History of Social Studies: The World Perspective

There was no school subject with the name of Social Studies before the World War II, WWII (1 Sep 1939 – 2 Sep 1945). Before then, Social Science subjects like anthropology, archaeology, jurisprudence, philosophy, religion, psychology, political science, history, sociology, geography and economics were taught at college level. The subjects were thought to be adequate in addressing the problems of social living. But with the outbreak of World War I, WWI (1914 – 1918), it dawned on world leaders that the problems of man’s relations with one another can only be solved by integrating relevant ideas from these various but “stand-alone” social science subjects: this is called integrative approach.


The United States of America and many European countries designed curricular programmes in Social Studies in which it was first taught as a school subject, relevant to their various environments and experiences shortly after World War I and World War II. Within the few years of its introduction, it produced better understanding among people and nations and greater appreciation of the roles of man in the society.


History of Social Studies in Nigeria

Nigeria became an independent nation in October 1, 1960. It then had the opportunity to design curricular programmes relevant to its needs. It was encouraged to do so with grants from world bodies like the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Ford Foundation (of America) and others from Britain.


In 1965, a first attempt was made at the Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro in Ogun State in the then Western Region, to teach social studies. Teachers came from the U.S.A., grants also came from Ford Foundation. Some teachers at the Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, were also sent to the USA for a few months to study the development of the subject there. These efforts led to the production of two textbooks for Forms I and II and the teaching of the subject in the school.


The experience of the civil war in Nigeria between 1967and 1970 showed that the over 250 different ethnic groups and languages in Nigeria needed a better understanding of one another and how to relate to one another. The school, being a good instrument of change, offered an opportunity to assist in finding solution through proper education in its relevant fields. The Ayetoro experiment was critically looked at, at the Comparative Education Study and Adaptation Centre (CESAC), which was established at the University of Lagos. Initially the scope of teaching social studies in secondary schools was limited to the then Western Region and to Forms I and II of the school.


Through the assistance of the Ford Foundation and under its joint auspices with Comparative Education Study and Adaptation Centre (CESAC) of the University of Lagos in 1976, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), the Ayetoro Project was given a national scope. The success and enthusiasm associated with the beginning of Social Studies, and with the encouragement and advice from the Federal and State Ministries of Education, a national syllabus was developed in 1974. Three books were developed for Junior Secondary Schools. Today Social   Studies has become a core subject in both the primary and junior secondary schools. Its importance cannot be overemphasized in the Nigerian educational system, now and in the near future.



  1. Briefly trace the history of Social Studies in the world perspective.
  2. Mention a country that has name in the development of Social Studies as a school subject.
  3. Write the full meaning of the following: (i) CESAC (ii) NERDC
  4. Briefly trace the history of Social studies as a Nigeria school subject.
  5. Mention the bodies that assisted in the development of Social Studies in Nigeria.
  6. Social studies is a very important subject in Nigerian school curriculum today. Discuss briefly.


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