A Survey of Engineering Education in Nigeria Essay
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Sustainable development at local, regional and global scales is perhaps the most daunting challenge that humanity has ever faced. Knowledge and its application are two elements common and central to each of the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development and the many approaches aimed at achieving sustainability.
Solutions to the major sustainability problems of the 21st century including poverty alleviation, decoupling of economic growth and environmental impact, renewable energy sources, desertification, diminishing ecosystem services, biodiversity maintenance and use, climate change, and the risk of megacities – all critically require knowledge from scientific research and appropriate technologies.
Those solutions are available to any society which invests adequately in the optimum education and training of its engineers. The role of educational outcomes in the promotion of economic growth has long been recognized by economists and other people.
Early researchers like Smith are cited by Okoye (1989) to have noted the acquisition and use of the abilities of all inhabitants or members of a society through education as part of its economic fortune.
Engineering education has been an integral part of national development strategies in many societies because of its impact on productivity and economic development. Galloway cited by Eze (2008) made a serious case about engineering education reform for the American Society in particular and for the global arena in general.
She argued that if engineers are to compete successfully in the global world in the 21st century and establish the profession as a leader in solving most of the world’s problem of infrastructural development, engineering education must embrace the need for professional innovation and do so very quickly. Central to this innovation, the presentation explained that the institutional understanding for the long established methods of practicing engineering and educating future engineers are in critical need of reforms, if the profession must remain relevant.
If United States that have almost finished public infrastructure can be invited to any engineering education improvement summit, then Nigeria who is in search of technological and economic transformation that could rival that of the 1st world countries come the year 2020 needs total overhaul in engineering administration and training. Nigerian institutions turn out large number of engineering graduates every year. Yet, not many of our engineers are involved in many of the engineering activities going on in most parts of the country.
Why? We shall examine briefly the making of the Nigerian engineer as a basis for determining his relevance and proper placement in committee of global professionals. THE EDUCATION OF THE NIGERIAN ENGINEER Ideally, an engineer has to be trained in a broad sense so as to be able to synthesize ideas, design new systems, plants and machinery and manage a complex mixture of resources including men, materials, machinery and money. In pursuance of this, the Nigerian engineer begins his introduction to formal learning much like any other person from the very basic forms i. e. the nursery and primary schools.
He then proceeds to the secondary school which is where some diversification begins. Here, the student gets his first introduction to basic science and technology ideas and concepts. This also marks the beginning of the process where the individual attains cognition, acquires process skills and develops scientific attitudes which will enable him think critically. After the secondary level, he then progresses to the tertiary stage. The entry qualification to an engineering program had been reviewed by Oluka et al. This involves a minimum of five credits in ordinary level subjects which must include mathematics and the basic sciences.
With this qualification, candidates apply through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) who conducts a national examination for applicants. Final admission is given by JAMB on recommendation by the Universities based on certain policies which include merit, educationally disadvantaged states and discretion. For direct entry students, admission is given without any examination. However, the candidates must have the higher school certificate or GCE advanced level in three subjects-Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
Candidates must undergo at least 6 months of Industrial Attachment under the SIWES program sponsored by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Oluka et al (1999). It is in the Universities that the engineer gets properly acquainted with engineering theories and practical via the regular forms of formal training (lectures, seminars, projects etc) and interactions with experienced people in the field of study.
The selection and organization of curriculum content, curriculum implementation and evaluation, the development, distribution and use of teaching materials, standard of examinations among other things go a long way in determining the effectiveness of this process and how the workforce of engineers being produced through it is able to meet the demands and yearnings of a fast changing world.
ROBLEMS OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION IN NIGERIA THE CURRICULUM OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION AND ENGINEERING STUDENTS EVALUATION As discussed above, some factors such as the curriculum and how it is implemented, facilities available, prevailing government policies regarding education, general standard of education in Nigeria affect the quality of the engineers that are produced by the system.
While the domain of education in Nigeria has been growing largely because of the need to have adequate manpower to meet the challenges of making the country great and to meet the demands of the 21 century, unfortunately, there is no sustained efforts to use education to prepare the Nigerian engineer to meet the on-the-job requirements of entrepreneurs in blue chip companies in the country or to fend for himself and also create job for others given the supposed wealth of knowledge.
This simply means that the dydx in the classroom require some modifications so as to translate to putting food on the Nigerian engineer’s table in the event of job unavailability upon graduation. What obtains now is as dangerous as it is disheartening. An average Nigerian graduate engineer is considered “half baked” or ”unemployable” because they have been claimed not to possess adequate competencies required by their end users.
