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Notes on Population and Family Life Education

What exactly is population education?

What exactly is population education?

Unit One: The Concept and Objectives of Population/Family Life Education

Population and Family Life Education

Population education is a recent innovation and, as such, is subject to various misinterpretations and misunderstandings. To many people, population education is family planning; to others, it is another name for sex education; still to many others, including teachers, it is synonymous with the teaching of demography and/or population studies.

In Nigeria, the Education Research and Development Council views population education as

‘An educational process which provides for an articulated and practical study of the population situation in the family, the community, the nation, and the word, with the aim of developing in the individuals a more rational attitude and responsible behaviour towards improving the quality of their life now and in the future’.

The above definition shows that population education involves so many activities that a single definition cannot meaningfully cover all of them. Basically, population education is designed to improve and increase people’s knowledge and awareness of the cause and consequence of population growth at the family, community, national and international levels.

It aims to provide a better understanding of the relationship between population processes and dynamics on the one hand and social, cultural, and environmental conditions on the other and illuminate the effect of that relationship on quality of life at both the micro and macro levels.

Population education is multi-disciplinary in nature and structure. It draws its contents from major fields of study such as demography, natural and applied sciences, social sciences, and so on. It is therefore an embodiment of various concepts and messages.

Family Life Education (FLE) is concerned with the study of attitudes and skills related to dating, marriage, parenthood, and health of a family (NERDC, 1993). It is designed to help people in their physical, social, emotional and moral development. Because the family is seen as the central focus of the National Population Programme, FLE is a necessary addition.

Objectives of Population Education

The goals of population education for Nigeria can be categorized into four groups of objectives:

1. Long Term Objectives:

  • To assist the government in the formulation and implementation of measures to ensure the effective mobilization of our human and material resources for development and better quality of life.
  • To assist the Federal Ministry of Education in making general education more responsive to the socio-economic needs of the individual and the country as stated in the National Policy on Education (1981) and within the context of the new 6-3-3-4 educational system.

2. Immediate Objectives:

  • To identify needs, problems, and gaps in population education for both the in-school and out-of-school sectors.
  • To analyze existing curriculum materials, syllabi, teaching, and learning materials at all levels of education and suggest suitable guidelines for determining appropriate content and modes of introducing population education concepts into the curricula.
  • To create a favourable climate of awareness and knowledge on population education among all sectors of the Nigerian population through a public awareness campaign.
  • To develop desirable attitudes and behaviours in the teachers and students as well as the community at large towards population issues
  • To develop appropriate curriculum materials for use in the population education programme.
  • To incorporate population education into all teacher-training programmes.
  • To develop relevant materials, newsletters, sourcebooks and other audio-visual aids for public enlightenment and teaching/learning in schools.

3. Secondary-School-Level Objectives:

The third group of objectives is specifically targeted toward the secondary school level. The National Population Education curriculum for Nigerian secondary schools is meant to help the students to:

  • Recognize how the increasing gap between birth and death rates will impact services such as schools, health, water and housing.
  • Relate growth and size of family to demand for available food and other facilities, health and productivity of members of the family.
  • Explain how population patterns at the household and national levels affect the demand for and consumption of goods and services.
  • Recognize how population growth, the constraints on resources development, and consumption rates have contributed to the present state of the economy.
  • Compare and contrast the population/resources situation in Nigeria with that of other countries so as to have an insight into the international dimensions of population and family life problems.
  • Highlight the importance of self-sufficiency in food production and the dangers of dependence on food imports and food aid, and
  • Identify the various uses to which population data are put and, therefore, develop an understanding of the importance of and a sense of responsibility towards population census enumeration and the registration of vital statistics.

4. Programme Implementation Objectives:

The fourth group of objectives focuses on the implementation and role of the population education programme. The ultimate objectives are:

  • To institutionalize population education at all levels and sectors of our educational system.
  • To assist individual citizens in defining their population problems, in understanding the determinants and consequences of population processes and changes, and in evaluating possible actions which they and their communities can take to improve their quality of life.
  • To complement other population programmes aimed at improving the quality of life of the individual, the family and the nation.

