6-3-3-4 & 9-3-4 System of Education in Nigeria: All You Need Know

Last updated on August 3rd, 2023 at 12:10 am

The 6-3-3-4 system of education in Nigeria was introduced in 1983 to replace the 6-5-4 system. It was designed to bring about functionality in the system by producing graduates that can make use of their head, heart and hands (the 3H of education). According to the model, a child shall spend 6 years in primary school, 3 years in junior secondary school and if he is sound academically, he moves to senior secondary where he/she will spend another 3 years before proceeding to the university to spend 4 years.

Nigerian education

From junior secondary, those that are not sound academically can then go and learn a trade or proceed to a technical school. Good model! But as far as Nigeria is concern, this had not worked for it and this is because of non-availability of materials and funds as well as lack of the administrative will. Let take a look at the 4 stages of education in the country according to the model.


Before the primary education in Nigeria is the nursery and pre-nursery education generally known as pre-primary education where little children get acquainted with school. This is not compulsory and not even part of the model but in recent years had increasingly become popular. This however helps prepare pupils for primary education.

In Nigeria, primary school education is the first recognized and compulsory stage of education. Students normally start at the age of 4 and spend the next 6 years in primary school. In this school, they are taught at a minimum the basic knowledge in mathematics, English language, basics sciences, social studies, religious studies (Islamic Religious Knowledge or Christian Religious knowledge) and one of the three most popular Nigerian languages. The stages in this schools is 6 (primary 1-6), each of the stage lasting for roughly a year. At the end of the program, a student issued a “school-leaving certificate”.

The government under it Universal Basic Education Commission, tries to make primary education free, compulsory and a right for every child. This extends up to the next 3 years in secondary (reason for changing Universal Primary Education to Universal Basic Education). But the reality on ground is, primary education in Nigeria as provided by Government primary schools are nothing home to write about. This had led to many privately owned schools springing up and competing excellently with the government owned ones. Some below-average, non-performing, non-government approved privately owned primary schools that can be termed mushrooms or anything worse are also up and get patronized.

In fact, government primary schools in Nigeria had been likened to the school of the poor. The rich pupils attend the privately-owned ones that are relatively equipped while the poor and less privileged flocks the government owned ones. The government despite knowing this and knowing the schools they built are not equipped has not shown any conscious effort (in practice) in remedying the situation. This form the first basis of failure observed in the system of education in Nigeria.  Sadly, this poor student are handed over certificates and allowed to proceed to secondary school where they actually need the primary knowledge to succeed. The common entrance examination needed to admit students into secondary schools is not helping matters. The worst part is, students get admitted into secondary schools without even taking this examination.


The secondary education in Nigeria is divided into two sections; Junior Secondary education and Senior Secondary Education. The Junior Senior School (JSS) is to provide junior secondary education to students from JS1-3 for a period of 3 years. This forms part of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) which is 9 years (thus the 9-3-4 system of education in the country – in practice, it is 6-3-3-4 and that why I neglect the 9-3-4 in this article). In JSS3, students write the Basic Education Certificate Examination and are issued with a certificate. The academically sound are then admitted into Senior Secondary School for which last for 3 years also for their secondary education.

There are a lot of changes in the Senior Secondary School. Here, a student decides based on his performance and career preference on whether to be in the science class, art class, commercials or any other that the school offers. This means classes are separated in this section and students take elective subjects that suit their aims in life. However, some subjects are still core at this level and students have to take them irrespective of the field they chose. In SS2, they are meant (not compulsory though) to write a mock exams (GCE O’level) to prepare them for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) in SS3. At SS3, they seat for the SSCE or any of it equivalent like NECO. A minimum of 5 credit units including Mathematics and English is required before one can proceed to the university. Students however, need to write the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination and have a minimum score of 180 before they are offered admission into the university. Students that couldn’t make it or aren’t interested in secondary school education can proceed to technical college.

The Federal Government of Nigeria established 2 Federal Government Colleges (FGC) in each of the 6 geopolitical zones in the country. Aside this, the state government also established their own individual secondary schools to carter for the need of their population. The problem however is, they are poorly equipped and lacks teachers that could take care of the student educational needs. Not that the teachers are not qualified per se, but they are not motivated and in some instances, heavily owed. This definitely led to unseriousness on the part of the teachers. This then just like in primary schools, led to the establishment of private secondary schools which are been patronized by those that can afford them.

While some of these private secondary schools in Nigeria are equipped, many of them are not equipped. This lack of condition necessary for education in secondary schools in the country is manifested in the high rate of failure at the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the subsequent failure at the tertiary institution by those not qualified but miraculously (anything like that?) or illegally passed the exams. Another problem in the educational system in the country is the high rate of exam malpractice which is at its peak in the SSCE or it equivalents. This is why many pass the SSCE but cannot defend the result.


After meeting the necessary minimum requirement, a student is admitted into the university where he/she is expected to spend a minimum of 4 years. The number of years to be spent depends on the course and some challenges met along the year. These four years at the university completes the 6-3-3-4 system of education in the country. After a successful tertiary education, one is given a degree certificate and has to serve in the nations “National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)” for one year. That ends the 6-3-3-4 educational model.  If one wishes, he/she could go for a post-graduate programme.

After this, it now time for job hunting. The problem however is, the Nigerian universities are not well equipped and don’t pass the necessary knowledge needed by labour employers. This becomes a huge challenge to the graduates who had coined the idea that they would get a job paying job after school.

For those that were not able to get admission into the university, they either go to a College of Education (COE) or Polytechnic. For those that went to polytechnics, they spent 2 year and get an Ordinary National Diploma certificate (OND) and are required to partake in Industrial Training (IT) for a year. This could get them a Direct-Entry (DE) into 200L the university or they can simply continue their education in polytechnic and get a Higher National Diploma (HND) certificate which is equivalent to a degree. The labourmarket in Nigeria still segregates a university Degree from a HND certificate.

For those that get admitted into the colleges of education, they are awarded a Nigerian Certificate of Education (NCE) after 3 years. This will qualify them (NCE holders)to teach in a junior secondary school and primary school. To enable them teach in a secondary school, most NCE holders go for their Bachelor’s Degree in Education (BEd) in universities where they are admitted into 200L. Some of them just get the BEd from the college of education they finished from.

It is also worthy of note that the Government tertiary education institution in Nigeria are in a state that need a reform. The schools are not well equipped and dilapidated, lecturers are constantly going on strike as their demands are not been met, the curriculum are theoretic in approach – this does not prepare them for life after school and they can’t stand their equals in many part of the world. This and many more had led to the creation of numerous privately owned tertiary education institution in the country. While some of these institutions are relatively more equipped that their government counterparts, others are not.

The government through it various tertiary education monitoring commission like the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) and other various bodies are constantly in a hunt for unqualified tertiary institutions in the country to shut down. They are also in a hunt for schools running unaccredited programmes be it government owned schools or tertiary owned ones.

Conclusively, it is worthy to mention that the 6-3-3-4 or 9-3-4 system of education in Nigeria, the model and the way it is implemented together with the curriculum used in the country had remained  undeveloped, stagnant and ineffective in solving the problems of education in Nigeria.. What even baffles me is the fact that Britain that this system was adopted from had abandoned it and went for a more robust system.It is best we try and develop and implement our own educational system.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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