The dwindling quality of education in Nigeria is a cause for great concern and also calls for a prompt action by all stakeholders to salvage the trend. The current situation is, to say the least, disheartening. A lot of computer science graduates of Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, for instance, fail recruitment tests for their inability to switch on a PC. Some of them are obviously getting to touch such machines for the first time. Mass Communication graduates struggle to make simple and correct sentences.
Engineering graduates who ought to have conducted researches in the course of their studies, culminating in inventions, get to touch most of the elementary engineering tools for the first time, after their graduation. This is a near hopeless situation for a country that targets to be one of the world’s leading economies by 2020. The implication of the existing trend is that even though there is a high graduate unemployment rate, most of the university and polytechnic graduates in Nigeria are not employable.
The loss of confidence in Nigeria’s education system is evident in the amount of money that Nigerians who can afford it, spend on their education in other countries. According to Exam Ethics International, a non-governmental organisation, Nigeria loses N1. 5 trillion annually to education tourism. N160 billion of this amount is allegedly spent by Nigerian parents on their children and wards’ education in Ghana alone while N80 billion is spent on the same purpose in the United Kingdom. President Goodluck Jonathan should be commended for allocating the highest budget to the education sector in the 2013 budget.
However, there are other issues that require urgent attention. The emphasis on paper qualification and theoretical knowledge at the expense of competence or practical knowledge and entrepreneurial skills is a big challenge to the sector. The result is that most products of Nigeria’s tertiary institutions are mere certificate carriers and are not qualified to be addressed as university or polytechnic graduates. It is the combination of the ineffective education system and the decreasing white collar job opportunities that have further compounded the nation’s unemployment problem.
The diminishing quality of education in Nigeria is indeed, disturbing. Literacy is a human right recognised in the Universal Declaration of Rights and it goes beyond the mere skill of reading and writing. It is a process of transformation that empowers the individual, broadens his critical thinking and provides such individual with the ability to act. The much emphasis on paper qualification has however encouraged fraudulent acquisition of highly graded certificates at the expense of true knowledge acquisition.
Some students go to the extent of bribing lecturers or having sex with them to obtain high grades. Government agencies and private organisations further endorse emphasis on paper qualification above competence and skill by discriminating between a polytechnic and a university graduate. This trend has to change. If Nigeria must move at the anticipated economic growth rate, then, the country must learn from great examples like China which derived the strength of its speedy economic development from skills acquisition and technical education.
Giving more focus to the development of technical education and skills acquisition will also complement the targeted provision of regular power supply across the country and drastically, reduce unemployment rate. Objectives of the Universal Basic Education Scheme, the 6-3-3-4 Senior Secondary School Education system and some other education policy initiatives have not been achieved. As a matter of fact, Nigeria has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.
According to the United Nations’ Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation, 775 million people are still considered non-literates and 85 per cent live in 41 countries including Nigeria. About 40 million adults in Nigeria are illiterates and overall illiteracy rate is near 57 per cent. Only about 500,000 people are reportedly enrolled in adult literacy classes nationwide and this translates to one out of every 80 illiterates. The United States Agency for International Development reports that there are 30 million primary school age children in Nigeria but estimated 10 million are not enrolled in school.
Government should therefore, demonstrate the needed seriousness in addressing the prevalent low literacy level and give more attention to the quality of education while working to widen access to primary education. Federal, state and local governments across Nigeria should wake up to their responsibilities in providing qualitative primary, secondary and tertiary education to citizens of Nigeria. Parents also have a role to play in managing the negative impact of modern technology on their children’s academic performances.
For instance, research shows that the habit of abbreviation and deliberate use of wrong spellings for sending text messages contributed to the high failures in English language, recorded at the Senior Secondary School Examination and Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination in recent years. Twitter and Facebook fun chat sessions are also addictive and minimise study concentration levels for many students. Both government and private owners of educational institutions should ensure that the required infrastructure for learning is adequately provided.
The welfare of all categories of school teachers must equally be given adequate attention. This is one way of discouraging lecturers from yielding to the temptation to receive bribes or sleep with students in order to award them high scores, thereby leaving them in a state of intellectual emptiness. There are other challenges facing Nigeria’s education sector such as inadequate funding, labour unrest and brain drain. Therefore, all efforts must be made by the federal and state governments to avoid unnecessary labour unrest that keeps students of both federal and state tertiary institutions at home for long periods of time.
