Some 33,000 public school teachers took competency test in Kaduna State in October and 21,700 failed. Nasir El-Rufai, governor of the state, blamed a politicised hiring process for the 66 percent failure rate and vowed to clean up the system.
This might not have come as a surprise to people familiar with the matter because only 65 percent of current primary school teachers have the minimum qualifications. Yet high regulatory barriers limit the growth of new colleges of education through private sector investment and the market remains highly fragmented.
From El-Rufai’s observation, the hiring process was faulty. Another question worth addressing, however, is how much of training teachers get once recruited. Fix the recruiting process, fix continuing education, everyone says. But how?
One way to resolve this challenge is through harmonised public-private partnerships. For instance, in cases where a state government provides infrastructure, it could engage private low-cost school operators to manage the schools, such as the Bridge Academies which is already operating technology-driven low-cost schools in Lagos.
In the right circumstances and for the right reasons, there is an opportunity for governments to improve education outcomes, such as access, costs and quality, by partnering with the private sector.
An immediate teacher competency audit is needed in all 36 states of the federation and state governments need to start talking to private sector education consultants and partnering with them to resolve this alarming situation. Something similar is happening in Osun State, where the government has invited a private sector consulting firm to help improve education outcomes.
This is all the more urgent because Nigeria already has an acute shortage of teachers and will require 400,000 more primary school teachers between 2012 and 2030.
The writer can be reached at stephen.onyekwelu@ businessdayonline.com or 08137433034.