Language Education Policy Studies
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Nigeria- Education- Language Overview 

The Nigerian educational system is perhaps one of the most permeable educational systems around the world. It is a system where the order of implementing educational policies is reversed; policies are implemented without a prior investigation and projection into how the policies will impact the people it was designed for. Poor planning has always been a key factor that brings about setback in the policies on education in Nigeria. As a former Britain colony, Nigeria gained independence in October 1960 after decades of imperialism. Nigeria is made up of 36 states that now enjoy considerable political and judicial autonomy (De Haas, 2006), a federal capital territory, Abuja and 774 local governments. Despite the nation’s natural endowments, it is still categorized as one of the lower middle-income nations in Sub-Saharan Africa with over 67% and 84% of its population living under US$1.25 and US$2 per day, respectively based on international poverty line (World Development Indicator, 2012). In 2004 and 2007, 54.7% and 70% of the nation’s population, respectively, were living under national poverty line (WB, 2012; CIA, 2014). Mberu and Pongou, (2010) reported that over 70% of Nigerian citizens are living below poverty line (Mberu and Pongou, 2010). The population of Nigeria is estimated at 177.5 million (UN est. 2014) making it the most populated nation in Africa. 

As Nigeria’s population continues to increase so also are unsuccessful education reforms. The Nigerian education system has undergone a range of reforms through its National Policy on Education since the nation became independent in 1960. It has also undergone incessant changes in leadership within the past decade. These constant changes in its leadership have resulted in the creation of one long-term strategic plan after another without successful implementation of such strategic plans despite the global significance of education.

Education is a global phenomenon and its importance continues to be promulgated globally through voluntary and involuntary imperialism. The impact of globalization or civilization on education has taken different forms and shapes in different context. In the context of Nigeria, it has resulted in a complete overhaul of the education system and especially on the language in education policy. Nigeria is linguistically diverse with over 250 ethnic groups and over 500 languages. Although the policy on education in the nation recognizes three major languages (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba) as the national languages and languages of instruction in each specific language environment during the first three years of elementary education, implementing this policy has floundered due to the hegemonic nature of the English language that has already gained prominence as a second or foreign language in most part of the African continent. Another reason for the setback on the successful implementation of the language instruction policy can be associated to inadequate resources to develop such languages (Adegbija, 1994). These inadequacies in developing materials in indigenous languages hamper the nation’s literacy level as researches have confirmed the importance of indigenous language instructions in early literacy acquisition.

Finally, according to World Bank, Nigeria’s literacy rate, defined as anyone age 15 and above that can read, is 61.3%; female literacy is only at 50.4% of the total literacy rate in the nation. The adverse effect of the lack of a robust language-planning framework in the nation’s National Policy on Education is evident in the lack of support for literacy in indigenous languages, as only a handful of Nigerian languages are operational in its education system. This lack of support for literacy in indigenous languages has also invariably contributed to the low literacy rates in the country.  



Online Nigeria: Community Portal of Nigeria

Nigerian Dictionary

The 10 Most Popular Languages in Nigeria

The Truth about the Number of Nigerian Languages


Adegbija, E. E. (1994). Language attitudes in Sub-Saharan Africa: A sociolinguistic overview (Vol. 103). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


De Haas, H. (2006). International migration and national development: Viewpoints and policy initiatives in countries of origin–The case of Nigeria. International Migration Institute. Oxford: University of Oxford.

Fafunwa, A.B. (1991). History of Education in Nigeria. Ibadan, Nigeria: NPS Educational Publishers Ltd.

Mberu, B. U & Pongou, R. (2010). Nigeria: Multiple forms of Mobility in Africa’s Demographic Giant. Retrieved December 28, 2015 at

World Data on Education, 2006/2007


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Olagbegi-Adegbite, Olayinka. (2015). Nigeria- Language-Education Overview. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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