In most cases, this poses a big distraction to the students who after leaving the academic community for too long a time to mingle with non-academically inclined peers, begin to lose interest in academics and academic activities. Besides, it makes education far more expensive for students, especially those on self sponsorship. The federal character clause in the 1999 Constitution should also be reviewed because it is one of the factors working against the quality of the nation’s education system.
For instance, the federal character principle makes it difficult for most of the tertiary institutions to recruit fresh quality PhD holders as lecturers. Qualified applicants are rejected for some factor like state of origin. Professors and other categories of lecturers are also constantly retiring without replacements. These anomalies are really worrisome and all stakeholders must do something urgently. Personally, and without mincing words, there is no problem with either the old system or the new system but the problem lies in the administration and management of the Nigerian educational system.
A look at recent trend with the rate of passage in national examinations, the education system has collapsed. Unfortunately, policymakers are not paying attention to that; rather, the policymakers are just making policies that will not help the system. Whether, it 6-5-4, 6-3-3-4, 9-3-4 or any other system the educational system in Nigeria have been caught in the web of inefficiency which is characteristic of the present day Nigeria. The justification being advanced by government and its agencies on the reason for the change is laughable.
Education is the process by which an individual is encouraged and enabled to fully develop his or her potential; it may also serve the purpose of equipping, bringing up, training and rearing the individual to be a productive member of the society. People oriented governments achieve these objectives through a conscious and purposeful driven policies aimed at developing the potentials of her citizenry by equipping schools, employment of qualified manpower, upgrading of educational infrastructures in line with world standards etc. However, in Nigeria, we are still debating the appropriateness of the system to adopt in this 21st century.
It leaves one to ponder where this country is heading towards. From the analysis you have given so far, what do you think are the problems? A cursory look at the Nigerian educational system shows that the system is faced with a number of problems. The Nigerian educational system has a history of failure because of politics. The appointment of education ministers and key positions in the educational sector are not done on merits rather on party affiliations, tribe and friendship. The effect of such appointments is what we are witnessing in Nigeria now.
We take things for granted in this country and everything to us is business. Capable personnel that should be at the helm of affairs in the education sector are sacrificed for party loyalty and selfishness. This is one intractable problem in the education system. Indiscipline manifests in such areas as examination malpractices and secret cultism, unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies, bribery and corruption. Crises in the universities have led to brain-drain syndrome. Potential teachers shy away from academics in search of greener pastures in other sectors of the Nigerian economy or outside the country.
If this trend is not checked through improved working conditions for academicians and appeals to their patriotic spirit, the result could be disastrous for the country. The managers of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Nigeria are in consensus that these institutions are grossly under-funded.
Evidence exists on the degree of dilapidation that characterises primary and secondary school buildings in parts of the country; the non-payment of teachers salaries and allowances as a result of which strikes are the order of the day; the lack of necessary teaching and learning materials at all levels of the educational system; poor working conditions of all teachers in the country, among other factors have led to the death of the Nigerian educational system.
The education sector is poorly funded. Teachers are not paid their salaries on time. The teachers who are supposed to implement the curriculum and give it their best shot are all distracted looking for money to survive. There is no effective system in the country for training good teachers at the nursery/primary and secondary school levels, teachers who are attuned to the demands of human resource capacity in the age of globalisation.
A weak primary education system automatically produces weak students for the secondary schools, which are no better either, and so the chain of mediocrity continues up to the higher education level and the cycle completes itself with the same garbage fed back into society with serious implications for national competitiveness and productivity. We are all witnesses to the unnecessary changes in government policies concerning the educational sector. The frequent changes in the system do not allow for consistency thus the basis for measurement and benchmarking for corrective measures cannot be achieved.
The management of the educational sector in Nigeria is so inconsistent with every new minister of education trying to introduce something new, without any rigorous study of the situation. The implication is a sector that lacks direction. It is partly this confusion in government policies that has compelled many middle class families to patronise American, British and Turkish-style educational institutions which are all available in Nigeria. Another major problem facing the Nigerian educational system is lack of interface between the various coordinating government agencies.
The authorities responsible for the supervision of primary, secondary and tertiary education work in isolation. It could be argued that the ministry of education is the coordinating ministry. However, we have seen a situation where Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC officials are not coordinating with SUBEP. West African Certificate Examination, WACE is an autonomous body; Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, JAMB also has its own mandate. What do you think is the solution to the problems?
As stated earlier, the problem is not in the system of education, the problem lies in the administration and management of the Nigerian education system. There must be political will on the part of government to formulate and implement policies that enhances the growth of the Nigerian educational system. We must not pay lip service to the problem, but a conscious and radical approach must as a matter of urgency, be adopted to address the failure currently observed in this sector. As a matter of fact, the government should declare a state of emergency on the educational system.
