Just before the clock struck 12.30pm on 14 January 2023, a crowd of 1,200 enthusiastic primary school teachers flooded the courtyard of a major building at Edo State University, Iyamoh, chanting children’s songs. The day was remarkable because it was a graduation day.

For 10 days, these teachers (and their headteachers) had undergone an intensive teacher professional development programme, the EdoBEST Induction Training, which is part of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s revolutionary basic education reforms.

“I have attended several training programmes in the past, I am even a certified teacher, but this one was special, Ese Ehis, an elated primary 4 teacher said that afternoon, just before heading to the graduation ceremony hall.

“This training changed the way I see myself as a small village teacher. I feel this training is making me see the children differently. I no longer see them as small children, they are the future and I must make the future bright through my pupils, Ehis added, with an expression of pure joy beaming off her face.

With the inclusion of that set of teachers into the EdoBEST programme, a total of 16,400 teachers have been retrained and equipped with technology to teach using techniques that have been proven to deliver exceptional learning outcomes.

The result of a two-year study carried out in Kenya by Nobel Prize winner (in Economics), Professor Michael Kremer published in 2022 showed that Bridge Kenya Schools, which use the same learning methodology as EdoBEST schools, recorded better learning outcomes than their counterparts.

At the moment, all 1,330 state-owned primary and junior secondary schools in Edo state are EdoBEST schools, accounting for over 350,000 children who are receiving life-changing education.

Additionally, all teachers who graduated from the EdoBEST Induction Training Programme were provided with teachers’ tablets to enable them to do their jobs better. Their professional development continues at the school level where one-on-one continuous mentorship and professional development will be offered to them by learning and development officers, assigned to their schools.

Investing in people, prioritizing education

As the global community celebrates International Day of Education with the theme, “To invest in people, prioritize education,” Governor Obaseki’s investment through EdoBEST has been spotlighted as a textbook example of a development strategy anchored on basic education.

On 24, January, no less institution than the World Bank commended and recommended EdoBEST for wholescale basic education system revamp. Over the years, other major institutions and governments from within and outside Africa have commended the programme. Within Nigeria, there has been a tsunami of commendations not just from the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEC) but also from other State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs).

“This administration, under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, continues to demonstrate an unyielding commitment to the EdoBEST reform and to a sustainability plan.

“We are setting the stage for the future and will leave behind a system of education that not only leverages the use of technology and is relevant for this time but also one that is backed by law, owned by the civil servants and supported by the community leaders and citizens,” the Executive Chairman of Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, Ozavize Salami noted as she spoke to the graduands on 14, January.

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She was clear on the need to improve the lives of the children in the care of teachers and drew attention to the strides EdoBEST and the enormous investment Governor Obaseki has made in education, upskilling teachers and investing in education.

The governor himself stated that “financing such a huge educational transformation exercise has not been easy; EdoBEST has increased our basic education budget by 25 per cent,” he said in a June 2021 Financial Times article.

What makes EdoBEST model the best?

The EdoBEST programme is perhaps the most pervasive basic education reform undertaken by any state government in Nigeria since the 1980s. The programme has changed the way schools run in Edo State by introducing a whole new pedagogy based on the Nigerian curriculum, global best practice, the use of modern technology and reliance on evidence/data for decision-making.

Teachers in EdoBEST schools use tablets and internet enabled smartphones for most classroom management activities (marking teacher arrival, marking student attendance, marking examinations papers and recording pupil details). They employ a whole new method of relating with children thereby creating a sense of self-value and can-do spirit in children. Children are praised for exceptional performance and encouraged to do better. Slow learners are encouraged to catch-up and surpass expectations.

The drudgery of lesson note preparation is also taken care of since well-researched and proven materials are sent to teachers to guide lesson delivery.

“I think it is the ease of using technology to prepare their lesson notes. They didn’t have to sit up all night and go through the drudgery of writing lesson notes as it was already there in the system. All they needed to do was to do a few tweaks and tinkering so they spent their time in class doing other things like observing the children and making the children motivated,” the governor added.

Children are at the centre of learning under EdoBEST. The whole strategy is to develop a functional workforce by investing in the education of today’s children, just in line with the theme of International Day of Education 2023.

To make it even better, the EdoBEST Progressive School Model was specifically introduced in hard-to-reach, underserved communities to cater to children in those areas. Therefore, EdoBEST is democratizing basic education, engendering inclusion and closing the gap between city and rural dwellers.

“We commissioned a study to look at the outcomes and how EdoBEST fared for the first one year. The evidence is that the child in the EdoBEST programme is reading 70% better than the average child in a Nigerian public-school system,” Governor Obaseki said in an interview in December 2022.

From all indications, the investment of Edo State in education is already paying off. And true to the theme of this year’s International Day of Education. Investment in education is being prioritized as a tool for development.

The International Day of Education was first established by the United Nations in 2018, marking the anniversary of the signing of the UNESCO’s constitution. The aim is to recognize the role of education in promoting peace and development, as well as ensuring everyone has the right to education, no matter which country they live in. Increasingly, more governments around the world are beginning to prioritize investment in education as a development strategy in line with the theme for this year.