This has thrown a big challenge to tertiary education and training of future engineers in Nigeria. It is noteworthy that the problems related to curricula became noticeable soon after Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule in 1960. By the mid-1960s, educators and educational planners were rethinking Nigeria’s education system and in particular, the curriculum being taught in the schools.
The question is; has Nigeria educational policy been capable of providing the needed manpower development to stir the nation’s socio-economic exigencies left by the colonial masters? Eze (2008) affirms that an independent survey by an indigenous project managing firm put the contribution of engineering construction of all categories and dimensions to Nigeria’s GDP at only 1. 5%. This is compared with 6% which the sector contributes to GDP in most developed and developing economies.
For example, engineering related activities account for about 8% of the UK’s GDP, 16% in Republic of Ireland’s, 11% of the United Arab Emirates, 6% GDP in India and South Africa respectively. The slow pace of industrialization and technological growth in Nigeria can be attributed to the widening gap between science and technology as a result of inability of engineering education programme to adequately utilize the scientific ideas to promote technology.
Science Teachers’ Association of Nigeria (STAN) is a body that have worked hard to translate national and educational objectives into curricula and teaching objectives through the development of curricula designed to help individuals attain cognition, acquire process skills and develop scientific attitudes which will enable them to think critically, manage and use available resources, to effectively adapt to their environment, assume responsibilities and fulfill domestic, economic, social, and political roles.
The council for the regulation of engineering in Nigeria (COREN) can as a matter of urgency seek any needed support from government and institute an active machinery to give a critical appraisal of the engineering education curriculum with a view to identifying defects and devising original solutions. Today, there are many institutions made up of eighty nine universities owned by government and private organizations, several colleges of education and agriculture and mono/polytechnic that produce graduates for the few job situations that are available in the country.
The graduate engineer is therefore faced with the difficulty of readily gaining jobs immediately after school due to the deficiencies in the curriculum and evaluation pattern in which he was molded. Some of the problems associated with the current curricular and evaluation methods include but not limited to the following: * They are based on a foreign model involving ideal conditions (staff, equipment, infrastructure, training opportunities, etc) that are not easily duplicated in developing countries.
* There is a shortage of highly competent indigenous teaching and support staff with h sufficient wide practical experience of technological intricacies. * The curricular seems to exhibit some imbalance between pure and applied sciences and the practical engineering and technology realities, project/business management and innovation concepts and entrepreneurship skills development. * The duration of the sectional semesters for the teaching of engineering courses is very short to allow for good comprehension and application by the students.
* The student evaluation and grading is almost dependent on his performance on theoretical examinations devoid of consolidating practical orientation. SELECTION OF ENGINEERING STUDENTS Given a very good curriculum, engineering education administration must be free from mediocrity. My participation in teaching and invigilating engineering students’ examinations raised issues which have continued to agitate my mind as a lecturer, and as one who is expected to make inputs to the production of good engineers.
A good percentage of the students find it very difficult to understand the basic principles of engineering courses and hence put a very poor performance in the examinations. This is a pointer that they are not supposed to have been admitted into the engineering school in the first place. In event of escaping a dependable and credible admission scrutiny, COREN in conjunction with the engineering school administration should device a process of pruning the engineering misfits and placing them in other disciplines where they would perform better and later contribute to nation building.
The problem recognition, formulation and solution task of an engineer really calls for a little above average students who will later consider societal repercussions and constraints within a complex landscape of old and new ideas. With this, Nigerian engineering graduates will be dissociated from the report of Okadara (1984) and Oladeji (1994) who variously showed that of the initial years of tertiary education, majority of graduates (86. 6%) found work within two months of searching, but as their institution grew older, the length of time they needed to find employment increased.
I strongly believe that institutions remain the same but the quality of students that pass through it experience gradual degeneration due to unwarranted compromise. INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT Suppose the right students are admitted into the engineering schools and their training is guided by a well structured and societal problem-responsive curriculum, the problem of poor or absence of state-of-the-art laboratories, instructional materials and a conducive engineering academic environment must also be arrested.
The situation why engineering graduates find it difficult to secure adequate job after their graduation is not unconnected with infrastructural handicaps in their institutions which is no fault of theirs. Consequently, many engineering graduates do not possess appropriate job competencies required by employers. Some could not develop their personality traits due to the absence of suitable infrastructure to spur creative and innovative strategies that could promote the engineer’s qualities and enhance his proficiency.
