One of the most prominent and heartrending tales in the country’s educational scene in the outgone year, apart from the usual poor funding and allocation, is the story of graduates not meeting industry standards, in terms of hard and soft skills, UJUNWA ATUEYI writes on why education policymakers and managers should endeavour to align the sector to ideas and prospects of the future in the New Year.
Never has it been heard, in the history of the country’s education, that employers would have to retrain graduates before absorbing them in their workplace, until lately.For some years now, there have been tales of poor learning outcomes and inability of graduates to sufficiently apply their supposed knowledge to real life issues plaguing the country.
At a point, it began to sound like a national anthem, as there is hardly any official function where keynote speakers or panelists will not remind the audience that Nigerian graduates are not employable, among other challenges of the sector.
Government and key stakeholders continue to pay lip service to the sector with observers playing the blame game. Truly, the time is believed to be long overdue for policymakers to bring in ideas that will transform the sector.
It has been said severally, that the quality of education in any country is a major determinant of its growth, thus the decline in the quality and standard of education in Nigeria must be brought to a halt. Some stakeholders who spoke with The Guardian, on the nation’s educational outlook in 2020 said the country could not be doing same thing over the years and be expecting new results, as ordinary things bring ordinary results, while extraordinary things, bring extraordinary results.
They said the world has come to a point that the jobs out there do not require the conventional learning that students acquire in school, adding that education has to move away from routine school going. Former, Vice-Chancellor, Redeemer’s University, Prof. Debo Adeyewa, was one of those who stressed that all hands must be on deck as it won’t continue to be business as usual if the country wants to reap the dividends of education.He said the rapid technological advancement, innovations and great transformation in the contemporary world is one major reason the country’s policy makers should rethink their decisions on education at all levels.He said developed countries are strategically investing heavily in new technologies and innovations because they understand that it is the language of the future.
For instance, he said, “China is strategically investing heavily in robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, big data analytics, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cloud computing, human-machine cooperation, and hypersonics. Only qualitative education can put us on the appropriate platform to launch into the future.”
Maintaining that it is only qualitative education that can lift and place Nigeria on a higher pedestal, he said: “Education is a major social institution, the bedrock of sustainable national development encompassing structural transformation of the economy, human capital development, technological innovation, building and nurturing democratic culture, enhancement of human capabilities, social cohesion and nation building.
“Thus, anyone who provides education is a life-giver and anyone who withholds it is an enemy of the society, anti-progress and could be likened to an inhibitor of life. In year 2019, governments at all levels have hyped their giants strides enormous contributions to education but most of these claims are mere self-adulation with little impact on the overall quality of education.
He continued: “Year 2020 should witness a new dawn in the education sector in the country. For this to be realised, all stakeholders should begin to work towards providing qualitative education that meets the minimum standard required for the survival of individuals, local communities and society in general in the increasingly competitive atmosphere within the local and global communities.
“In the name of increasing access, governments have worked hard to increase the quantity (access) while paying lip service to quality. In the new global dispensation, quantity is hardly rewarded. Although, providing qualitative education is rather expensive, it rewards far outstrips the cost.”
Adeyewa, who is also the former Chairman, Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU), advised policy makers at all levels of governance to therefore ensure that quality is placed above mere quantity, adding that governments should start a process of rewarding institutions at all levels that are providing the best education.
“In addition, the Federal Government should commend and reward states that are spurring rapid developments in their states by providing quality education within the state in terms of percentage of annual budget allocated to education. However, the Federal Government itself, should provide a good example in this respect.
“Technical Education, designed to develop occupational skills which give individuals the skills to live, learn and work as a productive citizen in a global society should also be prioritised. Appropriate attention should be given fostering skills development and entrepreneurship.
As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some strategically minded countries have pledged to substantially increase their public and private spending on Research and Development. Global spending on Research and Development has therefore reached a record high. Nigeria is very weak in this area and until we begin to strategise appropriately, we will continue to depend on others for technological survival.
