Report emanating from the Federal Ministry of Education indicate that both Christian and Islamic Religious Studies will no longer be part of the school curriculum. What this entails is that the two religion- based subjects will not be thought as separate subjects in schools. Instead, they will become part of what is described as themes in an omnibus subject to be known as civic education. This is part of the curriculum reforms at the basic education level in Nigeria ostensibly aimed at catching them young to create change. To be known as Religious and National Values, the listed components, Christian and Islamic Religious Studies will serve as themes. Contents are planned for all children to take social studies, civic education and security education themes.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in particular, is disturbed by this development and has cautioned against its implication on the moral upbringing of the young ones. It argues that its introduction will undermine the sound values that the two subjects had imparted in the past to Nigerian children which had made the nation to religiously and ethnically co-exist without any tension. They also see the proposed new curriculum as it affects the two religions as a veritable time-bomb, obnoxious, divisive and ungodly.
Experts in the field of education reinforce the position of CAN by positing that religious studies must be learnt when the children are young with the soft and malleable mind ready to absorb the ethical teachings from the religions. As already observed, generally, religious studies are closely associated with the inculcation of moral values in youths. It is an established fact that when the youths are exposed to the moral teachings of religions at a tender age, it trains them to be obedient and God- fearing.
Ordinarily, there is nothing inherently wrong in making changes in the education curricula to conform to the dynamics of the system. But it is dangerous to bring about changes just for the sake of it. Those making these changes are not sufficiently convinced about their positive impact on the system. The curriculum being introduced is designed to make learning look simple. A cursory look at what Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC), is putting forward will make one question their motive. The dangerous aspect of it is the accompanying intellectual arrogance that makes them think that parents whose children are the fulcrum around which the entire exercise revolves know little or nothing to contribute. But that is a lie.
Perhaps, they need to be reminded that learning by its very nature is a rigorous exercise that carries along with it personal sacrifice. Giving the nation’s children the false impression that learning is a walk in the park is misleading and the result is beginning to manifest in the quality of products of the nation’s school system. The planners must be told in an unmistakable term that there is no way learning even if it is just to recite ABC can be simple. A look at the curriculum will make one begin to ask questions about the intellectual competence of our so called education planners and in what direction they are taking the nation with the curriculum they are developing. Subjects like history that exposed the youth to valuable events of the past have since been cleared off the scheme and the effect is beginning to be evident as the young ones are cut off from the past that formed the present they are struggling to grapple with which makes the future to them appear scary.
While the world is moving ahead with Nanotechnology, teaching their children trigonometry and such other challenging aspects of scientific study that define the cause of national development, our education planners are talking about basic or integrated science. In the absence of laboratories, our school system introduced alternative to practicals. In a country like China, it is called Green Revolution where the young ones in early secondary schools are groomed in the science of space technology that makes the difference.
It is lamentable, in our view, that with the palpable moral decadence in the society, someone thinks this is the time to jettison the instrument that holds the nation tenuously together. Developed nations don’t talk much about values because those are inculcated in the children by their parents and leaders mostly by example. If these two groups are lacking in moral rectitude, there is very little a teacher can do in the classroom.
In our opinion, therefore, the curriculum developers need to go back to the drawing board because they have lost it even before take-off.