Unfortunately, several end users of engineering graduates’ skills have had to spend huge sums of money to retrain these graduates to suit their business after the completion of their programmes of study, even though they were selected at the background of excellent and imposing certificates. This certainly calls for engineering curriculum innovation and renewal, better monitoring and evaluation of engineering students, as well as immediate overhaul of engineering schools infrastructure in Nigeria.
Such action must be in line with every factor needed by engineering students to confidently secure or create employment easily for themselves and the several others who are waiting on the unending employment queues outside the tertiary institutions. Our universities, polytechnics and technical colleges that are supposed to train proficient engineers, technologists, and technicians are now filled with obsolete and in most cases nonfunctional equipment. This affects the quality of products from these technological institutions.
India, it is claimed, ranks third to the United States and the former USSR in scientific and technical manpower (The Nigerian Engineer, December 2003). It has over four million scientists and engineers. In 1985, Indian universities have 750,000 Engineering students registered. There were five elite institutions called India Institutes of Technology, funded and equipped to the highest standards, to provide high quality university graduates in electronics, computer science and other high technology disciplines.
Their products emigrate in large number to the University States and other countries to apply their skills where they are also valued and in demand, like the Republic of Ireland and Philippines. It is however not a surprise to see engineering graduates in our Nigerian Universities who cannot differentiate between a bolt and a nut. Some other problems associated with engineering education and technology development in Nigeria includes but not limited to the following: * Lack of innovation and motivation.
* Graduates are produced in older discipline at the expense of new or emerging discipline. * Poor funding * Graduates of Science and Technology exodus to other professional areas * Dilapidated and obsolete state and quality of laboratories in engineering schools and departments * Very astronomical student increase and lecturers decline TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT AND SELF-EMPLOYMENT The technological development of any nation is critical to the economic survival and vibrancy of that nation.
This holds particularly true for developing nations like Nigeria, who is still grappling with chronic problems of public infrastructure, total unemployment and underemployment, which have retained them in the class of 3rd world countries with dismal economic frustration. A country is said to be technologically backward when * It cannot produce capital goods such as tractors, lathe machines, drilling machines, cars, trains, and other very important equipment.
* It is unable to exploit her natural resources except with the help of foreigners who will normally provide the technology and expertise to undertake the exploitation of her resources. * It is unable to mechanize her agriculture i. e. crude implements are still used for agricultural production activities by a large percentage of those who are involved in agricultural production. * It depends on other countries for the supply of its spare parts for industrial machinery etc. Nigeria can be adjudged a technologically underdeveloped/poor country going by their possession of all the characteristics itemized above.
The greatest contributor to her qualification as such is the inadequacy of the indispensable trio of science, engineering technology and innovation (SETI) for any economy that is serious about technology development. SELF-EMPLOYMENT Self employment can be defined as earning a living by working independently or running a gainful business for the satisfaction of one’s needs. Having realized this, many industrialized and newly industrialized countries have committed resources and time to the promotion of entrepreneurship through various means including specific emphasis on the educational sector reorientation, especially at the tertiary level.
As stated earlier in this paper, many Nigerian engineering graduates have been branded “unemployable”. It is the duty of engineering educators to rebrand our future engineers. Suffice it to observe that the present problem accumulated over the years. The compartmentalization of educational, industrial, employment and labour policies in Nigeria seem not to have encouraged self employment right from the colonial era. Many of the educational policies centered on primary, secondary and adult education.
The colonial educational policy centered on the production of literate nationals who were required to man positions, which would strengthen the colonial administration. Thus our educational institutions, few as they were remained factories for producing clerks, interpreters, forest guards and sanitary inspectors as no special professional or entrepreneurial skill was envisaged in the educational system, (Akinyemi, 1987). Unfortunately, the trend affected the foundation of engineering education in Nigeria. The complete absence of enterprise education in the educational policy had continued till now.
The industrial policy which came on board only after the Nigerian independence in 1960 initially concentrated on the establishment of big industries with utter neglect for small scale business. By so doing entrepreneurship which is the bedrock of small scale business was unwittingly de-emphasized. The combination of apathy to ‘education for self-employment’ in the engineering schools system and the long term apathy to the development of entrepreneurial skill through a robust and all encompassing engineering curriculum has contributed in no small way to the serious unemployment problem facing the engineering graduates.
There needs to be an urgent link between engineering education, enterprise and self employment through an integrated national policy on engineering education. This would serve as a panacea for solving the massive unemployment problem, diminish rural poverty and empower a larger percentage of the citizens economically. NEED FOR REFORM It is obvious that Nigeria is grappling with myriads of economic, social and political problems. Even, the structures and practice of democratic governance reintroduced in 1999 needs a structural reform to sustain it.
