Non-Formal Education: Major Avenue For Encouraging Children–In– Science And Technology In Nigeria

By | July 24, 2014
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I. A. Agih

Department of History

Kogi State College of Education, Ankpa




The stage of development of any nation depends to a great extent on the level of resourcefulness of her people, which in turn is a direct reflection of the quality of training and development in education in that society. In Nigerian society, some form of education predated the western formal system of education. In this system of education, unlike the formal system of education that is broad, structured and classroom based, the training of the young ones was based on the apprenticeship, one to one and the emphasis was principally to meet the needs of the immediate society. The society has long realized that the non-formal system of education is still relevant as a means of transition phase to modern technology and for over all sustainable economic development in the 21st century Nigeria. Since our main concern is with the encouragement of children in science and technology education from within using non-formal education system, the article intends at stimulating the process through the merging of non-formal education with academic qualification. This is crucial in paving way for improvement and efficiency in science and technology institutions in Nigeria.    




Technology is a critical variable in any mode of production and its stage of development is therefore very important in understanding the history of a people. Civilizations have always been assessed in terms of technology employed by man. The question is what has been the main reasons responsible for the failure of Nigeria to attain high technological level. Two principal reasons among others have been attributed to this factor, among which is the failure to approach science and technology development from within and a lack of improvement on the existing non-formal system. The call is for inward looking in order to promote indigenous technology side by side with the modern science and technology.

In realizing the importance of science and technology in overall national development, successive governments of Nigeria have been making several efforts in promoting science and technology education in this country. For example the universal access to a functional education has been the prime target of the successive governments of Nigeria over the years which has witnessed the overwhelming education expansion as in the form of Universal Basic Education (U.B.E). In the 1950s, there was a universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UNESCO which asserted that everyone has a right to education. In the same vein, the fundamental principle of the Millennium Development Goals and Education For All (E.F.A), was for an improved quality in human life in all society by the end of the Millennium, using Education – For – All as a means.

In line with the April 2000, Education – For – All commitment, by World Conference on Education For All, 1990, the Nigerian government in her National Policy on Education (NPE, 2009), section 1, subsection C posited that every Nigerian child shall have a right to equal Educational opportunities irrespective of any real or imagined disabilities, “each according to his or her ability”. This policy went further to stress in section 6:31 that “mass literacy, adult and non-formal education, to encourage all forms of functional education be given to youths and adults outside formal school system such as functional literacy, remedial and vocational education. The Nigerian system of education the 6-3-3-4 was also aimed at among other things in preparing students for practical skills in science and technology.

The above positions taken by the federal government of Nigeria National Policy on Education 2009, is an indication of her willingness to have not just mass education but qualitative which will enable her citizens participate productively in national development. Unfortunately, these efforts have not yielded the desired result. This failure has been attributed to various factors among which is the neglect of non-formal education as a major transition phase to modern science and technology as compared to formal system of education. This has delayed the process of acquiring technology over the years. Science and technology education acquisition by children could be enhanced when there is a strong partnership between modern technology and the indigenous system. Fortunately Nigeria is not only blessed with natural resources, but human resources as well therefore there is a prospect that Nigeria with her wherewithal coupled with political will, using our non-formal educational system as a means can empower our children scientifically and technologically in the 21st century.

Therefore the long term solution to this challenge of promoting technological innovation is a relevant scientific and technological education which has a strong link with indigenous system instead of taking the path of a call for technology transfer.

Concept of Education

The concept, education, appears difficult to have a common definition. The difficulty of precisely defining education may be due to its growing qualities and constant changes. Education, whether formal or non-formal is very crucial to any society for the preservation of the life of its members and the maintenance of social structure (F.R.N, 2009) defines education as “the process by which every society attempts to preserve and upgrade the accumulated knowledge, skills and attitude in its cultural setting and heritage in order to foster its growth continuously”. In this sense, education is a continuous process in lifetime. According to (Fafunwa, 1989:17): Education is:

the aggregate of all the process by means of which a person develops ability, skills and other forms of behaviour of (positive and sometimes negative) value in the society in which he lives.

