Secondary schools are mostly state or federally owned, although in 2001 the federal government began encouraging the return of former church mission schools. The federal government promised to continue paying teacher salaries. Generally, the federal government funds and manages two federal government colleges (secondary schools) in each state. In addition, each state owns and operates secondary schools. In 1996, there were 7,104 secondary schools with 4,448,981 students. The teacher-pupil ratio was approximately 32:1. The government pays most of the fees for students, but students must pay incidental costs and sometimes part of their board or other expenses that can amount to $200 a year, a considerable amount in a nation where the average annual income was only about $300 in 2000.
Students attend junior secondary school for grades seven through nine. At this point, the majority of students are at least 15-years-old and are no longer required to attend school. In the ninth grade, students take the Junior Secondary Certificate Examination (JSCE) to qualify for the limited number of openings in senior secondary schools. Those who do well on the exam may continue at the same institution or transfer to a different school if they qualify.
The language of instruction for all secondary school grades is English, except for special courses that require another language. Students study 9 to 12 subjects, including a core group that consists of mathematics, English language, a major Nigeria language (Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba), social studies, creative arts, integrated science, practical agriculture, religious studies (Christianity or Islam), and physical education. Depending on the school, students may select electives from courses such as introduction to technology, home economics, business studies, local crafts, and foreign languages (often Arabic or French).
Many of the subjects taken at the JSS level are offered in SSS, except in more depth. Students are streamed through testing and counseling into one of three areas of concentration: academic (science or humanities), technical/commercial, or teacher education. The core of required courses for all students includes English language, a Nigerian language, mathematics, science (physics, chemistry, and biology), humanities (literature, history, or geography), and either an agricultural science or a vocational subject. Students also select three more subjects from a wide range of electives depending on each school's resources. The more common electives are Christian or Islamic religion; business subjects such as economics, commerce, and accounting; foreign languages; computer science; fine arts; physical education; food and nutrition; home management; clothing and textile; applied electricity; auto mechanics; technical drawing; woodwork; and metalwork.
In their twelfth year, students take the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE). They are required to register for a minimum of seven and a maximum of nine subjects. English and mathematics examinations are mandatory. The government estimated that over 500,000 registered to take the SSCE in May/June 2001.
To receive their Secondary School Certificate (SSC or West African Senior Secondary School Certificate), students are evaluated by a formula that combines continuous assessment in their courses, which counts 30 percent, and by their scores on the SSCE, which counts 70 percent. Those students who want to apply for higher education but who do not score high enough on the SSCE may take the General Certificate Examination (GCE) in the fall of the following year to attempt to qualify for openings.
The SSCE is prepared and administered by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), an organization that has operated school examinations in several West African countries since 1954. In 1989, the SSCE replaced the West African General Certificate of Education O and A levels.
In 1999, the Nigerian government established the National Examination Council of Nigeria (NECO) to compete with the WAEC. The NECO first try at offering the SSCE, in June and July 2000, was considered a failure. The rivalry between the two testing organizations increased so much that by early 2001 there was much confusion among students over which organization's exam they should take. The issue was not resolved by the spring of 2001, but more students will likely choose WAEC examinations for several years, especially if WAEC follows up on its promise to upgrade its system with modern technology.
Although technical and vocational education is offered at several kinds of institutions, including some academic secondary schools, most technical and vocational students attend specialized secondary schools or colleges. The programs can be short, such as welding programs that take only a few months, to longer programs, such as auto mechanics that lasts three years. Usually, students finishing vocational courses are offered apprenticeships for training in specific crafts. Apprenticeship programs vary from six months to three years of work under close supervision. Some technical schools offer the entire six years of secondary education and prepare students to take the SSCE. The majority, however, take national exams in their specialties, such as the Federal Craft Certification Examination (FCCE) and the National Business and Technical Board Examination (NABTEB).
Another group of students who finish primary school go into teacher training colleges that cover the entire six years of secondary school. Successful students receive the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE), qualifying them to teach in grades one through nine and in technical colleges.
In an effort to promote Nigerian patriotism and discourage ethnic rivalry, the federal government established 63 Unity Secondary Schools around the country. These special schools use a quota system to admit students from all the states in the nation. The purpose is to bring together young boys and girls from many different ethnic groups to study and live together in harmony, so that in the future they might serve as good role models for others in the nation.
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