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Collaborate or die

Collaboration and cooperation amongst people has always been the way to go. After all, what transforms a collection of individuals with disparate views and often competing personal interests into a cohesive group commonly known as a society is the implied agreement and cooperation among members of same group to live together as one. But of course, not all motives to collaborate or cooperate are entirely noble though. Two of my elder brothers in their younger days were experts at sneaking out of the house at night, after successfully deceiving our parents that they were going straight to bed with their excessive yawning and stretches. That part of the plan had been perfected to an art and seemed to work every time but there was just one snag; the return.

Abdullahi, the maiguard would always fall asleep, so instead of sneaking back in quietly, as that God forsaken hour quite naturally dictates, they were left with no choice but to bang with increasing desperation as Abdullahi always failed to wake up on time. Result? They always got caught by dad. So these smart boys devised a foolproof way to induce Abdullahi’s “cooperation”. They gave him an extra strong mug of coffee as thick as treacle before they went out. Did it work? It certainly did. The poor chap didn’t know what hit him as he couldn’t get a wink of sleep for three very long days! Of course, after that experience, they could never convince him to drink it again. Would you?

Numerous studies conducted have provided incontrovertible evidence that there is a link between character development on one side and both individual and societal success on the other. One such study, the Relationship of Character Education Implementation and Academic Achievement in Elementary Schools (Journal of Research in Character Education, Volume 1, number 1) which was carried out by J. Benninga et aL at 651 Elementary schools found that, ” Schools with higher evidence of character education overall tended to have higher academic scores in all the measures used”. So even from an academic point of view, which is often our primary concern, it’s a big plus.

John Dewey, the revered American Educationist and Philosopher, put forward a position that “a successful society requires moral individuals who are more interested in working together and less interested in outdoing their fellow citizens. He argued that citizens with morals are action-oriented individuals who carry out well-intentioned plans. He believed that individuals should still strive to better themselves in an attempt to incrementally reach their individual potential. However, he reasoned that people should also have the betterment of their society as a goal in mind and not be simply motivated by being able to claim superiority over others.”

Let me give you what I believe might be a somewhat familiar illustration. A lower middle income neighbourhood is traumatised by epileptic electric supply which eventually brings the residents together to do something about it, as the cost of “forming” not to feel it, had become too much to bear. One of the residents, whose turn had finally come for God to smile on and change his level suddenly stops attending the residents meetings. The company he works for has provided him with a big and brand new generator which the company is also kind enough to fuel with more than enough diesel every week. As you can imagine, this new level means he’s no longer perturbed by such mundane issues as electricity supply. The electricity providers can do whatever they like. He couldn’t care less. Fact is, he has risen above all that and the sooner his neighbours know that too, the better. So he carelessly throws “collaboration” to the dogs as his personal interest has already been served. Tell me, how can a community where the majority of individuals look out for No. 1 only, possibly work?

A research carried out by Johnson and Johnson(2008) concluded that in educational systems which focus more on teaching pupils to collaborate than to compete, the children’s grades not only improved but the pupils grew up to become better citizens and more conscientious leaders, subsequently leading to progressive, more functional, fairer and far more successful societies. That’s why in a country like Japan, where the state policy is to ensure low income areas boast of schools of equal standard, in both facilities and quality of teachers, as schools in high income vicinities, there’s a more even level of development and progress across the different economic groups and there’s a greater willingness to cooperate with each other. In such a place, you’re far less likely to find a huge section of society, who for all intents and purposes, feels disenfranchised.

In Japan, they are very deliberate about making sure there’s no obvious discrimination, which is why according to Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) work on education and skills development, the world view of the typical Japanese is that, “disadvantage is really seen as a collective responsibility”. This quite clearly explains why the country’s school graduation rate is 96.7 percent and according to a survey conducted by the OECD in 2017, it was found that in Japan, only about 9 percent of the variation of student performance is explained by student’s socioeconomic background compared to the OECD average of 14 percent and even higher at 17 percent in the United States. Of course, if we ran a country which paid attention to providing valuable statistics we would find the variation to be so much higher here. It’s therefore no surprise that Japan is the number one country in the world where poorer children are most likely to grow up to be better off in adulthood.

The late US First Lady, Barbara Bush spoke to this when she once said, “If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.” As the feeder system to the larger society, which is what educational institutions represent, the schooling system should have a more robust pro social, collaborative focus because the critical role it plays in developing a society’s future leaders cannot be overemphasised. There are no two ways about it; collaboration is the way to go.

The National Policy of Education (1981) outlines five national objectives which also double as the philosophy of Nigerian education. These objectives summarise the world view which the national educational policy is meant to project and they are: A free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a united, strong and self-reliant nation, a great and dynamic economy; a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens.

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But let’s be honest with ourselves; how many of these rings true today? So how effective has our educational system been? I’ll leave you to answer that.

Changing the nation…one at a time.

 

OLADAPO AKANDE

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