Commission and academics in row over new curriculum

A revised curriculum guide for Nigerian universities, known as the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS), has stirred up disagreement between the National Universities Commission (NUC) – the higher education regulatory body – and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Several curriculum experts who spoke to University World News picked holes in the new document, saying some courses were either omitted or misrepresented.

The NUC said it designed the CCMAS “to reflect 21st-century realities, in the existing and new disciplines and programmes in the Nigerian university system” and to replace the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS), which had been in use since 2007. The CCMAS captures 17 academic disciplines, up from the 13 in BMAS.

“In order to enrich the draft documents, copies of each discipline were forwarded to all critical stakeholders, including the relevant academic units in Nigerian universities, the private sector, professional bodies and the academies for their comments and input.

“These inputs, along with the curriculum of programmes obtained from some foreign and renowned universities, served as major working materials for the various panels constituted for that purpose,” the NUC noted on its website.

The commission said it is, therefore, optimistic that the CCMAS documents “will serve as a guide to Nigerian universities in the design of the curriculums for their programmes with regard to the minimum acceptable standards of input and process, as well as [a] measurable benchmark of knowledge, 21st-century skills and competences expected to be acquired by an average graduate of each of the academic programmes, for self, national and global relevance”.

But ASUU, in a statement signed by its president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, said the NUC undermined the role of university authorities in the process.

“It is inexplicable that the NUC prepackaged 70% [of the] CCMAS content [that] are being imposed on the Nigerian university system, leaving university senates, which are statutorily responsible for academic programme development, to work on only 30%.

“For example, there are no chemistry courses for students of BSc physics. Apart from departmental and general studies (GES/GST) courses, the 70% CCMAS has left out all other faculty or university courses like engineering mathematics for engineering students, statistics for science students, philosophy and sociology of education courses for education students, and so on. Almost all departments reported one major deficiency or the other in the CCMAS.

“The NUC should encourage universities to propose innovations for the review of their programmes. Proposals from across universities should then be sieved and synthesised by more competent expert teams to review the existing BMAS documents and-or create new ones as appropriate,” the statement said.

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