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Making colleges of education relevant in 21st century

By Iyabo Lawal
28 March 2019   |   4:22 am
Nobody actually dreams of going to a college of education. It is often the last option on the table for any youth. Nigerian youths prefer to go to a university or polytechnic.

Bappa-Aliyu Mohammad

As Nigeria grapples with increasing decline in higher learning standard, colleges of education are often overlooked in the scheme of things. Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL, writes that when policies are properly implemented and government demonstrates the needed political will, the bastion of education, which are the colleges, will thrive.

Nobody actually dreams of going to a college of education. It is often the last option on the table for any youth. Nigerian youths prefer to go to a university or polytechnic. Nobody remembers to make a college of education his or her first choice. Going to a college of education is often considered as an afterthought – the last alternative. Colleges of education, the doyen of higher learning in the past, have since fallen in the pecking order of tertiary education since the dawn of the 20th century.

In the 21st century, it is taking a turn for the worse like its counterparts – the university and the polytechnic – except that the college of education system is the worst hit.

In the beginning, the birth name of college of education was “Advanced Teachers College”. There were four in existence back then: Advance Teachers College, Ondo; Advanced Teachers College, Zaria; Advanced Teachers College, Kano; and Alvan Ikoku Advanced Teachers College. The report of Ashby Commission in 1958, which condemned the quality of teachers in Nigerian schools then and raised the need for higher grade or more qualified teachers gave birth to those institutions which have now metamorphosed into today’s colleges of education.

Against that backdrop, it is apparent that the demand for quality teachers led to the establishment of the colleges of teacher education.

This much was attested to by Prof. Nike Ijaiya while speaking in February this year at a convocation ceremony of the Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin.

“A logical question to ask now perhaps is: are we back in the same situation we were in 1950s?” Prof. Ijaiya queried?

Like her, many erudite scholars admit that the rise in education standards globally is creating challenges for quality and confusion for education managers and students that need to be sorted out.

“How do we match the rapidity of change with quality or funding? This is where the role of the teachers comes in, referring to parents as the early teachers and the school teachers as the guardians of the child,” Ijaiya stated.

A look at Nigeria’s 2013 National Policy on Education suggests an intention to ensure and sustain unfettered access and equity to education for the total development of the individual; to ensure the quality of education delivery at all levels; to promote functional education for skill acquisition, job creation and poverty reduction; to ensure periodic review, effectiveness and relevance of the curriculum at all levels to meet the needs of society and the world of work; among others.

Sadly though, the very foundation – colleges of education – of that dream is crumbling.  As against the few colleges of education in the 1980s, there are as of 2012, 82 accredited colleges in the country comprising 44 state-owned, 22 private-owned and 14 belonging to the federal government.

To appreciate where Nigeria’s colleges of education should be in the 21st century, Ijaiya and other stakeholders posited that an understanding of what should be the quality of a 21st century student is imperative.

“When teacher educators know what their students should be or know, it helps to direct their teaching strategies. Based on the rapidity of change and widespread nature of the ICT revolution, today’s students should possess certain qualities. They should be broad-minded and demonstrate deep understanding of the world and its diversity and challenges; make interdisciplinary connections – mathematics, sciences, history, social sciences, etc.,” Ijaiya pointed out.

Yet, not a few scholars are scratching their heads wondering how teacher educators trained in the analogue fashion will be able to produce digital teachers. It also appears to be a dilemma for them how student teachers trained by digital immigrants, who were trained with analogue methods will teach ‘digital natives’ to meet the challenges of the demand of the 21st century and beyond?

“Already there is a generation gap,” the professor admitted.

Some education experts like Prof. B. E Alumode and Prof. Nwite Onuma in their discussion of the issues of minimum standards in colleges of education system in the country noted that “minimum standards” in education system have been a critical issue since 1970 after the government takeover of schools from voluntary agencies.

Standard, they argued, implies the level of quality, skill, ability or acceptable format which something or performance is judged and measured. “Standards in education, therefore, may be referred to as the levels or degrees of excellence to be achieved at the various stages of a nation’s formal educational system.

“Thus, as a prerequisite for the quality control of education, minimum standards must be prescribed based on set educational objectives. Therefore, assessment of standards of education in terms of graduate skills and abilities in various subject areas amounts to assessment of the extent to which the educational system has achieved the national goals,” the duo explained.

One scholar suggested that standard or quality of education could be thought of at three levels: the first l is the classroom concept of quality or the school inspectors’ conception of quality in terms of pupils’ acquired skills and abilities in various subjects as well as their affective behaviours such as attitude to work and respect for authorities.

