Making the case for Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) in Nigeria: A Summary on Global Best Practices

AUTHORS: Radhika Iyengar, HaeIn Shin, Balaraba Aliyu

The fourth focus area of the SDGs focuses on education, encompassing more than just universal access to primary education (MDG 2). It focuses on lifelong learning, and promotes quality education, two aspects that were not clearly outlined as priorities in MDG2. Going forward, the aim to ‘provide quality education and lifelong learning’ will include access to early childhood education, quality primary education to provide children with basic competencies, access to lower secondary education, and technical and vocational skill building for youth and adults[1]. The Dakar Framework for Action calls youth as ‘active agents in shaping their future’, and thus need to be equipped with life-skills and not just skills in the workforce[2]. The percentage of youth aged 10-24 out of the total population in Africa was 31% in 2013[3]. The labor force participation rate of 15-24 year olds out of the total population in Africa is 45% for females and 54% for males in 2010. Therefore, the youth need to be equipped with relevant skills to be productively employed. In Nigeria alone there are 53.6 million youth between the ages of 10 to 24 years[4].  Thirty one percent of the total population of Nigeria constitutes the youth between 10-24 years. This population needs to be well educated with adequate skills to join the labor force.


Enrollment is not a guarantee that children will be learning and getting the required job related skills. However, it helps to present how accessible the schools are to be able to provide any chance for the youth to get basic education[5]. Total enrolment at secondary level rose by 25% globally between 1999 and 2010, with growth in low-income countries by 78% and lower middle-income countries by 47%. There are still 71 million adolescents of lower secondary school age who are not in school. The number of out-of-school adolescents has remained at 22 million in sub- Saharan Africa since 1999. The technical and vocation track of secondary education has stagnated without much progress over the past decade. In sub-Saharan Africa this it moved from 7% in 1999 to 8% in 2010. Not a lot is known about the content of these vocational training programs. The programs vary from adult literacy classes, traditional apprenticeships in the informal sector to more formal on-the-job training programs.

Worldwide, there were still 775 million adults who could not read or write in 2010, about two-thirds of whom were women[6]. About 10% of the world’s youth remain illiterate. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the youth literacy rate is 72%. This means that we will not be able to eradicate illiteracy by 2015. The worst affected are women illiterates as their numbers surpass men’s. The illiteracy rate is falling over the years but at a much smaller rate. In Nigeria, the number of illiterate adults has risen by
over 10 million between 1991 and 2010. In recognition
of the problem, the government announced in April
2012 an initiative to revitalize adult and youth literacy programs, aiming to educate up to 5 million illiterate adults over the next three years (UNESCO, 2012). According to 2013 national data, nearly half of women (45%) and 62% of men age 15-49 have a secondary or higher level of education[7]. More than one-third of Nigerian women (38%) and 21% of men have no education. The percentage of women with no education increases with age, from 28% among women age 15-19 to 54% among women age 45-49. More than half of rural women have no education compared with 16% of urban women. Although the NDHS report suggests that younger (ages 15-19) women and men are more likely to have higher education than their older (ages 45-49) counterparts. On measuring literacy, the 2013 NDHS defined literacy as being able to read all or part of a sentence. Men are more likely to be literate than women; 53% of Nigerian women age 15-49 are literate, compared with 75% of men.


In Nigeria, the acquisition of formal technical education is possible from secondary to tertiary levels of the country’s 6-3-3-4 education system till 2005. In 2008, the 9-3-4 system of education has been adopted[8]. At post-secondary/ tertiary levels, technical and vocational colleges, Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Universities, have been the institutional structures meant to enhance nation’s technical growth. The duration of school based technical and vocational education is between three to five years, depending on institution and model[9]..

Vocational education is offered at junior and senior secondary level in the Technical Colleges. The main focus is being trained for lower/middle-level manpower (i.e. skilled workers, craftsmen and women) for industry, commerce, agriculture, and services[10]. The vocational training centers at the Technical Colleges also provide training of artisans and operatives. At the equivalent of Secondary Education level, the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) conducts national examinations for candidates presented by Technical Colleges and awards the National Technical Certificate (NTC); National Business Certificate (NBC); Advanced National Technical Certificate (ANTC); and Advanced National Business Certificate (ANBC). These qualifications enable a graduate to enter into the labor market and/or proceed to higher vocational/technical education. The governing body for the TVETs is the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) that exists under the authority of the Federal Ministry of Education[11]. It was established in 1977 with the purpose of handling all aspects of technical and vocational education falling outside of university education. “In addition to providing standardised minimum guide curricula for technical and vocational education and training (TVET), the Board supervises and regulates, through an accreditation process, the programmes offered by technical institutions at secondary and post-secondary levels. It is also involved with the funding of Polytechnics owned by the Government of the Federation of Nigeria.”[12]. However, financing has been sporadic and on an ad-hoc basis.


