BusinessDay

Nigeria driving big economy with poor education sector

Between 1960s and 80s, Nigeria education system was of high quality competing favourably with other nations in the world. In those years, teachers were respected; standards were very high such that a standard six product had good skills for the workplace.

Within that period, the student population to a teacher was about 15 students to one teacher. The teachers were able to monitor the students and imparting knowledge was a bit easy. Infrastructure was adequate that enhanced learning. The system also attracted funding from both the government and the missionary institutions and discipline was also high among schools. Government schools ran simultaneously with missionary schools.

Peter Okebukola, former executive secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), opines that between 1960 and 1975 that the system attracted respectable funding and the quality of delivery was comparable to what obtained in institutions all over the world. “The system benefitted from a high dose of highly qualified local and expatriate staff”.

But from the late 1980s, the system started experiencing enormous challenges as the government failed to match investment in the education sector with the growth in population. For instance, from less than 3,000 pupils’ enrolment back in 1960, the figure skyrocketed to over 102,000 and to 32 million in 2020 in both public and private schools. Secondary school number and enrolment went from 1,227 and 24,640 respectively in 1960 to over 35,000 public and private secondary schools in 2018 with 12.4 million students.

To compound the challenge this pivotal sector was facing, the government took over the missionary schools without a plan for adequate funding and monitoring.

Examining the sector, Okebukola, said the education sector, therefore, found itself in deep crisis. “Challenges in education are too numerous. They include Poor quality training with many having low content knowledge of their teaching subjects.

Low level of remuneration leading to low enthusiasm for teaching and discouraging optimal performance on the job. Mismatch of teaching subject with the subject assigned to teach in school, lack of interest in teaching as a profession, Weak capacity in using exciting teaching strategies to boost the academic performance of students.

Other challenges, he said include “Poor attitude to schoolwork as they look forward to cutting corners to pass, Negative mind-set about the value of education owing to employment difficulties after graduation.

Other includes parents shamefully aiding and abetting their children to commit examination malpractice, some parents have too many children that they cannot afford to give quality education. Engaging their children in child labour practices like hawking when they are supposed to be in school. Low investment in education and paying lip service to funding education, Poor incentive structure for teachers and minimal scholarship opportunities for students, Inadequate provision of school facilities. Poor implementation of educational policies and policy inconsistency, Political interference in the day-to-day administration of educational institutions. Failure to plan for the education needs of the rising population and Weak quality assurance especially at the basic educational level among others”.

Okebukola further explained that by the year 2000, the universities were short of everything but students. There was an acute shortage of staff to cope with the much-expanded system. Funding inadequacies persisted. Quality of instructional delivery was poor. Frequent strikes leading to closures exerted a toll on the quality of graduates. Incidences of examination malpractice, cultism and “sorting” did not abate.

On his part, Felix Salako, vice chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), noted that a population of about 205 million people with about 55% of youths who are mostly unemployed even with different levels of education is demoralising for the youths, many of the so-called employed are under-employed. Unlike the first 20-30 years after independence, education provided meal tickets that provided adequate sustenance of families. The fallout of the current demoralising situation of unemployment is that many do not see the need to pursue education vigorously again.

As countries across the world invest in education sector to facilitate human capital development to help push frontiers of learning across sectors, Nigeria is yet to find its feet after 60 years of independence, as it has failed to leverage its population and geographical advantages to develop this pivotal sector to stem huge brain drain and foreign exchange loss.

For Nigeria to leapfrog these challenges as it celebrates 60 years independence, Okebukola, opines that managers of the education sector must build and resource our schools to meet international standards and be learner friendly.

“Train a new breed of 21st-century teachers who are steeped in the use of modern methods of instruction and are at the cutting edge of knowledge in their subject matter”.

“Provide a curriculum running from basic through higher education that will lead students to develop 21st-century skills and make them acquire values of good citizenship”.

Improve funding to education and enforce transparency and accountability in the financing of education; set up a national network of quality assurance system for basic education with state inspectorates of education as nodes.

It is clear that a country with this plethora of challenges and a steady declining education sector cannot compete favourably in today’s revolutionary economy.

 

MARK MAYAH & KELECHI EWUZIE

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