For Prof. Ademola Adeleke of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Nigerian education must be repositioned to respond to global developments. “Two things are involved. There are basic 21st century learning skills that Nigeria must key into for our education to be relevant to the future.
These skills are critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, information literacy, media literacy, technology literacy, flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity and social skills.“In trying to achieve these, education sector needs to be better funded. Modern teaching facilities are needed in our schools. Teacher Education programmes need to be better encouraged. As it is, teaching as a profession is not very lucrative and inviting, the best of our brains are not encouraged to enroll to become teachers. People choose to become teachers today as the last option.
He continued: “The world has gone completely digital, and our schools must be made to follow same direction with the provision of relevant teaching resources. It is high time we do away with chalkboards. The world has come to a point that the jobs that are out there now do not require the conventional learning that students acquire in school. Learning that promotes thinking out of the box is what is needed to be relevant in the nearest future. Schools have to be prepared to serve this function.”
Adeleke, who is the Dean Faculty of Education, advised that schools must begin to make vocational education a priority, highlighting that the fact that many graduates still find it difficult to get a job is a minus for the current educational system. He further stated that schools must be assisted through relevant policies and adequate funding so as to achieve the expected results.
“Vocational education does not necessarily have to be in the areas of tailoring, hair dressing, GSM repairing as we currently have it. Brains of our youths have to be challenged in problem creation and solution. For instance, ICT has become a hot cake today because it solves problems. Many of these problems were created by some minds. Our educational system has to move away from the routine school going,” Adeleke submitted.
Professor of Counselling and Psychology, University of Ibadan, Ayo Hammed, on his part said, the world is going into the fourth revolution, and Nigeria cannot be left behind.He said in this era of robotic, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, digital marketing and mechanised agricultural business, where will the Nigeria child be without sound educational background?
“The developed countries of the world are encouraging their children to learn about nonviolence education, tolerance education, peaceable behaviour, and transformative leadership so that they can live anywhere in the world and promote harmonious relationship. “What do we have in our country, violent crime, kidnapping, ritual killings, using human heart for pepper soup to make money. We need reorientation and re-engineering of Nigerian children and adolescents in the adoption of right value to life. Value clarification system and value education is missing.”
He further counselled that year 2020 should be a year that the strategic focus on education shall include improving equitable access to quality education for all children of diverse educational needs.Not only that, it must also include provision of requisite teaching and learning materials; improved finance parameters; capacity development for professional and specialised teachers, return of Teaching Practice allowance for teachers in training; improvements in education service delivery as well as an enhancement for an institutional framework for the coordination and implementation of monitoring and evaluation.
By extension, he said, efforts must be made to implement the national policy on Early Childhood Education, National Policy on Counseling, National Policy on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and all other policy guidelines to promote and enhance quality education in Nigeria.
On access, Hammed said, “This is a challenge. Fulani herdsmen children don’t go to schools. They don’t understand Western education. National Commission for Nomadic Education is underfunded. They are to take care of herdsmen, fishermen, Almajiris, street urchins, children in motor parks, hawkers, apprentices, house maids, retirees who needs retraining, widows who needs training and retraining.
“There is also need for provision of 21st century infrastructure that will aid teaching and learning. These include the school buildings, teachers, textbooks and other learning materials, school feeding programme, furniture, sports facilities and any other resources that will promote academic performance in all the educational sectors.”
Insisting that attention should also be paid to issue of finance, he said, “you will recall that every year we clamour for increase in budgetary allocation to the educational sectors, yet nothing is done about it.”He added that once all these are implemented the impact would be obvious in every facet of the nation’s economy, as well as the products at early childhood education, primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education.
With the ugly situation around the sector hinged on poor governance and management, lack of clear-cut policies, inadequate learning infrastructure, low budgetary allocation, wrong investments, poor teacher education, among others, it is expected that key stakeholders will appropriately address all the issues raised in order to get the desired results.
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