Repositioning education to rev up societal transformation
Participants at the forum opined that education experts and managers of the sector must be actively involved in formulating sound policies that would engender societal revolution.
The two-day summit themed, “Transforming our society through education,” provided an avenue for participants to brainstorm and explore ways through which education can be used to rev up societal progression. There was also opportunity for mentor-mentee session designed for personal and professional development of participants.
The keynote speaker and former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, said for the Nigerian society to be transformed, contemporary teaching and learning should be restructured in a way that it can change ordinary citizens into productive, highly competitive people, and not paper qualified individuals.
She said because transformation can only take place through deliberate and conscientious effort, the education sector should be thoughtfully redesigned to transform people from merely individuals to human capital, as that is the way to make the society progressively transformational.
While reminding that education remains the best economic policy, the former minister lamented that Singapore presently is ahead of Nigeria economically, because it pays much attention to human capital development.
Ezekwesili insisted that societal transformation can only take place when larger percentage of the citizens are highly productive and competitive, but this she reminded can only happen through composite and wholesome education.
She further identified low productivity and lack of competitiveness as two major challenges confronting the country, urging all stakeholders to refocus attention on human capital development.
She said, “It takes education to make the citizens of a country more productive and more competitive. Since education is a key to human capital development, we should use education to transform our society. People don’t just become productive and competitive, they have to go through individual structural transformation themselves, and education is what will make that happen.
“When you look at the economic league table globally, it is not the countries with the largest reserves of gas, oil, gold or copper that are at the top, it is actually those with the highest human capital index. So, human capital is more important for a country that wants to transform than natural capital.
On achieving a composite education, she said teaching and learning must centre on character, competence and capacity, stressing that this is one sure way of tackling erosion of societal values and morals.
“In effect we are saying education must be one that brings mental capability, enables people to develop value system. To have a construct of values upon which everything they do is guided. Then it must be one gives them the skills to create. So it has to be composite.
On the imperative of teachers’ role to the new course being championed, she said research has shown that most of what determines the outcome of individual is dependent on the quality of the teacher, “so the quality of the teacher stands between 60 to 70 per cent in some context to determine the learning outcomes of children. No matter the level of infrastructure and facilities, teachers are key.”
Also, Chief Executive Officer, Gemstone Group and a board member of Meadow Hall Foundation, Mr. Fela Durotoye, stated that education is the fulcrum on which the society drives.
Citing Bill Clinton’s comments in 2001 on his visit to Nigeria, where he spoke about how in the 21st century, the wealth of a nation would not be calibrated by what is beneath their feet but by what is between their ears, Durotoye urged all stakeholders to focus more on human capital and not on natural resources.
“The wealth of any country is tied to the level of intelligence of the people and education drives the level of the intelligence. The more we learn, the more we earn. Any society that will transform itself must have a solid education rooted in values,” he said.
Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Education, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh, while challenging all stakeholders in the sector to join hands in restructuring the sector to promote societal wellbeing, urged education managers across the states to discover challenges that are peculiar to their system and address it systematically.
On her part, Head of Meadow Hall Foundation, organisers of the forum, Mrs. Kemi Adewoye, explained that the need to reposition education as a tool for societal development and the zeal to improve learning outcomes in the country’s institution of learning informed the convention.
According to her, “Education is a vital tool for societal transformation and quality of an education system can only be as good as the quality of its teachers. At Meadow Hall Foundation, advancement of teaching quality is very important to us and as such most of our initiatives like, the Graduate Teacher Trainee Programme (GTTP); Teacher Professional Development Programme; the School Adoption Programme; the Mentoring Programme and the Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA) are all designed to help achieve our vision.”