Faced as it is with so many short term issues, the government should be aware that she should also address long term issues, which posses the greater potential to shape the countries future. In today’s world in which markets are increasingly globalizing and technological changes are recognized as a leading indices of economic growth and dynamism, Nigeria cannot afford to neglect the need to an active Engineering and Technological infrastructure operating in a policy environment, which encourages and rewards research and development, as well as meritocracy.
Much as Nigeria has conveyed a curriculum conference to restore the direction of our National education objectives in 1969, and have experienced some technological growths, we are yet to see technological development. Our economic life has refused to improve in an era when many nations of the world have entered the phase of industrial revolution in which computers, robots, microelectronics, biotechnology and nuclear technology are in common use, Nigeria is yet to grasp the first phase of industrial revolution which began in Europe in the eighteenth century.
We must henceforth seek to create the much needed technological culture in which the general public is made aware of the need to use scientific methodologies in their daily operation. Many graduates of our institutions are unemployed or unemployable. This ultimately poses questions to the nature of training given to them in our institutions. Do they have enough specialized skills that would make them job seekers or job creators in the area of Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation?
Meanwhile, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) demonstrated that so much has been put into paper to grow the economy. This has not translated to the much expected transformation, technology development and self employment capability in the citizenry. Something really has to be done and very quikly especially with reference to the Millenium Development Goals (MGGs) which is focused on poverty eradication and the Vision 20-20-20 national development plan. REMEDIES AND CONCLUSION STAFF TRAINING AND RETENTION Continuous training of the trainers is very important in engineering education.
To obtain a grounded knowledge and detailed experience in real world aspects of engineering theories, policies and global best practices, with emphasis on current status and further studies of various engineering fields, the engineering educators must be subjected to continuous sponsored training courses. Making efforts to prevent the fully trained engineering educators from resignation of their duty is equally essential. Engineering is a professional course. Their practitioners must be well taken care of by government. If not, the experts would be tempted to move to other spheres where they get better pay for their services.
Poor conditions of service also explains why engineering lecturers leave the country to acquire more knowledge and skill but either refuse to return or leave teaching entirely for the industry. There is also some cases where skilled and intelligent engineering teachers remain in their teaching and research objectives, but do not devote their full attention to the work in their bid to supplement their economy through other activities. The engineering lecturers’ remuneration ought to be adjusted to come at par with that of other professionals in the country.
This will not only arouse the needed interest in the job but also prevent brain drain in engineering education and provide for more efficient teaching and research exercise. A number of recommendations for the successful administration of science and engineering education in Nigeria are given below with respect to self-employment and technology development in the nation: * Strengthening University-Industry Interaction Programme * Periodic Accreditation Exercises by Regulatory and Professional bodies such as National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), COREN, MDCN, NIA, etc.
* Introduction of Supervised Graduate Training Scheme in Engineering (SGTSE) * Curriculum Review in Institutions to address the current unemployment in the country * Establishment of Nigeria Institute of Engineering Technology with the aim of providing practical drills to graduate engineers of all discipline. * Provision modern engineering infrastructure. * Establishment of Technology Innovation Fund. * Launching and Development of Mobile Internet Unit for easy access to current trends in engineering practice.
There is also the need to bridge the gap between the Nigeria Entrepreneur and the University. Very few entrepreneurs have been stimulated to have meaningful interaction with the Universities and Polytechnics. There is a lot to be learnt by the Universities from the experiences of entrepreneurs who have toiled, failed and succeeded, and failed again and succeeded (Olufokunbi, 1995). Similarly the entrepreneurs can achieve this inter-relationship by: * Inviting academics to spend some time in their establishment e.g. Sabbatical leave;
* Sending some of their staff for in-service training in tertiary institution * Visiting higher institutions on invitation to share experiences with students and staff * Financing research and consultancy especially those related to their businesses. CONCLUSION A survey of the administration of engineering education in Nigeria has been made in relation to technology development and self employment. Its advantages and drawbacks have been reviewed.
It is now known that for any nation especially developing ones like Nigeria to grow and develop, proper attention has to be paid to the environment, condition and manner in which engineering education is taught in her institutions, as it is the backbone of all technology development. Qualitative mastery of the tenets of engineering by lectures and students will aid self-employment and inadvertently effect the actualization of the federal government of Nigeria’s vision 20-20-20 development goal. REFERENCES Oluka, S. I. Onwualu, A. P, Eneh, I. I. (1999).
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