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Skills-based curriculum as antidote to underdevelopment

By Iyabo Lawal
20 December 2018   |   3:21 am
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is suave and the kind of individual any parent will take pride in. He has had the best of education and well prepared to grapple with anxieties and opportunities of the future – but this is not so for many Nigerian schoolchildren. Hope may be on the horizon as the federal…

[FILE PHOTO] Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is suave and the kind of individual any parent will take pride in. He has had the best of education and well prepared to grapple with anxieties and opportunities of the future – but this is not so for many Nigerian schoolchildren. Hope may be on the horizon as the federal government is on the verge of implementing an education policy that will equip students with needed skills in an ever-changing world writes Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL

Nigeria’s vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as a young man had a robust educational training.

He is a delight to listen to and a brain to pick from. The erudite scholar exudes confidence and camaraderie.

His ingenuity illustrates his ability to grapple with anxieties and opportunities of the future.

He had received an education legacy that is not, regrettably available to millions of Nigerian students today.

“It is known that when one is hungry, one finds it difficult to concentrate. Aside from that, malnutrition is a major problem.

It stunts growth and affects the mental development of the child. This is quite heart-breaking.

You find that between the ages of zero and five years, if children are not properly fed, they become mentally weaker than those who are properly fed,” Osinbajo admitted.

Speaking during the unveiling of the 60th anniversary logo of Grange School, Lagos, Osinbajo spoke extensively about the plans of the government to provide a platform that will ensure a brighter future for young Nigerians and one of the ways that would be done is through the re-engineering of the country’s education curriculum.

New curriculums are necessary to lift an estimated 112 million Nigerians out of poverty, achieve all the outcomes specified in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and produce youths that are ready for the jobs of the 21st century, not a few education experts have stated.

A research work noted, “Quite often, the prominence of handicraft is an impetus for technical education development. However, the meaning and implications of the term are often too rarely clarified.

In most developed countries including the United States of America, level of curriculum operation is related to educational achievement.

“Curriculum implementation helps transform and improve ideas, skills, and attitudes, which lead to development. Technology improves labour structures and technological innovations.”

According to the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the first aspect of the three-fold plan to rejuvenate the curriculum is to ensure that the country is able to achieve all the outcomes specified in the SDGs.

These include increased school enrolment, improved quality of education, adult literacy and quality of teaching.

“Secondly,” said Osinbajo, “we also intend to work on the millions of out-of-school children in the country.

We need to improve school enrolment, which has already increased, in most cases by over 30 percent in the last two and a half years. This is largely due to our school feeding programme.

About 9.2 million children currently benefit from this programme that has increased school enrolment because many children from poor homes cannot afford to eat even one square meal a day. So, this becomes a major incentive to send children to school.”

The federal government believes that the school feeding programme has not only helped to improve the learning abilities of pupils but it has also aided their mental development.

Therefore, the National Economic Council and the Federal Ministry of Education are working on a new curriculum, which will change the way pupils have been educated in the past 10 years.

“The third plank of that plan is that we recognise that we are not only grappling with rapid population, but we are also grappling with rapid changes in technology, innovation and the way things are being done.

It is obvious that we cannot just continue to educate in the way we used to educate pupils 10 years ago. Besides, to eradicate poverty, our educational system must equip young people to be productive.

“This is why we are currently working on a far-reaching skills-based curriculum on Science, Technology, Education, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

The core skills in the curriculum will be coding, programming, design thinking, animation, graphics design, robotics, networking and basic engineering applications.

We are working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the Oracle academy, the Microsoft Cisco academy and IBM to develop the curriculum,” Nigeria’s vice president noted.

The plan is expected to reach two million pupils in its first year and the new system of learning will permit the cultivation, expression and adoption of skills that will function in the technology environment.

In allaying the fears of the public as to whether the new system will only be for privileged students, Osinbajo stated: “The new curriculum is not just for the children in the urban areas, or the few that can afford decent schools higher than the standard of public schools.

The policy is ‘every child counts,’ which means that we have a completely democratised vision of a quality and relevant education to reach every Nigerian child.”

