Commission and academics in row over new curriculum

A revised curriculum guide for Nigerian universities, known as the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS), has stirred up disagreement between the National Universities Commission (NUC) – the higher education regulatory body – and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Several curriculum experts who spoke to University World News picked holes in the new document, saying some courses were either omitted or misrepresented.

The NUC said it designed the CCMAS “to reflect 21st-century realities, in the existing and new disciplines and programmes in the Nigerian university system” and to replace the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS), which had been in use since 2007. The CCMAS captures 17 academic disciplines, up from the 13 in BMAS.

“In order to enrich the draft documents, copies of each discipline were forwarded to all critical stakeholders, including the relevant academic units in Nigerian universities, the private sector, professional bodies and the academies for their comments and input.

“These inputs, along with the curriculum of programmes obtained from some foreign and renowned universities, served as major working materials for the various panels constituted for that purpose,” the NUC noted on its website.

The commission said it is, therefore, optimistic that the CCMAS documents “will serve as a guide to Nigerian universities in the design of the curriculums for their programmes with regard to the minimum acceptable standards of input and process, as well as [a] measurable benchmark of knowledge, 21st-century skills and competences expected to be acquired by an average graduate of each of the academic programmes, for self, national and global relevance”.

But ASUU, in a statement signed by its president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, said the NUC undermined the role of university authorities in the process.

“It is inexplicable that the NUC prepackaged 70% [of the] CCMAS content [that] are being imposed on the Nigerian university system, leaving university senates, which are statutorily responsible for academic programme development, to work on only 30%.

“For example, there are no chemistry courses for students of BSc physics. Apart from departmental and general studies (GES/GST) courses, the 70% CCMAS has left out all other faculty or university courses like engineering mathematics for engineering students, statistics for science students, philosophy and sociology of education courses for education students, and so on. Almost all departments reported one major deficiency or the other in the CCMAS.

“The NUC should encourage universities to propose innovations for the review of their programmes. Proposals from across universities should then be sieved and synthesised by more competent expert teams to review the existing BMAS documents and-or create new ones as appropriate,” the statement said.

NUC defends CCMAS

Reacting to the ASUU’s statement, the Deputy Executive Secretary (Academics) of the NUC, Dr Noel Biodun Saliu, said the commission communicated with vice-chancellors over the CCMAS and incorporated feedback received into the document.

“Several virtual and on-site meetings were held to [inform] them [vice-chancellors] of the curriculum review, and provide them with updates from time to time. A huge number of comments were received, which were synthesised and incorporated into the respective programmes.

“How else would one get the universities involved in an exercise of this nature? Needless to say, the practice of getting and incorporating inputs from Nigerian universities has been the tradition of the NUC from 1989 to date,” Saliu said in a statement.

Going back to the drawing board?

Several experts told University World News the CCMAS was a product of “good intentions” executed without due diligence. They, therefore, called for a fresh review.

“[The] NUC should get experts from various fields and curriculum developers to come up with a model that is widely accepted,” said Ekuh Onimisi Abdullahi, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Ilorin. “A few experts shouldn’t be picked to design a curriculum on areas they may not have adequate knowledge of.”

Keziah Achuonye, professor of educational technology and curriculum studies, observed that the misrepresentation of “educational technology” as “technology of education” in the CCMAS was a reflection of low levels of consultation.

“If there [had been] proper consultation, they wouldn’t have made such a terrible mistake of taking the technology of education, which involves automobile, textile and other technical aspects to mean educational technology, which is about making learning efficient and comprehensive at all levels by using available resources,” Achuonye said.

“The solution will be to suspend it [CCMAS], continue with BMAS and then rework the CCMAS, by opening it up again and bringing in experts in various fields,” she added.

“Let us go back to the drawing board,” Nwani Akuma, a professor of curriculum studies at the Ebonyi State University, declared. “Where are we hurrying to? [The] NUC should let universities make proper representations through experts from different fields, and not [adopt] a fire-brigade approach.”