Objectives of Family Life Education

Family Life Education will enable people to understand the importance of the family as the basic bio-social group in society.

  • It helps to know and explain different types of marriages, family structure and life cycle of the family.
  • To understand the matters relating to sexual relationship, fertility regulation, family planning, before marriage, and child-bearing age.
  • To grasp the comparative benefits of smaller family sizes and its effect on quality of life both for the individuals involved, the extended family, and the nation as a whole.
  • To publicize governmental population and family policies.

The core messages in the Nigerian Population Education Programme include:

  1. Family size and welfare: a small family size improves quality of life in the areas of: food, nutrition, clothing, health, safe drinking water, education, leisure/recreation, savings, parental care, and attention.
  2. Delayed marriage: delayed marriage has many advantages for the individual, the community, and the country. Women who delay their marriage will have shorter reproductive spans and therefore, will tend to have fewer children than women who marry earlier. Likewise, young people who delay marriage will tend to have smaller families, be able to pursue education for self-fulfillment and gainful employment, and be able to help improve the welfare of parents, brothers and sisters.
  3. Responsible parenthood: this involves, among others, planning the size of the family, spacing children, taking care of the elderly, and knowing the physiology of human reproduction. Having fewer and more spaced-out births promotes the health of the mother and child and affords women more opportunities for sharing social and economic responsibilities.
  4. Population change and resource development: this message includes the demographic situation and population dynamics and their interrelationships with the environment, resources (natural and human), and socio-economic development. This also includes the effects of enhanced status of women on population growth and development.
  5. Population-related beliefs and values: this includes clarification of pro-natalist, socio-cultural beliefs and values, such as preference for a son, early marriage, large family, security for old age and traditional beliefs about the role of women.

Based on these core messages, it can be observed that population education is a broad subject, which derives from many fields of learning. Subsequently, the ultimate content and scope of population education will depend on the target group.

In 1963, Nigeria's population was 55.6 million. Thirty years later, it was 167 million. To track such dramatic changes in population, a census programme needs to be put into place that can collect data on on the country's population size, distribution, growth rate, and composition.

Population census is a means of collecting and publishing the demographic, social, and economic data of all the persons in a country at a particular time. It inventories the age, sex, occupational status, religious affiliation, marital status and educational status of all the country's citizens.

There are two major types of census: de jure de facto. A De jure census counts people at their usual place of residence, while a de facto census counts people wherever they are found on the census day. Each person is counted on sight, and, for valid results, travel is always restricted during the census exercises.

The census is used to plan for the educational needs, health, housing, employment, industrial, and other needs of people of the country.

However, the following have been militating against successful census in Nigeria:

  • Inadequate statisticians and demographers to process the census data.
  • Lack of up-to-date base maps, especially when new Local Government areas and states are created.
  • Politicization of census operations, leading to inflation of figures and falsification of information.
  • Religious beliefs like women in purdah in the North and the negative attitudes of many Jehovah's witnesses in the South.
  • Poor communication and transportation systems, which prevent census officers from reaching many parts of the country.
  • Inadequate offices and storage facilities to keep census data and records.
  • Inaccessibility of some parts of the country during certain period of the year like Oro festival in Ikorodu.
  • Poor publicity of census programmes.
  • Late processing of census data.
  • The use of census figures as an instrument of political power.

Vital Registration is another way of obtaining data on population size, composition, and structures and can substitute for census programmes. Vital registration refers to the process of keeping accurate records of events in the life of an individual right from birth to death. It is also used for tax deduction purposes, and for many administrative purposes essential for national development. Other sources of population data are sample surveys, population registers, and other non-traditional sources.

