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Nigeria can learn from world’s top 5 educational systems

Nigeria’s educational system has come under severe scrutiny in recent times generating a fury of critiques and condemnations; veteran educationists have proffered constructive solutions in some instances. Nigeria can learn from South Korea, which tops the list of best five educational systems in the world but started out a relatively poor country.

Social Progress Imperative, a United States of America-based nonprofit, best known for the Social Progress Index, in a recent report on basic education levels throughout the world and articulated through the Social Progress Index, offers a rigorous and comprehensive way of measuring social progress. These include a score for a country’s level of access to basic knowledge including factors like adult literacy rate, primary school enrolment, secondary school enrolment, and women’s mean years in school.

These components determine which countries offer better educational opportunities. This report generated a list of ten best-performing countries when it comes to access to basic education, according to research from the United Nations as brought together in the SPI basic education ratings.

East Asian nations continue to outperform others. South Korea tops the rankings, followed by Japan (2nd), Singapore (3rd) and Hong Kong (4th). All these countries’ education systems prize effort above inherited ‘smartness’, have clear learning outcomes and goalposts, and have a strong culture of accountability and engagement among a broad community of stakeholders.

Scandinavian countries, traditionally strong performers, are showing signs of losing their edge. Finland, the 2012 Index leader, has fallen to 5th place; and Sweden is down from 21st to 24th.

Leading the pack of top five educational systems is South-Korea and what is more than to examine how educational services are delivered in Asia’s 4th largest economy.

To put the issues in context, education data report published by the National Bureau of Statistics in February 2016 show that Nigeria had 62,406 public primary schools in 2014 with a total enrolment of 23 million children. These schools have 574,579 teachers resulting in an average teacher to student ratio of 1 to 40 comparable to what is obtainable in most parts of Africa but twice higher than what is obtained in Europe and America and even most parts of Asia.

Figures from the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) show that 40 per cent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school, with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate, particularly for girls.

“Despite a significant increase in net enrollment rates in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school” according to UNICEF on its website. This means these children who are out of school are not being given a chance to compete in the future.

“Even when children enrol in schools, many do not complete the primary cycle. According to current data, 30 percent of pupils drop out of primary school and only 54 percent transit to Junior Secondary Schools. Reasons for this low completion rate include child labour, economic hardship and early marriage for girls” says UNICEF.

However, at 103 percent (United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation: 2010), South Korea has the highest tertiary gross enrollment ratio of any country in the world (total enrollment in tertiary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the total population of the five-year age group following on from secondary school), a statistic that is emblematic of the premium that is placed on education in the Republic of Korea.

Sixty-five percent of Korean 25-34 year olds have attained tertiary education (OECD: 2010), while over 97 percent of that same age group has finished at least upper secondary education. By both measures, Korea ranks number one among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

South Korea is also well known for the results its school children achieve in the OECD’s triennial Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which evaluates the scholastic performance of 15-year-olds in over 60 countries around the world. South Koreans ranked second in reading, fourth in math, and sixth in science in 2009, the last year for which results are currently available.

Since the Korean War, education has expanded enormously. As of 2016, there were over 536 higher education institutions with over 1,434,259 students in a country of 47 million; and in 1945, there were 19 such institutions with 7,819 students (in 1949 the population was just a little over 20 million).

This means that the number of tertiary schools increased by a factor of 28 and students by a factor of 18.3, while the population only doubled. Korea boasts a literacy rate near 100 percent and one of the highest levels of education anywhere in the world. This is a dramatic change over the past 70 years. In the late 1930s the adult literacy rate stood at less than 30 percent, in spite of the Confucian respect for learning and the easy to learn Korean writing system, han’gûl.

 

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