Nod for CRS, IRS separation
The separation of Christian Religious Studies (CRS) and Islamic Religious Studies (IRS) from Religion and National Values in the Basic Education Curriculum has brought relief to stakeholders in the education sector who faulted the merger, reports KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE.
Finally, the government has directed the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) to disarticulate the Christian Religious Studies (CRS) and Islamic Religious Studies (IRS) from the umbrella subject listing of Religion and National Values.
Stakeholders in the education sector have lauded the move as a step in the right direction.
The two subjects were lumped together with Civic Education, Social Studies, and Security Education in the reviewed basic education curriculum done in 2013 – with implementation to start from 2014.
The decision to merge CRS and IRS with other subjects caused controversy among adherents of the two major religions, in the country, Christianity and Islam. The controversy was worsened by the non-inclusion of CRS from the list of subjects taught as senior secondary level from September. Many religious and parents groups condemned the merger and school owners were confused about its implementation.
When school owners, under the aegis of the Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), met for their annual congress in June, it was one of the questions raised. They wanted to know if CRS had been removed and whether it would no longer be taught. With no government representation at the federal level at the event, the question was not satisfactorily answered.
Debunking the rumour that the two subjects had been scrapped, the Executive Secretary, NERDC, Prof Ismail Junaid said in a statement that the component subjects under Religion and National Values were taught separately. He also said CRS had not being scrapped as was rumoured to be the case.
He said: “The claims peddled on social media platforms and a national daily are speculative, false and unfounded, specifically as regards the Religion and National Values Curriculum.
“The Management of NERDC hereby reiterates categorically that the subject offerings (Civic Education, Social Studies, Christian Religious Knowledge, Islamic Studies and Security Education) under the Religion and National Values Curriculum are distinct and taught separately on the time table.
“In this Curriculum, no child should be coerced or compelled to learn or be taught in school any religious studies not relating to the belief system professed by the child and his/her parents.
“CRK is still taught in schools; as a separate distinct subject with the accompanying Teachers’ Guide. There is no subject in the Nigerian School Curriculum called Islamic Arabic Studies nor anywhere in the world as being speculated.”
However, his explanation did not stop the National Association of Parents Teachers Assocation of Nigeria (NAPTAN), the Christian Association of Nigeria, Penticostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and many other groups from petitioning the Federal Government to return to the status quo.
Their prayers were answered July 11, 2017, with the rejection of the policy by the House of Representatives on the ground that it negated the constitution.
Last Friday, the National Council on Education (NCE), the highest policy making body on education in Nigeria, set in motion the process of separating the two subjects.
It directed the NERDC to effect changes in the curriculum such that the two subjects stand alone again. In addition, they are to be offered as compulsory subjects to adherents of both faiths.
The decision was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the Ministerial Session of the 62nd NCE meeting held in Kano and presided over by the Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu.
The communiqués reads: “At the ministerial technical session, Council reiterated its decision at the 61st NCE meeting of September, 2016 in Abuja, that Christian Religious Studies (CRS) and Islamic Studies (IS) be separated from Religion and National Values and handled as stand-alone subjects. Council further stated that Christian Religious Studies is a core and compulsory subject for Christian students while Islamic Studies is a core and compulsory subject for Muslim students at the basic and secondary education levels. Council regarded the controversy surrounding the matter as misdirected and unwarranted.”
The new curriculum, detailing the stand-alone subjects, the communiqué stated further, would be available from 2018.
National President of NAPTAN, Malam Haruna Danjuma, told The Nation on Tuesday that the body was glad the subjects had been separated, praising the government for been responsive of the yearnings of Nigerians.
“We commend the government for the active action because religion has to be handled with extreme care. NAPTAN drew the government’s attention to the issue. If they had removed religion from the curriculum completely, we would not agree. But now that the subjects have been separated, we are happy,” he said.
Chairman of the Ambassadors School, Ota, Mr Samson Osewa, said the combination of the subjects could not have been implemented in his school. He faulted claims of the NERDC that stakeholders were consulted before the merger.
“It would not have been good. I would not have implemented it. They said it had been done during Jonathan’s time. Maybe they did consultation among themselves only,” he said.
National President of the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), Mr Gbadega Adedapo, lauded the separation but warned that frequent changes in the curriculum affected publishers who produce the reading materials used in schools.
He said the sensitivity of the matter had made many publishers keep the publish subject components under Religious and National Values as separate textbooks. However, he said about 30 per cent of publishers who have such textbooks would have to review their books.
“Most of the publishers have stand-alone IRS and CRS textbooks because of the sensitivity of religion in Nigeria. There is no way we can combine the subjects. But I was told today (Tuesday) in Abuja that Religious and National Values will be renamed. We have appealed to them to give us time to make changes because we are close to resumption and we already have our books in stock in warehouses,” he said.
Adedapo however noted that the subjects may have been combined to save parents from spending so much on textbooks and reduce the number of subjects pupils have to take in schools.
History has also been separated from Social Studies in the basic education curriculum and would be taught as a stand-alone subject from 2018.