Population distribution is measured by population density: the ratio of the number of people to a given unit area of land, usually expressed as X persons per unit area. Two divisions identified by social educators are:

  1. Ecumene meaning inhabited areas of the world and,
  2. Non-Ecumene meaning uninhabited or sparsely inhabited areas.

Factors influencing Population Distribution in Nigeria and Africa

A number of factors are responsible for the uneven distribution of population in Nigeria and Africa. Factors which influence population distribution can be grouped as physical, historical, political and economic. Although other factors contribute to it, the ultimate factor in population distribution is economic potential, because people live only where they can find a means of earning a living.

A. Physical Factors Influencing Population Distribution in Nigeria and Africa

  1. Rainfall: the amount of rainfall can account for divisions between the densely populated districts and sparsely populated areas.
  2. Soils: the influence of soil quality on population distribution is also very important. The prevalence of very poor soil conditions have made some areas such as the access plains, the swampy Niger Delta, and the sterile sand and beach ridges of the Nigerian coast inhospitable for settlements.
  3. Disease: in the tropics, particularly in the African continent, the menace of tsetse fly which spreads trypnosomiasis among cattle and sleeping sickness among human beings is a major physical factor influencing population distribution. People tend to move away from places with a high prevalence of disease.
  4. Natural vegetation: thick jungles repel population; light forests and grasslands attract and support dense population.
  5. Mineral resources:people tend to migrate to places where plenty of minerals are available, even where climatic conditions are harsh. Examples abound around Jos.

B. Historical Factors Influencing Population Distribution in Nigeria and Africa.

Historical developments reduced population in certain parts of the world. These developments include:

  1. Slave trade: Between 10 and 15 million Africans were carried away as slaves to Europe and America during the 18th and 19th centuries. The areas which suffered slave-trade-related depopulation include the Middle Belt of West Africa, Northern and Western Yorubaland etc.
  2. Inter-tribal war: In the 19th century, inter-tribal wars in Yorubaland led to the death of many people. Somalia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are now being depleted of population because of wars.
  3. Religious Persecution: persecuted people in northern Nigeria moved away during the Maltasine Riot in Nigeria. Another factor is historical attachment among the Ibos and some people to the area in the Plateau State.

C. Political Factors influencing Population Distribution in Nigeria and Africa

Some political policies and decisions which influenced the distribution of population include:

  1. Forest and game reserves: The creation of forest and game reserves, where settlement and farming are illegal, has led to situations where a vast uninhabited area exists side by side with densely populated areas where the people experience acute shortage of farmlands.
  2. Resettlement schemes: people are arbitrarily removed from their homelands and resettled at the dictates of government. The resettlement of people displaced by such large manmade lakes as the Kariba Lake and Lake Kainji have had considerable effect on the people. Also, settlement integration schemes for health or security reasons in Nigeria have had considerable effect on the distribution or redistribution of population in the country.

D. Economic Factors influencing Population Distribution in Nigeria and Africa

Economic factors have become important in shaping population distribution in most parts of the world. This is a reflection of technological progress. In addition to urban centres, Africa's major areas of high population density are those rural locales that produce minerals or industrial crops for exports.

In West Africa for example, the major centres of economic growth are located within 150 miles of the coast. Opportunities for employment either in industrial or in agricultural areas are greater along the coast where most of the capital cities and major seaports are located. It is not surprising therefore that there is a marked relocation of population from interior to the coastal areas.

Urbanization is another economic factor that influences population distribution in Nigeria and Africa. Most of the migrants to the growing urban centres come from the congested rural areas and given the present rate of urbanization, it is reasonable to expect greater concentrations of people in the few economically active areas.

Factors influencing Population Growth

The rate at which population increases is called the population growth rate. This growth rate differs from country to country and from one economy to another. Besides immigration, population growth in any country happens as a result of natural changes in the birth and mortality rates.