By this definition, Education can be understood as the totality of experiences over one’s life time. In other words, education is not a single process but an aggregate of activities, which enable a person to grow in adaptive behaviour, in terms of knowledge and skills that enables him contribute to the development of society. Education in this sense includes a preservation and transmission of culture, a preparation for life and continuous process of growth through life. Education can as well be defined as systematic training and instruction designed to transmit knowledge and skills in individuals. This definition seems to embrace formal and non-formal education.

This brings us to the terms, formal and non-formal education. Education is said to be formal if it is structured, classroom based and curriculum oriented. In this system, there is specific programme of activities to be carried out within a specified period of time and there is a conscious division between teachers and students in teaching and learning process.

On the other hand, non-formal education is called with various names – formal, non-formal, vocational, apprenticeship system, primarily because it is not a classroom based type of training. The apprentices unlike the formal system of education are usually trained through several non-structured methods e.g. one – to – one. Some merely by watching the senior apprentices and the master at work, for example, the artisans, craftsmen, black smiths, weavers, etc.

Non-formal education involves the array of learning activities going on outside the formal school setting. These include programme for the youth and adults who have no formal schooling. According to (Aderinto, 1984, P. 112), non-formal education is “a training institution that exists for the skills acquisition for the low level technological manpower, when adequately trained will provide the technological base for such development”. According to NPE, 2009, “it is the aspect of education which leads to the acquisition of practical and applied skills as well as basic scientific knowledge”. There is need for Nigerian society to create an enabling environment for technological culture of adaptation. According to Ivowi (1983) “our society does not truly possess modern technology as part of its technological development from within through the traditional method of acquiring the relevant skills as basis for modern science and technology.”


Status of informal Education in Pre-Colonial Nigeria Society

The National Policy on Education 2009, defines technical education as “that aspect of education which leads to the acquisition of practical and applied skills as well as basic scientific knowledge”. In consonant with this definition, Gambo, (1982), sees technical education as:

The aspect of education, which involves the acquisition of techniques and application of the knowledge of the science for the improvement of man’s living standard. In other words, it is the branch of knowledge that deals with the industrial arts, applied science, engineering, etc.

If one goes with the above definition, some form of technological education pre-existed the Western formal education in Nigeria. In this system of education, the training of the young people was mainly meant to meet the direct needs of the immediate society. It grew out of the society and was designed to promote the most rational use of material and social resources. They were in form of blacksmithing, smelting, iron making, pottery and so on.

Today most, if not all the developed countries had a break-through of technological development by modernizing and perfecting their indigenous apprenticeship systems. The pre-colonial Nigerian school has been ignored therefore the tendency to develop it tends to decline. Our wrong belief that there is short-cut to technological development by jumping over crucial stages and starting from top, is self – defeating. There is therefore a need to give more serious attention to non formal education if we are to over come what some other people have aptly describe as the difficulty of transferring technology to non-technologically oriented society. The colorary to this is that the Federal Government of Nigeria in her NPE 2009 stated among other things in the fourth National Development Plan that:

In the development of human resources for science and technology, high priority would be placed on capacity to absorb and adapt imported technology and to give the type of technology required for the identification of the country’s natural resources.

The greater part of non-formal education in pre-colonial Nigeria was acquired by the young from the examples and behaviour of the elders in the society. The crucial aspect of pre-colonial Nigerian education was its relevance to Nigerians. It was collective and progressive development in conformity with the successive stages of mental and development of the child. Such education was in practice, all dated back to communal time in Nigeria, and were to be found on the eve of colonialism. The argument by some Nigerians that Nigeria traditional society lacked scientific temper, is an attempt to hold those at the receiving end of the present global arrangement responsible for their suffering. Therefore, knowledge of the past is of essential importance for a scientific knowledge of the present and a pre-vision of the future. The level of development of productive forces in the various part of the third world, Nigeria inclusive, remains economically and technologically backward alongside the developed countries with their modern industrial enterprise and latest scientific and technical facilities. Colonialism deliberately perpetuates the technological dependency and drag on the developing countries, scientific and technical progress.

As the mode of production improved a new feature also emerged within the educational pattern. For example, with the division of labour, it became necessary to create guild system for passing down the techniques. According to Rodney (1972:293), in the areas of production such as leather making, iron working, cloth manufacturing, pottery, moulding, all testify to the standard of traditional education achieved in Africa Nigeria inclusive before the colonial intrusion. Generally therefore, according to the author, the Europeans did not introduce education into Africa, Nigeria inclusive, rather they introduced new formal-education system which partly supplemented those which were there before. But it was not that which grew out of our environment nor a system designed to give young people confidence and pride as members of the Nigerian society.

