The world is paying attention to education reforms in Edo State. In a recently published commentary on its website, the World Economic Forum (WEF) applauded the Edo State Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) initiative for improving learning outcomes among pupils in primary schools across the state and described the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, as a trailblazer who is “quickly and dramatically lifting the quality of government schools and upskilling teachers in his low-income state.”
According to the WEF, “education experts around the world and across Africa in particular are paying close attention to EdoBEST, and has become a beacon of light to other education ministries because it is improving learning for marginalised children and upskilling both novice and experienced teachers at scale, within existing state budgets and without western aid.”
The Forum said that the changes are happening within the existing system and being spearheaded by existing teachers and school leaders, and hailed the reforms as “a Nigerian solution to a Nigerian problem.”
The World Bank and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) have also highlighted EdoBEST as a crucial program that can be a template for transforming education in educationally disadvantaged societies. Last September, the World Bank Group organised a side-event at the UNGA summit in New York to discuss Edo-BEST.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) also recently bestowed Governor Obaseki with the Best Performing Governor Award in recognition of his education reforms, success of the Edo-BEST programme and his prioritisation of teachers’ welfare in the state.
While receiving the award, Governor Obaseki said, “If you are not able to add your sums and pronounce your alphabets, you cannot write and you cannot think logically. So, what we have done in Edo in the last one and a half years is to first prioritise basic education and technical education.”
He argued that basic education from the perspective of encouraging teachers, deploying technology to determine and tell when a teacher is in class, among others, form the basis of the Edo-BEST programme in the state.
“I can tell from my office today when a teacher is in class. If a teacher is not in class then the teacher hasn’t signed into the database. Once a teacher is signed in, the lesson note for that day will be loaded into the teacher’s tablet. And we’ve trained teachers to understand how to use the tablets and the technology to teach the children. So, this is also to motivate them and corporal punishment has been abolished in our schools. The outcome is that children are learning. A child in Edo state today after one term has now learnt more than three terms of work in the old system.”
On the significance of the award, he said, “What this award means is that a nation should know that we are prioritising education as a party. Education is one of the cardinal points in the APC manifesto. The country should know that what is important today is mental infrastructure, the intellectual infrastructure not stomach infrastructure.”
What is EdoBEST?
Nigeria has some of the highest numbers of out-of-school children in the world. A number of official estimates conclude that 11 million Nigerian boys and girls are not in school. The education crisis is partly an issue of access, but it is also one of quality and transformation at scale has historically seemed beyond reach.
To counter this trend and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all), Governor Obaseki created the Edo-BEST programme.
What the program does is to rebuild school infrastructure and equip teachers and administrators to become better purveyors of knowledge using technology.
It is a comprehensive program aimed to develop state education across five pillars of work: governance, teachers’ training and development, community partnerships, infrastructure, and the local education board.
To roll out the programme in three local government areas of the state, the government pooled funds from the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission.
As at September 2019, under the auspices of Edo-Best, over 8,700 teachers have been trained and equipped with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) devices for improved learning outcomes, which have positively impacted over 150,000 school children in the state.
Also, over 234 schools are being reconstructed with 7094 computer tablets distributed to teachers and head teachers and 11688 School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) members have been trained to help in administering and maintaining public education facilities.
“In Edo State we decided to dedicate ourselves to not just building classes but to go to the foundation of education,” Governor Obaseki has said. “And you’ve got to think of education strategically to realise that what is most important is the foundation-that is basic education.
“What we have done in Edo in the last one and a half years is to first prioritise basic education and technical education. Basic education from the perspective of encouraging teachers, making sure we are able to deploy technology to determine and tell when a teacher is in class. I can tell from my office today when a teacher is in class. If a teacher is not in class then the teacher hasn’t signed into the platform.
“Once a teacher is signed in, the lesson note for that day will be loaded into the teacher’s tablet. And we’ve trained teachers to understand how to use the tablets and the technology to teach the children.”
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has said Governor Obaseki’s education reforms, especially in “improving basic education and teacher’s welfare” in the state are worthy of emulation by leaders across the country.
The WEF agrees that Edo-BEST has been a tremendous success so far.
According to the Forum, “The impact on children’s learning has already been significant, even over a period of only three months. An initial study, commissioned by the state government in the first term of the programme, showed learning gains were positive. Pupils learned more, spent more time learning, worked harder and experienced a more positive classroom environment. Girls in EdoBEST schools outperformed all other pupils.”
“The initial analysis of boys and girls suggests that being in an EdoBEST school equates to nearly three-quarters of a year more maths instruction and nearly two-thirds of a year more literacy instruction compared to a normal Edo primary school. To put it another way, children are learning in one term what they would normally learn in one year,” the Forum added.
It continued, “The children of Edo are flocking back to the classroom because they and their parents know something of real value has arrived in their schools – learning. Other African leaders are watching with interest. EdoBEST could be a programme that not only changes the future for the children of Edo, but for children throughout Africa.”