A. Birth Rate:

A number of factors may influence the differences in level of fertility among various groups:

  1. Occupation: people with prestigious occupations have fewer children than those with less prestigious occupations.
  2. Income: the higher the level of income, the lower the fertility level and, conversely, the lower the level of income the higher the fertility level.
  3. Education: the higher the education rises, the lower the fertility rate goes. Studies have shown that in traditional societies, where fertility is higher, education also influences the age of marriage, the use of contraceptive methods, and attitudes toward the cost of raising children.
  4. Religion: generally, believers of certain religions frequently have higher fertility than Jews or Protestants. Studies have shown that Muslims often have higher fertility rates than non-Muslims. Some religious group can even specify the family size or the number of wives that are allowed.
  5. Urbanization: fertility rates in rural areas tend to be higher than those in urban areas. Factors affecting lower urban fertility rates include the high costs of living, social mobility, social income, social classes, occupation status, female employment, education, etc.
  6. Sex Preference: the status of women has improved considerably and, as a result, less emphasis is placed on sex when raising children.

B. Mortality (Death) Rate:

In simple terms, mortality is the occurrence of death. We measure the mortality rate by determining the ratio of the number of deaths per year to the total population of an area, which is expressed as X number of people per thousand.

The mortality rate is correlated with the level of socio-economic development. Death rates are lowest in advanced countries and highest in developing countries. The common factors influencing the mortality rate includes:

  1. Social class: as the prestige level of a given group’s occupation goes up, its death rate goes down
  2. Race and ethnicity: when a particular racial or ethnic group predominates over the other, the lesser group tends to suffer more and may have a lower life expectancy because of limited opportunities.
  3. Sex Difference: in many societies, male mortality is higher than that of females at almost every age.
  4. Marital status: married people tend to live longer than unmarried ones.
  5. Age: generally, mortality rates are highest among infants of less than one year and decline gradually until the age of 18 when the level is lowest. After 60, the mortality rate rises again.
  6. Rural-urban differences: mortality levels are usually higher in urban areas than in rural areas. However, scientific and technological development have improved urban mortality rates with innovations such as sanitation, the establishment of adequate medical facilities, public health campaign, and public or free medical clinics.

C. Advantages of a Large Population

  1. Larger working population: A larger population means more workers, which, if coupled with other necessary factors, will increase economic output.
  2. Expansion of domestic markets: a large population will expand the domestic market for goods and services of the nation’s population.
  3. Diversity of skills: a large population is likely to be accompanied by diversity of skills and talents. Various skills possessed by the different sections and groups can be harnessed for increased and improved production.
  4. Strategic and psychological satisfaction: more people will be available to defend a country with a large population.
  5. International prestige and respect: a large population gives a country a feeling of importance and security. This is because a country with large population gains greater respect than countries with smaller population.

D. Disadvantages of a Large Population

Once the size of the population in a country passes above the optimum or level, various disadvantages will begin to set in unless this large population is complemented by other factors. An overly-large population therefore leads to the following:

  1. Overpopulation: a large population may lead to overcrowding, which can strain social services such as hospitals, water, electricity, etc.
  2. Food shortages: a large population that's not self-supporting must import food from other countries, resulting in a trade imbalance that harms the importing nation.
  3. Political stability: rapid and uncontrolled population growth leads to political instability because the government will not be able to meet the social and economic demands of such a rapidly changing populace.
  4. Unemployment: large-scale unemployment of qualified and less-qualified workers will set in. A large pool of chronically unemployed workers gives rise to social problems like prostitution, armed robbery and terrorism etc
  5. Heavy dependency ratio: overpopulation leads to a heavy dependence ratio. The proportion of dependent people to those engaged in active and effective production will be high and this will in turn increase the number of dependent population.

Population structure refers to the aspects of population that can be easily measured. These are sometimes termed the quantitative aspects of population. They include age, sex, marital status etc. with specific reference to Africa, this unit examines the nature of population structures or and their implications for development.