Nigerian Science and technology experience have shown that rather than making progress technologically we have been retrogressing, while other attributed the failure to be absence of relevant institutions within which technologies  could be received and adapted. Perhaps the most crucial problem is the failure to approach technological development from within. That is why it has been observed by Ivowi (1983) that “for a society like ours that has almost completely abandoned its traditional technology and has become highly receptive of the produce of modern technology. It is not easy for its citizens to acquire technology”.

One way a country can catch up with others is by borrowing and domesticating foreign technology. Rodney (1990) has rightly pointed out most of man’s major scientific discoveries worldwide have been separately discovered in different parts by different peoples. That, once a principle has been discovered, it spreads or diffused to other people. The only non-European society that borrowed effectively from Europe is Japan. The young Japanese borrowed technology from Europe and successfully domesticated it. Therefore, there must be socio-economic structures capable of making use of that technology and internalizing it.

Nigerians ceased to set indigenous cultural goals and standards and lost full command of training young members of the society. Those undoubtedly are major steps backward. That means Nigerians now have doubt about their capacity to transform and develop their natural environment. In the words of Rodney, (1990), colonialism induced Africa iron-workers to abandon the process of extracting iron from the soil and to concentrate instead on working scraps of metals imported from Europe”. He went further to say that in the period of African development, Nigeria inclusive, preceding colonialism, some areas moved faster than others and provided the nuclei for growth, northern Nigeria was one of those and it went to sleep during colonial period. Instead of speeding up growth, colonial activities such as mining and cash-crop farming speeded the decay of traditional craft technology.


Prospects of Children Acquiring Science and Technology Education through non-formal Education in Nigeria

Technology has been defined at various times by different authors, technology according to Ogunranti (1981), “is a systematic integrated process of delimitating and analyzing problems, devising, implementing, managing, controlling and evaluating situations to the problems.” One of the fundamental objectives of non-formal  education is to provide basis and preparing children for more sophisticated  science and technology knowledge. In this sense, every society has one form of technology or the other. An instance of Nigeria’s traditional technological education is of great importance. For example, the Benin kingdom as well as Nupe and Ife were reputed for their carving and bronze works. There are availability of both raw material and skills. Throughout Nigeria history, some traditional technology stood the test of time.

Though the majority of the population tilled the soil, there were skilled artisans who made metals. The greater quantity of goods and services produced were based on greater skills and human inventiveness. Therefore, the argument that pre-colonial Nigeria was in a state of backwardness in the area of science and technology as a result of lacking skilled personnel to develop is false. It is true to say that now Nigeria on her own cannot construct complex structures as roads, bridges, houses, hydroelectric stations, mechanized agriculture, but all these are the effect and not the cause of technology. Traditionally, every society and various communities had always educated their young ones according to their values and norms. This system of education was aimed at enabling the young ones to acquire the life pattern of their society. Education therefore produces the attitude, skills, knowledge and personalities upon which modern technology, industrialization and organized development and production depend.

Manufacture, literally means, things made by hands, and Nigerian manufacture in the sense had advanced appreciably. The principal change in production forces is that which comprises new techniques, tools and skills in dealing with the environment. In addition to new machinery, a most decisive factor in the growth of industry is the change over from domestic production to the factory system on an extended scale. The guild system was associated with this stage of passing on the skills by training apprentices. This is where non-formal education has become important intermediary stage for scientific and technological education; Nigeria passed through this stage of learning. This system gave rise to more specialization and permits skills, power, knowledge, wealth to pass on into the hands of the young people.

