• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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From Africa-class to World-class: How Africa’s institutions can move from good to great (1)

From Africa-class to World-class: How Africa’s institutions can move from good to great (1)

Very recently I was asked by a professional colleague what was a simple, yet complicated question: why are there very few universities from Africa on the global university ranking? What are we doing wrong and how can we improve?

Pondering on this further it occurred to be that Africa was once at the forefront of global education- in fact that the University of Sankoré-was founded in 989 AD in the country today known as Mali. Some historians argue that it is one of the earliest examples of what has become the institution we refer to as university.

Others have pointed to institutions in Egypt and modern day Tunisia who have also existed long before global power-houses like Cambridge, Oxford, Yale etc.

So, if Africa can clearly boast of some of these earlier institutions why are we doing not so well on the global ranking index?

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list I consider the following to be ingredients to becoming and staying world-class.

Have a world-class mind-set

I believe one of the key things that must change before anything else is the mind-set! Most Africans still believe and erroneously conclude ‘can anything good come out of Nigeria, Africa etc?’ Somewhere in our minds we simply believe we cannot measure up and that everything foreign and imported has to be better including education and the eventual degrees.

The battle to be world-class must first start from the mind and for us to believe it can be done. Some of the best brains powering leading researchers in the UK, USA, Canada etc. are Nigerians and Africans many actually had their primary, secondary and university education on the continent. This therefore presupposes that the raw materials to be world-class are already inherent on the continent.

Have a world-class outlook

My simple definition of outlook is that we must ‘look out’! What do we see? How are we perceived and how do we want to be perceived? Those responsible for designing our curriculum and programs must look out and design/build it based on the picture they see presently and what is likely to come thereafter.

What we see matters and therefore our programs, curriculum and methods of assessment must be designed with that end in mind. If our goal is to be world class then we must start to look out for it. This also involves looking at what other countries leading the global rankings are doing. The question therefore is: are we looking well enough? And if we are, what are we seeing?

Think big and bold

As a man or nation thinketh so he is or so is that nation also. It is high time we begin to see the business of education from the social and economic aspects. The world-class institutions we speak of today have done just that. They realise that they must continue to reinvent themselves. Do our institutions believe they have what it takes to make it into the top 10, 20, 30, 50, 100- then they must take bold steps and be clear on how they want to get there!

Our policy makers and university dons and technocrats must start to think big and take bold steps. Talk they say is cheap, our actions must show that we mean business.

What is our USP?

What can we teach, provide and pioneer that no other nation or continent can match us? Every institution in a particular geographical location must explore and draw from their locational advantages.

There is something to be said for being an expert agricultural institution because of our location, there is something to be said about our ability to teach courses in Oil and Gas effectively because of our location.

Read also: It’s time for a new economic deal between the EU and Africa

We can be the best faculty in the world when it comes to the tech industry in Africa due to our location! We must find these advantages and explore/exploit them effectively. Many African institutions want to copy what others do best due to their locational advantages rather than becoming the best they can become where they are!

Developing students with 21st century skills

Our outputs speak louder than the building, curriculum, marketing etc. The jury is out on the quality of graduates our systems produce. But how do we move forward? – Very simple, let us incorporate soft skills into what we teach.

If the world is moving from hard skills to soft skills then it would be unwise to continue to push just the hard skills at the expense of the soft-skills. At the centre of any world-class education system must be the learners- how do we prepare them for the world that does not yet exist?

One of the key indices used for the global ranking is to figure out what graduates do after they leave our institutions- are they fulfilling destiny or are they aborting destiny because we simply haven’t prepared them for the world that now exists.

Our Professors, lecturers and those in charge of tertiary education must be thinking consistently- we get measured on how outputs.

To be continued

Ogunbode, CEO, International Education Corporation (TIEC) Group & Director, the Africa Education Group writes in from Cambridge, UK.