Age Structure:

A person's age shapes her needs, occupation, and the pattern of public expenditure on her. Three age groups are normally recognized. They are:

  1. Children: usually under 15 years old (infants and adolescents 0-14 years). A dependent population, this group is largely non-reproductive and increasingly unproductive economically. In many developing countries, almost half of the population is in this group. In developed countries, by contrast, there has been a marked tendency for the proportion in this group to diminish.
  2. Adults: usually between 15 and 64 years old. This is sometimes subdivided for further analysis into young adults (15-35 years old), and older adults (35-64 years old). The adult age group, particularly those in age group 15-49, is the most reproductive and productive, supporting the bulk of the other two groups. It is also the most mobile age group.
  3. The Elderly: who are 65 years old and above. This group contains a marked marked majority of females who are mostly non-productive. Old men are usually more productive and may be reproductive. Nigeria had only 2% in the 1963 population census as aged.

The first and the third groups are more or less dependent on the second group. The distribution of age group influences social and economic development. It determines the level of demand for goods and services. Industrial production is sometimes manipulated to satisfy the needs of the age groups.

Other structures that can be examined are the sex structure, social pattern (religious, language and nationality) and economic pattern (working groups and dependents).

The success of population education programmes depends a great deal on the actual teaching-learning process. Teaching-learning methods that may be used in population education ranged from highly formalized and structured, to non-directive participatory group work, to non-structured and highly informed discussions. The kinds of teaching methods can be divided into those that appear more teacher-centred, e.g. lecturing, and those that are more student-centred, e.g. project method, debates and discussions, field trips.

Population education is different from traditional subjects like English Language, Mathematics, etc which aim to present a body of factual information and methodologies. The aim of population education is to enable students to explore personal values, attitudes, and beliefs as well as to develop the abilities to freely choose a rational course of action. Population education therefore requires emphasizing analysis, starting from collective inquiry and leading to appraisal of issues or problems that affect the learners and their social environments.

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, population education encourages participation and group work and emphasizes problem-solving. It is noteworthy that while the teacher-centred methods emphasize cognitive aspects of learning, the student-centred methods involve tstudents as active participants in the teaching-learning process. The student-centred method has implications for both the teacher and the learner in terms of its advantages and the limitations.

The advantages are obvious especially for the learners. It helps them to develop an analytical mind, to think critically, and to weigh issues objectively before arriving at a conclusion. It strengthens the learners’ problem-solving skills. Since the learner has developed an analytical, critical, and independent mind, an in-depth to understanding of and involvement in the population education issues become easy. The learner becomes more independent of the teacher, because the learner can solve problems and make decisions on his or her own.

The student-centred method is not without limitations, though. The teacher must be a skilled facilitator, be ready to establish rapport with the learner, be non-judgemental. The student may become a little reluctant to share knowledge and experiences for obvious reasons. However, student-centred approaches are considered more effective given the nature of the subject. As such, It is important to adopt those instructional methods that emphasize how to learn than what to learn.

The commonly identified methods of teaching population education are:

  • The Inquiry Method
  • Discovery Method
  • Problem-Solving Method
  • Value Clarification Method
  • Discussion Method
  • Role Playing Method

Population policy can be defined as a set of actions—whether stated or unstated, intended or unintended— taken by a national or local government, organization, or interest group that affects a population's size, growth rate, composition, and distribution. The type of policy to be adopted by any nation depends on the prevailing issues in that country. There are three primary types:

  1. Anti-natalist policy: aims at reducing or checking the rate of population growth.
  2. Pro-natalist policy: aims at increasing the rate of population growth when the resources of a nation become under-utilized.
  3. Neutral policy: This aims neither at reducing nor increasing the growth of population.

The National Population Policy which was approved by the Federal Government on 4th February, 1988 has implications for the population programme.

