Poor Funding not the Root Cause of Declining Standard of Education in Nigeria – According to Study

According to a study by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili‏ when she was the Minister of Education in Nigeria, the poor funding of education in Nigeria is not the root cause of declining standard  of education in the country.

The rest of this article is a compilation of her tweets culled from a Twitter Trend where she discussed this Study and her findings.

…in my time as Minister of Education, Almost EVERYONE said the Problem in Education was “Poor Funding”. Was it? Is it?

As a young professional, I was once privileged to hear Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore say: “We found a few right things that we needed to do and just kept on doing them well”.

It helped shape my thinking about Solutions? Yes, but it did more in shaping my thinking on Problems!

The more the voices within Education Ministry and sector as well as the wider public screamed, “Give more Funding to Education”, the deeper that I as Minister sought for evidence that the problem was lack of money. There had to be a simple way to think of it.

We investigated the Causality – that is, the cause and effect – between poor state of Education and Funding [in Nigeria]. Don’t be thrown off by the Big Sounding word, Causality Analysis. It is “simply a way to describe how different events relate to one another.

Suppose there are 2 events A and B. If B happens because A happened, then people say that A is the cause of B, or that B is the effect of A.”

What we did was very simple: We collected the data for annual Funding for Education and juxtaposed with the West Africa School Certificate Exam (WASCE) performance of Nigerian students over a period of a decade. We sought to see if the movement (increase or reduction) in size of Funding led to increase or decrease in Pass Rate.

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This slide captures some of the Funding Data for the Causality Analysis. Can you see and measure the rate of growth in nominal value of funding? Note also that at that time, Education’s Budget was almost always equal to Fund Released or “famously cash-backed”. | Image Credit: Oby Ezekwesili‏ @obyezeks
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The Federal Government (FG) annual budget on the previous slide was often complimented by grants from ETF (Education Trust Fund) and UBEC (Universal Basic Education Commission) as seen on this slide. | Image Credit: Oby Ezekwesili‏ @obyezeks

That causality analysis next analysed WASCE Pass Rates.

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Our analysis of the trend of Performance of the Nigerian students that participated in the sub-regional Exam Certificate known as WASCE and administered by WAEC was sobering. This slide brought Trend in Education Funding and Trend in WASCE performance together.| Image Credit: Oby Ezekwesili‏ @obyezeks

The decline in WASCE performance had started more than two decades when Nigeria began to record less than average of 65% of students fielded for WASCE passing with Credits in 5 Subjects that included English and Mathematics. The decline kept on until it reached below 30% some years!

We decided to interrogate deeper, the evident inverse relationship where the more the Education Budget grew, the sharper the Decline in % of students that were successful in the WASCE. How deeper? We reduced the scale of our causality analysis to Unity Schools.

Unity Colleges were set up to promote the laudable objectives of educating young Nigerians from all over the country in an atmosphere that would:

  • provide total education
  • entrench the values of national unity
  • Promote the pursuit of excellence in achievement and moral virtues.

The first set of 11 Unity Schools was established in 1973. These schools were in addition to Kings College & Queens College Lagos, which were long under FG proprietorship upon being established in 1909 and 1927 respectively. Unity Schools used to set the bar of EXCELLENCE.

The 11 Unity Schools of 1973 expanded more over the decades of the 80s and 90s. They literally became part of the tools of the political and bureaucratic shenanigans of those decades of anomie in our country. The number grew and reached 102, spread across 36 States & the FCT.

70-80% Budget of Federal Ministry of Education (FME) (not the same as Budget of Education Sector which is broader & made up of ministry+parastatals+federal universities, polytechnics, colleges of education&other institutes) was for Unity Schools(US). Unity Schools had 82% of FME Staff.

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What do you see here? Could you read this level of decline? The decades of the 80s and 90s began and entrenched the decline of Unity Schools but the country hardly noticed. When Professor Fafunwa tried calling attention to it, it was futile. | Image Credit: Oby Ezekwesili‏ @obyezeks
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Not just WASCE but even NECO performance by Unity School students was woeful! I mean, how could this happen? Just how did our country trash a well-intended idea to the point where it became unrecognizable? | Image Credit: Oby Ezekwesili‏ @obyezeks
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This slide here contains one of the most vexing data in our Data-Based, Data-Driven & Data-Empowered Empowered Education Reforms of that era. There was no way I was going to ignore it and back down from reforming the noble idea of Unity Schools that had mutated to a Dysfunction. | Image Credit: Oby Ezekwesili‏ @obyezeks

Key Lesson: We had evidence at 2 levels. The broader nationwide analysis of correlation between increased funding for Education and WASCE performance. Then the narrower and laser-sharp focus on Unity Schools owned and funded by FG gave us Evidence that “Money was not THE Problem”.

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Image Credit: Oby Ezekwesili‏ @obyezeks
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