The Registrar of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof Josiah Ajiboye, in this interview with CHIKA MEFOR, speaks on the planned teacher tribunal and how to address issues of quackery in the teaching profession.
What is the TRCN doing to promote Teacher Professionalism?
We started this year with a workshop for stakeholders on developing a road map for teacher professionalism in Nigeria. The retreat was held in Akwanga, Nasarawa State in February where we came up with a road map of teacher professionalism in Nigeria. After the workshop, we set up a technical committee to develop the implementation strategies for the road map. It was an in-house committee. They are already working now. We have started implementing some aspects of the road map but full implementation commences immediately the technical committee submits the report. Teacher professionalism cannot be sacrificed for anything because we need qualified teachers in both private and public schools and we must continue to sharpen our teachers to make sure they bring out the best.
The challenge we have is that the teachers have continue to stay on the same spot over the years and there is need to rejig the profession. That is the reason the teacher profession is important because the ultimate goal is improving teacher professionalism and quality delivery.
In the Council’s pursuit of quality delivery, the TRCN introduced the Professional Qualifying Examination (PQE). How has it fared?
We conducted the first diet, that is the May Diet of the Professional Qualifying Examination (PQE). We are no longer registering teachers based on certificates they received from their institutions. We stopped that since June 2017. Now we have commenced Professional Qualifying Exams. The first one was held on October 14, 2017. The second one, which is the May Diet was held on June, 7 and 8 2018. The examination was held throughout the country and was adjudged to be a huge success. 83 per cent of the teachers that took the exam passed. Over 22,000 teachers registered for the exam.
As the year runs out, we have fixed for now, October 28, 2018 as the date for the second batch of the PQE. The date is not yet sacrosanct but we are planning for this date. We believe that with our plans, and
the committee in charge of the exam, working day and night, we will deliver another successful examination. So far about 17,000 teachers have registered for the exam. We have given our state coordinators, a kind of bench mark. Any state that could not muster up to 100 applicants, will not join in the examination this October. It is either they join other states, or they wait until the next available opportunity when they are able to reach the bench mark. We fixed it for 50 in the last examination but we have since discovered that it is not economically viable. We decided to jerk it up.
There is a reduction of candidates from the first May diet Exam to the October diet. What could be responsible for that?
Apart from the PQE, that is the general examination that takes place twice a year, we also run professional qualifying examination towards induction in all our institutions which is called the Professional Qualifying Examination Integrated (PQEI). It is integrated to induction and runs in all the tertiary institutions in the country.
The PQE is general and the PQEI is going on in the various institutions. That is to show that before these people graduate in their various institutions, they have already taken the PQEI. It is only those who didn’t take the PQEI or who never registered before we close the window that are now registering for the PQE. We will continue to register a drop as people continue to embrace PQEI in their various institutions. It is clear now that you can’t have our certificate and the professional license without writing the examination.
Do you think the deadline given to teachers to register and be licensed by the TRCN or be flushed out of the classroom is feasible?
The National Council on Education (NCE) extended the deadline to December, 2019. Only teacher that is not registered and licensed bythe TRCN will be removed from the classroom by December, 2019. It was also reiterated in the last NCE meeting, held in Abuja. However, TRCN have commenced activities of monitoring the activities of teachers in six states of the federation. We selected one state from each geopolitical zone. The states are Nasarawa from North Central, Ogun State from South West, Ebonyi from South East, Cross Rivers for SouthSouth, Jigawa for North West and Gombe for North East. We have in our data bank now, qualified teachers from both public and private schools in the six states so when we begin to move out for enforcement, we know where to start from.
How about monitoring the private schools in the states?
We don’t have any issues as they have realized the importance of quality teachers. We cannot remove private participation in education as government alone cannot shoulder the education of the generality of Nigerians. While we encouraging private participation, the economic benefit should not be the ultimate goal. we have the private schools owners realize that when we will start the enforcement, we may likely to start with them and we still use the opportunity to tell them to make sure that they employ qualified, registered and licensedteachers.
When can we expect a full register of teachers in the country?
Very soon, we will be able to launch publicly the teacher information system. It was delayed because some states delayed in submitting the data of teachers in their state. The consultant has submitted the data and we will launch it soon on TRCN website. We will have the data ofall the teachers that have registered with the TRCN.
In what practical ways does lack of quality teacher affect the economy of a country?
No country can develop beyond the quality of its education. The same way, no education can develop beyond the qualities of its teachers.
You need quality teachers to drive quality education and consequently, to drive development in any country. Teachers are drivers of quality education and they are the nation builders. The role of teachers arecritical and that is the reason we all have to rally round to make
sure that we have quality teachers. Without quality teachers, our education will continue to suffer. You can build the best class room and have the best facilities in school but when there are no qualityteachers, education system will be in danger. Teachers’ professionalism is a global movement now.
Do you have a system in place to fish out teachers who aid examination malpractices?
We have rolled out what we call, Professional Standard and Code of Conduct for Nigerian Teachers. With these, teachers now know their boundaries. They now know that any teacher facilitating examination malpractices will be sanctioned by TRCN, just like other profession. I read about a teacher molesting a down syndrome recently. When we get such report, we investigate at the level of the state. If that teacheris a registered teacher, we make sure that we set up a teacher investigative panel to investigate and give us feedback. We have also inaugurated a Teacher Tribunal which is going to be hosted in each state of the federation. When this is done, the tribunal will be handling the matter but at the level of TRCN, we have our disciplinary committee which is being chaired by the chairman of TRCN governing council. The committee has the power to withdraw the certificate and license of practice of any teacher.
How is the Council guiding against fake certificate?
The federal ministry of education has a structure to checking some of these certificates. But we are proposing for government to have a certificate verification center that will work for the whole country.
We need such centers to detect fake certificates. We have a similar body at the ministry but I think we need to bring it out as a uniqueagency with a specific purpose and mandate to track fake certificates.
We in the TRCN are trying to minimize that with the PQEI. The institutions present only candidates that are known to them. That is how we are trying to eliminate those who will come with fake certificate. We have also introduced inductions.
What other projects has the Council embark on?
We are looking at the state of basic education in Nigeria and we are working in conjunction with UBEC. The Executive secretary of UBEC convoke a meeting of stakeholders, especially the head of parastatals that have to do with basic education in Nigeria, which TRCN is one.
They have been asked to bring about ideas, and programme on how to move basic education forward in the country. All the heads of parastatals have met and we have submitted some of our proposals to UBEC. A technical committee was set up by UBEC which comprises two directors from each of the participating agencies and they have met in Kaduna last week, and have reviewed the proposals submitted. We have discovered that there was need for collaboration and synergy among the various agencies and parastatals in the federal ministry of education to be able to deliver quality basic education for the country. We cannot continue to work in isolation. It is not about the achievement of each organisation. Efforts are in progress. Very soon, the head of parastatals will meet again to harmonize the various positions and begin implementation.
Currently, TRCN in conjunction with other stakeholders is developing, career progression policies for Nigerian teachers. We discover that in order to motivate our teachers and make them happy, they need a career progression plan. You want to know when you join the teaching profession, how do you progress.
We have this in other profession. In fact, some teachers have remained on the same spot for several years without knowing when they will be promoted so we decided that there is need for this progression plan. We will also invite other stakeholders to come in for the development of the policy. We will then submit it to the minister of education, who will know what to do with it to take it forward. It is only when this teachers are happy that you can get the best out of them. The policy will help bring about enthusiasm, commitment and dedication to their work.
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