INFOGRAPHICS: What the education statistics say about Nigeria versus Iceland


Nigeria won Iceland 2-0 in the World Cup on Friday. Beyond the exciting victory, we decided to compare the education system in both countries. Is the Nigerian education system better than that of Iceland? Find out with these infographics.

Our parameters for comparison took into account several education related bases of comparison as drawn from various databases related to both nations. is hopeful that in this are lessons for both countries to learn.

Country Facts


Nigeria is a West African country with a population of about 185 million people. Of this figure, 50.6% are male while 49.4% are female. Its annual Gross Domestic Product, according to the World Bank is -1.42.

This nation which covers a land mass of 923,768 km² (356,669 mi²) has Abuja as its capital city. It is one the most linguistically and culturally diverse in the world. Over 500 languages and cultures have coexisted in Nigeria over the centuries. Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba are the three major languages other than English, the official language. The legal tender in Nigeria is Naira.

This former British Colony gained its independence in 1960. It plays leadership roles in both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). People call Nigeria the giant of Africa. Its membership of various international organisations is well pronounced.

Nigeria runs a presidential and a federal system of government. There are 36 states in the country and a Federal Capital Territory. The Local Government Areas in Nigeria are 774. Powers are shared among the federating units.

Nigeria’s incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari heads the executive arm of government where main decisions of the federal government are made. The national legislature headed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki has two houses – the Senate and the House of Representatives with 109 and 360 members respectively. The judiciary is made up the courts of law and law enforcement agencies, with the apex being the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onoghen.

Nigeria Vs Iceland: Population and GDP data


Iceland is an European country located in the North Atlantic. This nordic island country has a population of about 348,580 and an area of 103,000km² (40,000 sq mi²), making it the most sparsely populated in the continent. 50.4% of citizens there are male while the remaining 49.6% are female.

Unlike Nigeria, the Icelandic population has just three categories of ethnic nationalities namely Icelandic (91%), Polish (4%) and others (5%). Its capital city, Reykjavik hosts up to 60% of the entire population.

The World Bank puts the GDP of Iceland at 7.48%. Icelandic Krona (ISK) is the national currency of Iceland.

The country has been a former ‘colony’ of Denmark with the latter handling its trade and foreign relations for several years. It was in 1874 that Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. The two nations signed an 25 year span agreement (1918-1943) to fully recognise Iceland as a fully sovereign and independent state in a personal union with Denmark.

With the events of the World War that saw Denmark being invaded by the British, Iceland had to depend on American forces for its military protection. It would later play prominent roles in humanitarianism and peacekeeping with North Atlantic Trade Organisation (NATO) in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

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A unitary parliamentary system of government is in operation in Iceland with Guðni Th. Jóhannesson as President and Katrin Jakobsdotti as Prime Minister. The Parliament has its own president as well, who is Steingrímur J. Sigfússonjust as the supreme court is headed by Þorgeir Örlygsson.

Education Funding

In both Nigeria and Iceland, the public sector largely handles the funding of education. Whereas, there is a tendency for the Icelandic municipal governments to fund almost all of the privately owned schools in Iceland, the Nigerian federal and state governments rarely funds privately owned schools. An exception is the construction and equipment of some Tsangaya Schools in various parts of the country in the Model Almajiri School project through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the defunct Education Trust Fund (ETF) now Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) since 2011.

Public education is free for all citizens at all education levels in both countries. At the university level, no tuition is paid in all federal universities in Nigeria, although students pay for some expenses within each individual school arrangement. In Iceland, students have access to loans to cover living expenses and school materials while studying but the Nigerian government does not provide for such.

Nigeria Vs Iceland: Education Funding

World Bank estimates show that Iceland spent 7.8% of its GDP on education while Nigeria spent 3.1%. Curiously, the Nigerian data was from 1975 while that of Iceland was dated 2013. Only in 1974 and 1975 was there ever any data about the Nigerian government’s expenditure on education relative to the GDP.

Clearly, Iceland’s spending on education relative to GDP is above the average of 3.4% obtainable as at 2013 in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 35 member countries. OECD member states are the acclaimed most developed in the world.

Meanwhile, based on the 2018 budget of both countries, Nigeria devoted 7.04% of its national budget to education while Iceland is spending 11.8% of its on the sector too.

Education levels

Both Nigeria and Iceland operate almost similar levels of education. A year difference and the stipulation of age-difference in the Icelandic national curriculum guide for compulsory schools is where they divergent. The Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act in Nigeria is where legal stipulation of compulsory education can be found.

Education levels in both countries are divided into pre-school, compulsory school, upper secondary and higher/tertiary education.

Nigeria operates the 1-9-3-4 structure in which one year is spent in pre-school, nine in compulsory school, otherwise called basic education, three years in senior secondary and four in higher education.