Also, standard is thought of in terms of educational productivity, the outcomes or outputs in terms of graduates. It can also be thought of in terms of how far the system has achieved the nation’s educational goals. At this level various stakeholders judge achievement of goals from their different perspectives.

“One may wonder why much emphasis is laid on minimum standard of education. There is a growing concern for quality education in Nigeria because the nation needs high quality education for its citizens. The reason is that the society is changing and so is its needs, and high quality education is a guarantee for high quality manpower that leads to the derivation of high economic benefit for a better society. It is therefore necessary that minimum standards are realised, maintained, sustained and improved upon,” Alumode and Onuma said in their research regarding “minimum standards for colleges of education”.

The establishment of educational standards in the country since the introduction of the National Policy on Education in 1977 has been effected through enactments and policy declarations. Hence, Decree No. 3 of 1989 authorised NCCE to produce minimum standards for all programmes of teacher education and accredit their certificates and other academic awards after obtaining prior approval of the minister.

The decree, however, limits NCCE to teacher education undertaken outside the universities. The first minimum standards document was produced by the NCCE in 1990. The document has to be reviewed after every five years and the most current was published in 2012.

The 2012 minimum standard documents were based on the new mandate of the teacher training programme at the NCE level, which is the recognised minimum teaching qualification in Nigeria. The new mandate was to produce quality teachers for the basic education sub-sector, making it mandatory for colleges of education to prepare teachers with knowledge and skills required to teach effectively at the different levels and areas of the basic education programme without being oblivious of the need for higher education of the beneficiaries.

The minimum standards for teacher education educators define the minimum that the educators should know and be able to do as well as their expected minimum dispositions towards their work, if they are to remain and progress in their career.

The necessity for the curriculum implementation framework was predicated on the revision of the existing NCE teacher education programme and the need to provide effective teachers for the areas represented in basic education. The implementation framework is a guide to NCE-awarding institutions.

Since inception, NCCE has pursued goals of quality assurance in teacher education. For over one and a half decades of its existence, the commission has ensured that teacher education contributed immeasurably to national development. In pursuit of its objectives, the commission has standardised and continuously reviewed the curriculum of the colleges of education. This constant review of the curriculum is said to have strengthened the capacity of the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) graduates.

Today, there are 152 colleges of education/NCE-awarding institutions, comprising 21 federal colleges, 47 state colleges, 61 private colleges, nine polytechnics offering NCE and 14 other NCE-awarding institutions.

To make the country’s colleges of education relevant in modern times, the NCCE commissioned the “Digitization of the NCE minimum standards, micro-teaching & teaching practice documents. The digitisation project also involves the production of tens of thousands of the digitised documents in auto run CD-ROM format. This is a step in the right direction.

The NCCE Executive Secretary, Prof. Bappa-Aliyu Muhammadu, has expressed commitment to drive the nation’s colleges through the 21st century technological challenges and potential.

According to Prof. Ijaiya, the demand on colleges of education for quality teachers has not changed in any century. What is changing is the standard of education over the centuries. She noted that the challenges of the 21st century happen to be “spectacularly” driven by ICT.

“Its veracity is making a huge demand on the next generation of youngsters and the teachers whose task it is to guide them. The dilemma is that the task to do that now falls on the analogue colleges and faculties of education. While the government is changing policies in schools, they perhaps inadvertently left out teacher educators who must go digital. One cannot give what he does not have.

“Students may have access to the internet, but without proper guide and control by teachers and parents, it could be anything but academic excellence. The internet is full of the good, the bad and the ugly without any system of control. Many countries are adjusting by pumping funds into ICT. So, whither Nigeria’s colleges of education? To make Nigeria’s colleges of education 21st century colleges and satisfy the aspirations of the young generation, the following recommendations may be necessary,” she said.

“The government must appreciate more the enormity of the ICT challenge to education and the economy of the next generation and connect it to training and re-training of teachers, teacher educators, as well as provision of necessary digital facilities; international aids could be sought to address the aspects of funding; and training. Doing the same thing in the same old ways has not helped this country.

“In the 21st century, ideas rule the world. Education policy makers should always evaluate policy implementation to get feedback to overhaul the system; improve the quality of intakes to teacher education, the federal Ministry of Education should bring all the agencies presiding over Nigeria’s educational system to one table.

She recommended that teachers and the colleges should be provided international training, workshops, conferences and collaboration in related fields; well-equipped laboratories and lecture rooms with necessary gadgets (overhead projectors, computers, consumables); special classrooms and sitting arrangement designed for group discussion; laptops; and regular motivational funding.