If the policy is well implemented, it will ensure that all children, including those that are out of school now and in those areas where children tend to drop out of school much faster, get a decent education.

Osinbajo added: “We are looking at how to ensure that our public schools become a place where young people can learn and we can set an objective standard of how to educate the average Nigerian regardless of where they are from. It is an ambitious plan to reach and equip at least 10,000 classrooms every year under this programme.”

On developing the calibre of young people that would take on the challenges of the 21st century, he said there would be a change in the teaching methodology for schools with a view to impart the relevant, qualitative and excellent education while emphasising the need for teachers’ training.

In Nigeria, there are many teachers who do not have the required skills to train pupils.

“So, we are embarking on a massive nationwide teacher training programme which will ensure that educators are trained in the most current ways and in the most current technology.

As part of the plan, the educational system will also develop skills that are key to nation-building, such as hard work, discipline, cooperation, unity, respect, leadership; the civic skills that are important in building the nation,” the vice president said.

In 1982 many reforms were introduced into Nigeria’s educational system through the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system – which represents six years in primary school, three years in junior secondary, three years in senior secondary school and four years in a tertiary institution.

Something that scholars found eye-catching in that system was the introduction of vocational education into the secondary school curriculum.

Today, even in primary schools, handicraft training is encouraged.

The aim of the policy of vocational education in Nigerian secondary schools as stated in the National Policy on Education is to provide training and impartation of necessary skills geared towards the production of craftsmen, technicians and other skilled individuals who will be enterprising.

The policy is also intended to enhance young students in the country to have an understanding of the technology.

At the junior secondary level (JS1-3) pre-vocational subjects were introduced with the goal of exposing students to the world of work through exploration targeted at enhancing students.

The pre-vocational subjects include business studies, home economics, and woodwork, among others.

In Nigeria, Basic 1-9 (primary and JSS) curriculum provides for the teaching of handicraft though as an optional subject, suggesting the huge need for technological advancement.

But, for this technological advancement to become manifest, the young, impressionable students will need to have hands-on experience in weaving, sewing, designing, painting, molding, smiting, fabricating, and others in their schools.

A research work noted, “Apparently, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme is supposed to produce individuals who are masters of their own hands and minds.

This is because it is handicraft element or: non-formal education programmes could be organised for the participants to acquire skills in sewing, batik, and tie-dye fabric purpose, manufacture of mats, aprons, woven sisal handicrafts, cane chairs, and tables as well as the production of confectionaries.

“Also, the skills and knowledge of artisans such as mechanics, carpenters, bricklayers, and ‘panel beaters’ could be improved in such workshops.

Even when the people have acquired various survival skills, they must be exposed to the skills of business management. The training …should include how to manage bank accounts, stock-taking, and general book-keeping.”

What the policy advocates and what truly occurs in schools, experts noted, are not congruent.

Pupils only read about crafts in their textbooks hardly having a go at experiencing what it means and takes to use their hands to make things, thus, killing the ingenuity of these young ones.

Researchers further observed that “operation of the handicraft element in the curriculum seems to be the missing link between policy management and national objective realisation.

The lack of proper operation of the handicraft element in the curriculum is increasingly seen to limit Nigeria’s ability to pursue effective technological advancement strategies leading to governments and private funding communities to place increased emphasis on effective administration.”

A curriculum development geared towards “acquiring certificate and degrees” rather than “equipping the citizens to be nation builders”, they pointed out, will make it difficult for Nigeria to compete on the international scene.

Education experts believe that now is the time for the governments, at the federal, state and local levels to pay more attention to handicraft if the future generation must make any positive showing on the world stage in the years to come.

It is not by chance that technological advancement is often linked to national economic growth and poverty reduction by both national and international analysts.

It is often argued that Nigeria’s education policymakers are not bereft of ideas but often they and their patrons lack the political will to implement the nation’s ambitious agenda of raising enterprise-minded schoolchildren.

It now appears there is both the political will and vision to achieve skill-based curriculum.