Before colonialism, the indigenous Nigerians designed and operated their own techniques of dealing with their environment. After the imposition of colonialism, indigenous craft workers and artisans whose industry and trade were destroyed found no alternative technical employment in the new industries. This means that colonialism blocked transition to an industrial evolution. Whereas in Britain, when new machines had thrown artisans out of employment in a place as Lancashire, the artisans, found more challenging in technical and engineering employment. In fact, as expected, independent artisans returned to factory to master different skills. With political independence, Nigeria is faced with the challenge to bridge the gap. Rodney (1990) rightly pointed out that “the surviving craftsmanship has been turned towards attracting tourists rather than meeting the needs of Nigerian people”. The western education system has assigned low value to non-formal education and high value to white collar bureaucratic work. The colonial economy offered discriminatory compensation to those who had literary (or bookish) education as opposed to those with non-formal skills, this must be reversed. However, education, non-formal or formal is a powerful force which can transform Nigeria from being technologically dependent to self – sustaining nation.

To succeed, there is a need to provide people who can apply scientific knowledge to improve and find a solution to the scientific problems of our children. It enables our young men and women have an intelligent understanding of the increasing complexity of technology. Thus technical education based on non-formal system of education is expected to form the basis for technological break-through for Nigeria. In order to achieve this objective, there ought to be a linkage between non-formal education and academic qualification as this would enhance the sound scientific and technological foundation of children. The marriage of the two would create room for the spirit of innovation and inventiveness.

Nigerian youths should be discouraged from patronizing foreign goods, culture and ideas that work against indigenous technological growth. However, borrowing technology can be possible and useful where such technology has a chance of being adapted and adopted to the traditional system. Nigerian youths should be taught to imbibe the art of learning from what they see and using what they learn to solve daily problems. In the early seventies, just after the Nigerian Civil war, the technological revolution swept across the Eastern part of the country. The easterners as a matter of necessity started manufacturing local products ranging from automobile spare parts and electric parts. It could be called the era of “Ibo made”, in Nigerian market. But Nigerians failed to realize this at that time. Rather than encouraging these few talented ones that brought technical renaissance to the country, Nigerians out of ignorance refused to patronize them in favour of foreign imported goods. It is lamentable how Nigeria has failed to utilize such generation of technological revolution. By now, they could have perfected their skills. It was such a costly mistake that posterity would look back and lament over our leaders’ attitude.


Non-formal Education: A Pre-Requisite for Technological take-off in Nigeria

From the moment man progressed from the use of stone implements to iron technology, he has become a technologist and therefore constantly turns his attention to anything that will make his labour efficient and productive. The people who are used to depend on foreign technology for a long time like the case of Nigerians may tend to accept their fate and attribute this technological inventions to genius or innate ability that is inherent in special group of people, though this might be true to some extent, since some people may be talented than others. However, according to Etuk (1984) genius is 2% inspiration and perspiration 98%.

Technology, according to Goulet (1979) as cited by Etuk (1979) is “the fruit of discipline cumulative and systematic research… There must be a desire to improve upon what one does, to perfect it and to excel it” science on the other hand, concerns itself with the problem of ‘knowing how’. Thus both science and technology are the two sides of the same coin of which progress on the either side cannot proceed unless it is accompanied by the process of one. For this purpose, science and technology are very close allies. Science, technology and education have also intimate relation by reinforcing one another.

Technology by Aminu (1986) is often seen as “a product of human resourcefulness”. Based on this, technological progress of any nation depends on the level of resources of her people which in turn is a direct reflection of the quality of training and the development in education in that country as observed in the abstract. Therefore according to Gomwalk (2002), “the growth and development of science and technology of a nation greatly depends on the technologically and scientifically trained manpower”. By this, science, technology and education are sometimes seen as the inter-phase between science and technology on the one hand and society on the other which is lacking in Nigeria.

Based on these defects, the way to enhance children education in science and technology is through non-formal education. This is a major means of inspiring and preparing our youths to acquire science and technology education to prepare Nigeria to meet the global challenges ahead rather than depending on technology transfer. Most, If not all of the developed countries of today, had their break-through in technology development by modernizing and perfecting their indigenous technology. Thus our failure in all these years to achieve any technological break-through rests largely on lack of precise science and technological goal to partner with our indigenous system.

The neglect of non-formal education compared with academic qualification would continue to delay the nation’s technological take-off. There should be a deliberate attempt to de-emphasize paper qualification and accord recognition to the production work of our indigenous technology. Nigeria is entirely a consumer of the products of science and technology of other nations rather than a participant in creating knowledge, service and products. Nigeria’s stability and economic survival cannot be dependent on the technologies of other nations or a version of democracy that is alien to Nigerian cultural environment.