This is necessary if the schools should produce the next generation of leaders. Coordinating ministries, agencies and parastatals must as a matter of urgency interface with one another. Products of primary schools naturally progress to secondary schools and this set of students ultimately enters the university. Therefore, there must be a way of ensuring that the coordinating agencies co-exist harmoniously and their objectives should be geared towards achieving a better standard of education in Nigeria.
On the part of government, a blueprint on the way forward for the Nigerian education system should be formulated after a national conference on education, where all stakeholders are allowed to make an input. This blue-print when fully developed, should have a time frame. The time frame should be realistic and achievable and it should be a criminal offence for any person to deviate from the blueprint. Such a process will ensure consistency in administration of government policies which is a major problem facing the Nigerian education system. Consistency allows for benchmarking, monitoring and control.
Proper funding of the education system is also a panacea to the problems observed in the Nigerian education system. A situation where the government budget on education is less than five percent of the total budget is appalling. Proper funding here involves allocating funds to areas that will improve the system, areas such as provision of computers to schools, rehabilitation of dilapidated school buildings, provision of conducive working environment for staff and enhanced welfare package for teachers etc should be pursued if the sector is to grow.
The participation of the private sector in the Nigeria education system should also be encouraged and enhanced. There are private schools– primary, secondary and university that have facilities that are far better than most state schools. The owners of these schools are opening a window for the proper development of the Nigerian student. Lastly, for the Nigerian education system to grow, corruption must be expunged from the fabrics of Nigerians. Nigerians are so undisciplined such that they diverted major part of the resources meant for the education system to their personal accounts.
We must fight corruption and indiscipline by ensuring that people are made to account for whatever is entrusted to them. Some people are of the view that the academic curriculum should be reviewed so that our tertiary education will be more skill-based. What is your take on this? There is no gainsaying that the tertiary education curriculum in Nigeria should be beefed up, making it more skill-based than what we have presently. I am in support of improved skill-based curriculum. A skill- based curriculum would assist to empower the graduate to become good entrepreneurs and self reliant after school.
There are no jobs in Nigeria, even when they exist; it is only the fortunate ones that get it leaving others’ jobless. Therefore, in order to remain relevant the Nigerian graduate must be totally equipped with all the necessary skill to survive. Entrepreneurs tend to start ventures that build on specific skills they have already developed and knowledge they have already acquired in a certain occupation, industry or school. However, in Nigeria, tertiary school’s curriculum is not skill-based hence Nigerian students are not developed from schools to become entrepreneurs.
Do you subscribe to the opinion that majority of Nigerian graduates are unemployable? The Nigerian graduate is a product of the society, and when the system is massed up; do we then expect any good thing to come out from them? Obviously, what a man sows so shall he reap. An unemployable person is someone that is not acceptable for employment. With all sincerity, majority of present day Nigerian graduates fit the above definition of an unemployable person. The decay in the Nigerian educational system could be blamed for this assertion.
As earlier stated, the present day university curriculum is not programmed for skill-based graduates. Imagine a computer science or engineering graduate who cannot code in a simple programming language seeking the post of a software developer. How can such a person be employed by a serious software company? The solution is an inclusion in curriculum skill-based courses like most private universities are doing. This will help to address the problem. The attitude of most Nigerian graduates is appalling.
They put up irresponsible attitudes in even their job search. No wonder, most firms require professional certificates for employment. It is believed that such professional bodies must have imbibed in the candidate some professional ethical standards. The desire to make it quick in life and at all cost by Nigerians makes most graduates to apply for positions they are not qualified for. If a job specification says they need a B. Sc degree holder in accounting with at least three years experience, and someone is applying for the same position with B.
Sc degree in economics. The recruiter has a reason for what he or she is looking for; you will only succeed in annoying the recruiters, and he or she will throw you out. Another major reason for massive youth unemployment in Nigeria is that they are often times short on personal development. Most of us today are what we are not because the school gave us everything needed but we took out time to personally develop ourselves. The present day Nigerian graduate does not even think of personal enhancement and it is actually showing.
Lack of information is also a major problem. Many graduates do not have access to vital information that could get them employed. Some people hear of vacancies after the deadline or don’t even get to hear at all. This is the major reason why the Nigerian graduate is unemployable. A situation where teachers collect bribe to pass student, students buying WACE results, parents paying JAMB officials, sorting of courses and lecturers demanding for sex from female students to pass exams. How then can you employ such graduates?