There are multiple TVET models and implementation practices across the globe in developing countries. Though the strategies and examples cited here are not exhaustive, the recurring themes from the best practices and case studies around the world exemplify that as with any sector of education, there is no single model that leads to quality learning; rather, effective TVET can come about when multiple elements are collaboratively at work.

The examples drawn show that because TVET is meant to offer some type of specialized training, theoretical learning and education should be paired with an apprenticeship where possible. Further, for those learners lagging behind in general education, supplemental literacy or remediation classes can help the learner’s personal, as well as professional growth.

Curriculum and learning content should be tailored to the learners as a means to make learning applicable. This requires flexibility and adaptability of the learning content, which will ultimately be more graspable and useful for youth.

Special attention should be given to women and girls who may not be able to participate in opportunities due to the gender barriers and customs. There are few models, such as distance learning, mobile learning, and village learning centers that can be employed to ensure access to training.

Scholarship and financing for training programs should increase incentive from all parties, to foster more material and effort investment to learning. Linking programs to potential employers, sometimes with the support from the government, can be a means to engage all stakeholders in a meaningful way.

It is crucial to note that hard skills development should not be the only strategy; developing learners’ non-cognitive and transferable skills can be the most effective endeavor to ensure the continuous growth of youth, both as an individual and as a professional.


The report recommends learning from three very successful TVET models and adapting their models to the needs in Nigeria. They are as follows-

Tostan: Dignity for all[13]

This Africa based model has shown positive results in many initiatives regarding youth employment. Toastan works in six African countries – Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia. The organization has specific programs for women since often many families struggle economically, girls are more likely than boys to be taken out of school to help with income-generating activities or agricultural labor, and they are more likely to be married at a young age.

Barefoot College, India[14]

This India based model has been very successful in multiple income generating models. The model has spread to other countries such as Burkina Faso, Liberia, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zanzibar. “A central belief was that the knowledge, skills and wisdom found in villages should be used for its development before getting skills from outside”[15]. The programmes include: Solar, Water, Education, Health Care, Craft, People’s Action, and Communication. Since all programmes and initiatives are planned, managed and implemented by members of the rural community, each one acts as a source of employment to some degree.

Pratham Education Foundation[16]

India’s Pratham Education Foundation’s core mission is to provide quality education especially for disadvantaged children and youth. The organization’s programs support literacy, early childhood education, English, science, vocational training and focus for both urban and rural and children youth. 


The report concludes with the following recommendations- firstly, TVET program should start with a 100 days “literacy in emergency” program for the adults. Secondly, the States Education Strategic Plan (2009-2018) includes technical education as a part of the state’s education plans. Considering research based programs, many such examples are listed in this brief, and contextualizing to Nigeria is key to addressing the growing demands of the Nigerian youth. Thirdly, funding exists at the state and the national level however its dispersion seems to be erratic and un-planned. Fourthly, the brief highlights three key initiatives-Tostan, Pratham and Barefoot College that are also working on a multi-national level. Visiting their sites and observing their program before starting a new program will help to borrow good practices and strategies and to avoid re-inventing the wheel. Finally, this brief provides insights into various aspects of the program such as curriculum learning, informal economy considerations, technical expertise and assistance, targeting gender barriers and programs for youth skilling. These insights will be helpful to consider in measuring the comprehensiveness of the program being designed for Nigeria.


[1] United Nations. (2013). A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development. The Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

[2] UNESCO. (2012). Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2012: Youth and skills: Putting education to work. Paris: UNESCO.

[3] Population Reference Bureau. (2013). The World’s Youth. Data Sheet.

[4] Ibid

[5] Comfort, Chimezie & Okolocha (2012). Vocational Technical Education in Nigeria: Challenges and the Way Forward. Business Management Dynamics: Vol 2 No 6.

[6] UNESCO. (2012). Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2012: Youth and skills: Putting education to work. Paris: UNESCO.

[7] NDHS, 2013

[8] Comfort, Chimezie, Okolocha (2012). Vocational Technical Education in Nigeria: Challenges and the Way Forward. Business Management Dynamics. Vol 2 No 6

[9] Yousuff Ajibola, M. & Jumoke, S. (2012). Achieving sustainable economic development in Nigeria through Technical and Vocational Education and Training: The Missing Link. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Science: Vol 2, No2.

[10] African Development Fund (2005). Skills training and vocational education project. Appraisal Report. Federal Republic of Nigeria.

[11] Bauchi State Education Strategic Plan (2009-2018). Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bauchi

[12] (NBET web-page, accessed 11 July 2012 as stated in the UNESCO website

[13] For more information please c=visit:

[14] For more information visit:

[15] Ibid

[16] For more information contact CEO Pratham Dr Madhav Chavan: