAPS)
  5. Operation Reach All Secondary Schools (ORASS)
  6. Tracking Assets for Progress (TAP)
  7. Adopt-A-Public School
  8. Vocational Enterprise Institution (VEI)
  9. Innovative Enterprise Institute (IEIS)
  10. Read to be Educated Advanced and Developed (READ)

The above reforms and initiatives in education embarked upon by the government were to stimulate national growth and development. The government by this reforms aims at providing education to all Nigeria irrespective of age, sex, religion, occupation and location.

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The Relevance of Policies To Educational Processes and Practices

  1. Policies are important to educational process and practices because they help a school establish rules and procedures and create standard of quality for learning and safety, as well as expectations and accountability, without these schools would lack the structure and educational needs of the students.
  2. Policies establish standards and help hold schools and educators accountable to the public.
  3. Policies are important for relating education to the community and making it responsible to the larger world.
  4. Policies help to determine procedures for how school operations are handled down to every minute detail, so that educators, staff and students can know what is expected and act accordingly. It saves time and prevents confusion and unifies the school.


IN conclusion, one can see that education policies did not start today but from the era of missionary enterprise (1842 – 1900) when the church missionaries came to Nigeria and established school which they made policies that govern the activities or operation of the school.

They laid the foundation of educational policies that our leaders implement into the educational system which aid to the smooth running of our educational practices.



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