The concept of compulsory school and basic education in both countries means that a child must attend primary school and lower/junior secondary school. In Nigeria, that runs for 9 years but it is 10 in Iceland. found that the Icelandic education system is structured in such a way that you can determine a child’s education level by his/her age. Its policy documents indicate this by stating that pre-school was for children up to age six, compulsory school is for age six to sixteen while upper secondary was for age 16-20 and from 19/20, one could acquire higher education.

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The seeming correlation with that in the Nigerian experience is not clearly stated in the National Policy on Education (2013) but only observed as a convention. The National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) puts the pre-school age at five maximum and we see that again at the tertiary education level where someone lesser than sixteen would not be admitted to study in a higher institution.

Nigeria Vs Iceland: Education levels and literacy rate

As already said, the Nigerian pre-school level lasts for one year and is meant for those below age five, according to the NERDC but that is not usually the case in many families today. Many parents want their children to start regular schooling as soon as they can walk.

But the Icelandic Curriculum Guide for Preschools (2011) notes that the Pre-school life is vital to the child’s development. There are regulators to check that it is observed. This curriculum engages teachers, parents and the community surrounding the child in making it grow in all facets.

In addition, adult literacy is put at 59.6% in Nigeria, which is quite lower than the 99% rate in Iceland, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics. In these, an adult is one from age 15 and above. Data available on youth literacy in Nigeria put it at 72.8% but there is no such data available for Iceland, according to Knoema.

Primary School Enrolment and Completion

Nigerian children enrolled in primary schools are less likely to complete schooling based on various factors, according the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). It is also stated that of the 60.1% male who start primary school, 79.9% of them complete it. Whereas, 54.8% of primary school aged female students enrol in primary school. 96.5% of these Nigerian females complete primary education eventually.

Nigeria Vs Iceland: Primary school completion rate

Like the literacy rate of Iceland reflects, 98.1% of male children complete primary when 98.9% of primary school-aged boys initially enrol. 99.3% girls would start primary school but no data is available about the percentage that eventually complete primary school. Irrespective of that, available statistics confirm that a larger proportion of Icelandic young people are more educated at the primary level than Nigerians at that same level.

Out Of School Children

45% of Nigeria’s population are children, according to UNICEF. Of them, 10.5 million are not in school. Nigeria has the largest number of out of school children in the world based on population per country. Among these children, 60% are female while the remaining 40% are male. Also, the data acknowledges that this is still the case despite increase in primary school enrolment in recent years.

On a regional basis, 60% of Nigeria’s out of school children are from the north. UNICEF also notes a sharp drop in girl-child enrolment in the region due to low perceptions of the value of education and early marriages. Security crises in the region, which had had teachers killed, schools burnt and closed down for security reasons had increased fears of an increase in out of school children in the country.

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Nigeria Vs Iceland: Out of school children

For Iceland, out of school children is obviously not a major concern. Already, we have shown that age and academic progression work together in this nordic country. Up to 99% of the adult population is literate. But data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics show that 441 children were not in school as at 2016, the highest in four years. The data did not however indicate the distribution by gender.

The increase of out of school children in Iceland from 200 in 2012 to 338 in 2013 and decrease to 286 before the most recent increase calls for concern. Also, there is no clearcut data on the out of school children in Nigeria in the recent past as occasioned by the increasing insecurity challenges, poverty and migration issues in the country. The 10.5 million figure had been in use since around 2010.

Tertiary Education Enrolment, School Life Expectancy and Unemployment Rate

Male students constitute 59.3% of students enrolled in tertiary institutions in Nigeria but the remaining 40.7% are females. These are just 10.4% of all those who initially sought enrolments into higher institutions.

But 82.2% of candidates who seek tertiary education in Iceland eventually gain admission. Of this figure, 37.5% are male while 62.5% are female. This shows a high decline in the enrolment of male students in tertiary education compared to earlier education levels in Iceland.

Nigeria Vs Iceland: Tertiary Education Enrolment, life expectancy and Unemployment Rate

As earlier noted while discussing the nature of school levels, tertiary education in both Nigeria and Iceland averagely takes four years. Data from Knoema states that Nigerian school life expectancy (SLE) is at 0.5 years while that of Iceland is 4.2 years.

According to the CIA World Factbook, SLE is the total number of years of schooling that a child can expect to receive, assuming that the probability of his or her being enrolled in school at any particular future age is equal to the current enrollment ratio at that age.

It should be noted that this criterion would ordinarily not have been used in comparison considering that the quality and content of tertiary education likely differ between Nigeria and Iceland. justifies its inclusion based on the similarities of expected years of graduation at the tertiary education level.

In another development, the National Bureau of Statistics data put Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 18.8% as of the last quarter of 2017 but Statistics Iceland states that as at February 2018, Iceland had a 2.7% unemployment rate. In this perspective, Nigerian graduates are likely to lose their jobs than their counterparts in Iceland.

To be continued…

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