The Nigerian archaic academic curriculum and the need for a review
It is no longer news that the academic curriculum in Nigeria ’s educational institutions – nursery, primary, secondary, and tertiary is older than the country itself. They were passed down by the British colonial masters more than sixty years ago. What is news is that civilisation, development, and innovation have left it behind.
Most worrisome is the tenacity with which the education regulatory bodies in Nigeria, notably West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO), National Universities Commission (NUC), and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) are pushing for a holistic usage and application of these not-fit-for-purpose and out-dated contents that neither serve the public nor the business world and that have been implemented for decades on end. Other economies including Britain have since moved on to improve their curriculum with current and practical contents which have ensured the production of innovative and highly creative graduates.
Back here in Nigeria, there is an over-reliance on paper qualification as opposed to the skills and can-do attitude of an individual. This then means that the knowledge passed across to students is tantamount to a waste of time and resources, because knowledge attained through an obsolete or archaic curriculum is neither valued in the current dispensation of organisational development, nor capable of preparing these learners for future challenges or tasks.
Nigeria’s underdevelopment has often been linked to lack of investment in human development and problems associated with educational reforms, i.e. churning out graduates into the 21st-century knowledge economy which sees practicality of acquired knowledge as the utmost form of learning than other forms of economy which intensely focus on abstract knowledge acquisition. Like many developing economies, Nigeria faces ominous educational challenges and there is no will within the political class to address them.
The question is: how do we develop an educational curriculum that will pragmatically identify how to improve the Nigerian student in the Nigerian society and prepare them for the organisations of tomorrow? Two challenges are evident in this regard, first is the issue of out-dated curriculum, and the second is centred on the knowledge of those who impart the curriculum contents to the next generation of learners. The role of education in nation building is considered pivotal with the potential of leading individuals to understand themselves and the world around them.
Being exposed to quality education improves social interactions, interpersonal relationships, quality of life and patriotic tendencies that individuals possess which has been found to be related to galvanized national development. It is evident that a developed economy or nation is a reflection of the human capital development which can only be achieved through proper levels of education measured in qualitative terms. Nigerian education regulators ensure that all institutions strictly comply and teach moribund and archaic curriculum contents, thereby suppressing the cognitive growth of the nation’s future leaders who are required to think outside the boxes. Emphases are centred more on the acquisition of abstract terms and not on the significant impacts of the content on students’ ability to apply the terms in problematic situations.
The out-dated curriculum has made it difficult for these graduates to be employable and therefore requires that they are retrained to fit into various organisations. Unfortunately, these graduates feel otherwise as they see themselves as fit for the highest positions in the society. Renowned Nigerian educationist, Tai Solarin, once stated that Nigerian graduates feel they are too educated to be farmers but are actually not literate enough to be office clerks. This age-long assertion resonates with the plight of many school leavers in Nigeria. These school leavers believe that a well-polished office space is their destination after their sojourn in their various educational institutions but unfortunately, the practical ingredients to make them fit for these offices are lacking in the curriculum they have been subjected to for the number of years spent studying. No wonder there are millions of job seekers instead of job creators. The turn of events, occasioned by the harsh global economic climate requires that this pattern of thoughts be revisited.
The Nigerian educational system requires urgent revalidation and standardisation in the light of the changing global tides. Let us take a cursory look into three important educational constructs and put them into consideration, viz: how are Nigerian schools funded? How are the teachers trained? And what is the content of the curriculum being dished out to these neophyte learners in their various classrooms? These questions, if ever answered, will expose the dubious processes and the amount of lip service Nigerian leaders pay to issues of national importance.
It is important to review the current academic curricula in order to synthesize the data with the quality of teaching and learning in public and private schools in the nation. Also, examining and contrasting the curricula in terms of its standards and outcomes with those in advanced countries (such as the USA, UK, Norway, China, etc.) will assist one to see the level of potency it has in the international market.
Furthermore, the admission standards for course requirements need to be enhanced in order to decide whether the requirements are capable of determining the level of futuristic impacts on the academic excellence of the students and their relevance. Current events in the global arena, especially the shift in technological paradigms to new constructs such as artificial intelligence, robotics engineering and different emerging concepts and terms in various fields are factors to be considered in redesigning befitting new school curricula for Nigerian institutions. It is important to consider societal trends to ensure that the relevance of knowledge acquired in institutions are equated with real and practical applications, as there is need to showcase the applications of the acquired theory in the industries when students graduate and are conferred with degrees.
Therefore, in accordance with global best practices, there is need for the holistic overhaul of the curriculum in terms of educational practices, entrance routes to different courses of study, credential requirements in relation to the learning objectives and outcomes, options of continued training, codes of teaching and the evaluation of the teaching requirements for faculty, tutors or teachers. All these must be tailored towards ensuring that students attain mastery of the subject matter being taught and not the usual rote learning system. The step by step process will involve defining the educational challenges in the Nigerian system and then evaluating the different options available to ameliorate these challenges in line with doable alternatives.
Proposals for curricula evaluations should be initiated to increase education methodological quality in order to improve curricula implementation. Emphasis on scientifically valid research should be encouraged and potential funding from government and private bodies should be initiated to ensure that there are improvements in all aspects of the nation’s economy for better quality of life for citizens. It is expected that the above will de-emphasise the deleterious desire for paper certificate acquisitions without proportionate acquisition of practical knowledge.
Education with a quality curriculum is the foundation on which a quality country will thrive and stand shoulder to shoulder with other countries.
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Dr Edwin Agwu is an Associate Professor of Strategic Management at Lagos Business School