Implementing Innovative Strategies to Improve Education in Nigeria
According to UNICEF, one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. Approximately 10.5 million children aged 5-14 years in Nigeria are not in school, and only 35.6% of 3-5-year olds receive early childhood education. Education is an important driver for growth and development as it is the foundation for human empowerment, inclusive prosperity, and ongoing development.
Since the endorsement of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, there has been a slight improvement in access to education, however, there are still a number of challenges. Even though the number of young children enrolled in pre-primary education increased from 1.8 to 3 million between 2009 and 2013, the public sector struggled with inadequate funding and teacher shortages. The number of tertiary institutions is inadequate for the growing student population as only one in four Nigerians applying to university get admitted, with many having to retake exams up to four years in a row. Of the 10 million applicants that applied for entry into Nigerian tertiary institutions between 2010 – 2015, only 26% gained admission.
Teacher quantity and quality remain a challenge in achieving the desired learning outcomes essential to drive growth. Nigeria requires an additional 400,000 primary school teachers by 2030. Many teachers lack the essential skills to deliver quality education. For example in Kaduna, primary school teachers are expected to get at least 75% in a primary 4 examination, but 66% of the 33,000 in 2017 failed to meet the requirement. Only 7.02% of the N8.83 trillion 2019 budget was allocated to education which is low compared to UNESCO’s minimum recommendation of 15-20% of budgetary allocation to enable developing countries to meet rising demands.
The use of technology is transforming education and improving outcomes in the quality and equity of learning opportunities. The education sector now harnesses mobile-based tools to address quality and accessibility. It is always important to tailor the needs of learners to their environment, as education has gone digital. In 2018, Nigeria had 92.3 million Internet users with this figure projected to grow to 187.8 million by 2023. This represents an increase in Internet penetration from 47.1% of the population in 2018 to a projected 84.5% in 2023. Nigeria is currently one of the biggest app downloaders in Africa, and also rated as one of the top 10 countries that would have increased smartphone connectivity by 2025.
A blend of digital and traditional learning methods, also known as blended learning can now be used to increase the capacity of tertiary institutions. For example, the implementation of massive open online courses (MOOC), e- and m-learning strategies combined with occasional seminars on campus offers the potential to overcome infrastructure-related challenges that would enable students to access their learning environment without actually being physically present. This could have a powerful impact on empowering the underserved communities or adult learners who missed out on education in their youth.
There are many innovative ideas changing the impact and quality of education. Examples include the development of learning applications, online access to tutoring, provision of free or low-cost tablets and mobile phones. There are interactive tools for improving performance in basic education and languages. For example, Mavis Talking Books (MTB) have been deployed to 117 low-cost private schools in Lagos to serve 6,048 pupils, over 250 out of school children in Bwari, Abuja, and public primary schools in 5 northern states- Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara. According to African Education Innovation, the average test results before and after using MTBs are approximately 30% and 82.5% respectively.
Another example is Edo-BEST, in partnership with Bridge, launched a pilot program to support 1,500 teachers with digital content, empowering them to use data and technology to increase learning outcomes in 260 public schools and 40,000 students. So far, the program has boosted classroom culture and teaching methodology, it has accelerated literacy and numeracy, and has impacted 7,000 government teachers, reaching 612 schools and approximately 150,000 children. Bridge also uses technology to track and monitor classroom learning; delivers, and adapts lesson plans via tablet features to ensure consistent quality at all locations while ensuring efficient communication with staff.
It is also essential to consider what opportunities are available to the significant proportion of candidates who qualify for admission but are unable to gain entry into universities due to the inadequate number of institutions to meet demand. Another major cause of inaccessibility to universities is poor public financing, as it prevents the expansion of infrastructure required to accommodate the needs of the growing population. To broaden access, flexible learning pathways such as eLearning would enhance access to education and equip candidates with the skills needed to operate in the present and future workforce. eLearning techniques would also address the challenge of outdated resources in universities because eBooks, eJournals and other educational resources could be assessed digitally across the globe. It is recommended that the government facilitates the expansion of digital learning, develop common learning platforms and introduce policies that support the implementation and use of eLearning techniques in universities. Also, Nigerian universities should consider augmenting their income through private financing such as endowments (adopted by American public universities), instead of relying primarily on government funding.
Technology has advanced education for both teachers and students. Several cutting-edge innovations have emerged due to necessity and socio-economic challenges. The following questions should be answered to assess how and where technology can add the greatest value for students to achieve improved learning outcomes:
What is the role technology can play in ensuring effective and relevant learning outcomes?
How can technology promote inclusion?
Who are the partners and donors to work with to transform learning outcomes?
It is imperative for all innovative programs to focus on the intended outcomes to meet needs, work in collaborative partnerships, involve teachers and students in the development and deployment of technology, incorporate mitigating actions for cybersecurity breaches, and ensure appropriate monitoring & evaluation measures are in place to test and refine the use of technology for learning. The success of implementing innovative strategies to improve education in Nigeria is shaped by the collective efforts of all stakeholders because the future of our nation is determined by the success or failure of education.