The followings are the goals:

  1. To improve the standards of living and quality of life of the nation.
  2. To promote their health and welfare, especially through preventing premature death and illness among high risk groups of mother and children.
  3. To achieve lower population growth rates through reduction of birth rates by voluntary fertility regulation methods that are compatible with the attainment of economic and social goals of the nation, and
  4. To achieve a more even distribution of population between urban and rural areas.

In order to achieve these goals, the objectives of the population policy shall be:

  1. To promote awareness about population problems and the effects of rapid population growth on development
  2. To provide the necessary information on how smaller family sizes can benefit both the individual family and the nation as a whole, allowing both to achieve self-reliance.
  3. To educate all young people on population matters, sexual relationships, fertility regulation and family planning so that they can make responsible decisions once they become able to marry and have children.
  4. To make family planning services easily accessible at affordable cost.
  5. To provide fertility management progammes that will respond to the needs of sterile or sub-fertile couples to achieve reasonable self-fulfillment.
  6. To improve demographic data collection and analysis on a regular basis and to use such data for economic and social development planning.
  7. To enhance integrated rural areas and to slow down the rate of migration from rural areas to the cities.

The population policy strongly recognizes that the strategy for the implementation of the National Population Policy shall be voluntary and in accord with fundamental human rights of individuals. Furthermore, in order to ensure the maximum success of the policy, all relevant agencies and institutions, both public and private, shall be mobilized for the effective implementation of the programme. The role and status of women in development, the role and responsibilities of men in the family life and programmes to meet the needs of children, youths and mother are spelt out in the policy.

STD stands for sexually transmitted diseases. They are diseases that are transmitted through unprotected sex with an already infected partner. They include syphilis, gonorrhea, urinary tract infections (UTIs), AIDS, etc.

AIDS is the acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome. AIDS is caused by a type of virus that destroys immune capacity. Thus, AIDS infection can lead to death if it is not attended to. AIDS is now rampant throughout the world and many cases have been reported in Nigeria. Anyone can contact HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus).

Transmission of AIDS

AIDS can be transmitted through the following ways:

  1. Through sexual contact with HIV infected people either by not using condoms or by using them improperly.
  2. By transfusion of infected blood to healthy people or sharing contaminated needles, and other unsterilized objects with infected people.
  3. HIV-infected mothers may transmit the disease to their foetus.

It should however be noted that AIDS cannot be transmitted through casual contacts such as kissing, handshaking, embracing, sharing a telephone or toilet with people, or through mosquito and other insect bites.

AIDS Preventive Measure

Married couples should protect their marriage from AIDS. Condoms should be used in casual sex. HIV-infected women should try to avoid becoming and pregnant and to immediately seek advice should they become so. If anyone in the community you know catches AIDS, he or she needs your care, your help and understanding.

Review Questions

  • Examine the core messages in population/family life education.
  • What are the factors militating against the conduct of successful population census in Nigeria?
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a large population.
  • How can the problems of a large population be checked in Nigeria?
  • Why in your own opinion is population not evenly distributed in Nigeria?
  • Why will you emphasize the use of learner-centred methods to teach population education?
  • What is the percentage of working population in the last census in Nigeria?


Ade, O. (1987) Integrated Social Studies. Ado Ekiti: United Star Printers and Co. Ltd.

Adedigba, T. A. (2002) Relative effects of Two Collaborative Group Strategies on the lecturing of some aspects of Population Education by NCE students. Unpublished Ph. D Thesis, UI, Ibadan

Andrew, G. O. (1985) An Outline of Human Geography. Benin-City: Equaveon Printers

Barnabas, Y. (1988) Introduction to Population Education. Lagos: NERDC

Olaogun, Layi (2000) "Population Education Studies." Unpublished Lecture Notes. St. Andrews College of Education, Oyo.

Orubuloye, I. and Olorunfemi, J. (1986) Introduction to Population Analysis. Ibadan: Afrografika Publishers

Raimi, S. et al (2003) Education, Health Living and National Development. Lagos: SIBIS Ventures


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