Enhancing science and technology capability in the developing country like Nigeria is truly a necessity and not a luxury. Culture of research must move out of the ivory tower to the grassroots and in order to do so, the scientists asserted that countries should create incentives to attract and reclaim science and technology talent. We need technological linkages with local firms that would eventually propel autonomous technological development.

With the New Partnership of African Development (NEPAD), it is optimistic that Nigeria still has the opportunity to acquire indigenous science and technological capabilities by sharing knowledge with foreign experts. The appearance of the Middle Weight economic power, as the group of twenty one (21) as being led by India, China, and Brazil, where sustained economic growth has been achieved is an indication of a strong determination to build indigenous science and technology capability. The Asian Tigers transformed their economies by focusing and attracting foreign skills and investment while at the same time developing local capability with strong control through the culture of adaptation.



The importance of non-formal education as a transition phase and a major avenue for encouraging children in science and technology cannot be over-emphasized. However, to meet its expected role, the following recommendations are proffered.

For Nigerian non-formal education system to fulfill its role as a transition phase to modern science and technology it requires modernization and improvement and not its abandonment as Nigerians crave for anything foreign.

Nigeria will quicken its space in inspiring children for science and technology using non-formal system by instilling confidence in its indigenous system rather than relying on external aids or foreigners that are not interested in developing production force of our national economy.

Whether to develop our own indigenous technology or shop for technology from the more developed countries depends on our indigenous skills to serve as a substratum that could become necessary catalyst for technological transfer. That is, high priority would be placed on capacity to absorb or adapt such imported technology.

For any country to meet up with global economic challenges of this present age, vocational trade as a foundation for our children has to be merged with academic qualification. The neglect of non-formal education system compared with academic qualification will not only continue to delay the nation’s technological take-off but could frustrate the effort. There is need for a deliberate attempt to de-emphasized paper qualification and accord recognition to nation’s indigenous technology.

Nigeria should create incentive to attract and retain science and technology talent. Thus discrimination in wages and value to white collar bureaucratic work over the manual skill learnt through non-formal system should be discouraged.

There should be a linkage between our non-formal system of education and our local firms that would eventually propel autonomous technological development.

Non – formal education is a training institution that exists for the skills acquisition for the low level technological man-power. When adequate attention is given to it, it will provide an intermediary stage to modern technology. This is the critical phase of which non-formal education system is expected of making. That is ability to pass acquired skills to the next phase of production system.

There is the  need for Nigeria to create an enabling environment for technological culture of adaptation to be competitive. For that to succeed, Nigerian youths should be discouraged from patronizing foreign goods, culture and ideas that work against indigenous technological growth.


Man can no longer manage without science and technology. The two are indispensable for man’s effective control of his environment. In the same way, Nigeria cannot develop without science and technology because they are the bedrock of development. Aware of the considerable impacts of the progress made in the fields of science and technology and being aware of the challenges facing our country, we should be determined to promote the development of science and technology. It is appropriate to say that the only educated people either formal or non-formal equipped with relevant skills could propel the nation’s economy towards a sustainable growth. The neglect and abandonment of the traditional technologies of production in Nigeria society is probably the most important instance of technological retrogression. Nigeria has failed to set any standard and even has lost full command of training young members of our society for that matter. Worse still is that the youths that form the great segment of Nigerian society is no longer picking interest in either the skill or the consumption of products of traditional crafts.

A society that disparates its own cultural materials is doomed to be enslaved by a society that appreciates its own products. Nigerians can insist in establishing and running in both private and public schools non-formal system of education side by side with the modern type. School is a normal setting where the art of creativity can be imbibed by the children and the youths. Nigeria had many craftsmen and artisans yet in the global competition, Nigeria is still lagging behind others for her inability to transform her means of production where machines are the main means of producing wealth for the society. The explanation is not farfetched, our formal education system has failed to produce relevant skilled man-power to man our economy as the case of non-formal educational sector in pre-colonial Nigerian society.

The crucial aspect of pre-colonial Nigeria non-formal educational system was its relevance to Nigeria society. What is the stage of Nigerian non-formal education after 53 years of our independence, no doubt it is becoming a victim of modern  technology. To reverse this trend, the society needs to create an enabling environment for its creativity, transformation and modernization.





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