Professionalising Teaching In Nigeria


By Olalekan Olagunju

Attention has in recent times been focused on teacher’s professional duties, predominantly on duties in the classroom and the institutional life of the school. Regardless of financial resources available, an education system cannot function optimally without men and women to serve as teachers in schools, colleges, institutions and in the general administration system.

Whichever angle teaching is considered, it has remained an occupation adding value to the societies in all ramifications; while its legal backing should be examined holistically regardless of misgiving and misconceptions about teachers. Chambers Dictionary defines a profession as an occupation or job for which a person has received a specialised training or skill and follows as a career. On the other hand, a professional is someone who is learned or skilled in a particular job or occupation in which he/she has specialised and intends to practice throughout his working career, such as, a medical doctor, an engineer, lawyer, an artist or architect, etc.

The universal criteria setting a vocation apart as a profession can be listed as follows: theoretical and practical knowledge mastered fully by the practitioners; reasonably long training in the field; continuous practice; a regulatory body that licences and disciplines, as well as promotes the professional growth of practitioners and rendering qualitative services to the society by the practitioners among others.

Furthermore, the distinguishing characteristics of a true profession can be established on the following conditions; admission of members on equal footing, maintenance of members’ register, dues, and records which entails ranking and seniority; high standards of professional code of conduct, ethics and practice. In addition, members practice freely in accordance with existing laws and membership is restricted to those who fulfil the minimum qualification or are admitted by examination. Any profession that measures up to their billing will command high status and dignity, societal recognition/acceptance, job opportunity and security, job satisfaction, immense rewards and professional excellence.

In Nigeria, while some professions are mainly focused on trade union and professional excellence activities, others are simply concerned on improved professional practice.

The issue of professionalising teaching in Nigeria has been a herculean task for many decades. In the law profession for instance, after graduation from the university and completion of the Law School programme, lawyers are called to bar and admitted into the professional body NBA (Nigerian Bar Association), then licenced to practice. Entry levels in the teaching profession are not the same; although the minimum qualification is National Certificate of Education (NCE); others, Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.), Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) or Professional Diploma in Education (PDE)/TTC (Technical Teacher Certificate) etc.

Professional status of teachers among themselves, as matters of hierarchy has not been fully defined and this poses a problem.

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The class stratification has given birth to various unions and organizations; a factor that has worked against teachers’ professional growth for so long. The holy writ says: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. Currently, prominent professional bodies in the teaching profession include the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), established in 1931, National Association of Unity Schools; and subject based associations such as, National Association of Teachers of Technology (NATT), Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) and Visual Art Teachers Association of Nigeria (VATAN), Mathematical Association of Nigeria (MAN) among others.

To compound the unsavoury situation, the vocation has been hijacked by all comers, making teaching a dumping ground for birds of passage holding on to teaching for just a while as they seek jobs of their desires, or persons who failed to succeed in other vocations and perhaps those who wish to combine teaching with other businesses such as trading, domestic works, etc.

As a way forward, the Federal Government established a body known as Teacher Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) under Decree 31 of 1993.  The council is charged with the duty of determining who are teachers; determine standards of knowledge and skills to be attained by persons seeking to become registered as teachers, raise standards from time to time as circumstances permit; secure in accordance with the provision of the Act; the establishment and maintenance of a register of teachers and publication from time to time of the list of such persons; regulate and control the teaching profession in all ramifications; classify from time to time members of the teaching profession according to their level of training and qualification, etc. With the coming of TRCN, the long awaited dreams of regulating the profession and giving its rightful place, a dream of teachers is set to come to fruition.

Teachers on their part are expected to embrace this golden opportunity to be registered as a means of taking their rightful place among the prestigious professionals. It is gratifying that states such as Lagos, Ogun and Osun have given priority attention to teachers’ development on platforms of regular capacity building, career development and elevation to administrative position of Permanent Secretaries/Tutor Generals.

It is of utmost importance that professional bodies in the teaching profession should not limit themselves toward safeguarding their terms and condition of service, but also provide an informed platform for discussion of educational challenges, exert professional influence on the thinking of the government at all levels and the general public in respect of their educational needs and interests. This is a paramount duty of teachers in all places. To whom much is given much is expected.

Professionally, teachers should be competent in their areas of specialization/subject. They must update their knowledge regularly and demonstrate vibrant evidence of scholarship at all times. The professional qualities should include adequate training, good communication skills and ability/mastery of audio-visual media/materials and sound in the use of computers and Internet resources. In addition to qualification, they should be dedicated and committed to their duties, be willing to learn from others, be sympathetic, caring, orderly, patient, and lead by example or be role models and place high premium on the educational interests of the pupils/students first.

Consequently, teachers at all levels of education system (public/private), should comply with the rules and regulations of the Teacher Registration Council of Nigerian (TRCN) to be duly registered and licensed in order to fully enjoy accrued benefits of their profession. To cap it, teachers should make integrity, competence, innovation and excellence their watch words.

•Olagunju is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja