Curves in curriculum and the straight way forward
Text of a lecture by Prof. Wale Omole (OFR) at the 40th anniversary celebrations of Chrisland Schools
The fundamental issue in our education system is the content of instruction, developed for us since about 1900AD. The earlier authentic records and dates of European influence in Nigeria were 1472 when the Portuguese ships landed in Benin and later in Lagos 1515AD. However, the attempt to colonize any part of Nigeria by the Portuguese failed and this is why, our official language was never Portuguese.
In 1900, the British government took over the administration, declaring protectorates over Northern and Southern Nigeria. By January 1, 1914, the British Amalgamated Northern and Southern Nigeria and established the Nigerian Council under a Governor General, Sir. Fredrick Luggard. By 1946, a new constitution was introduced. This brought regionalization to Nigeria’s government and set the pattern, which is the basis for the type of federation before and after independence, up until January, 1966.
Scattered forms of curricular were written for Nigeria Education System, mainly in Primary and Secondary Schools between 1914 and 1946 with minor modifications in readiness for Independence in 1960 and further minor modifications till date.
On the surface, there was nothing wrong with curriculum that was duplicated all over the British Empire, since for example, the student enrolled in the University College could only complete and graduate in the University of London. The emphasis for tertiary institutions in Nigeria was to produce teachers for secondary schools, administrators for the civil service and priests for the churches and those to be trained as managers in some local organisation.
The British curriculum was severely influenced by the Industrial Revolution in Britain, which began with improvements in the production of iron in 1709, when for the first time; coal was used instead of charcoal in iron smelting. The iron and coal industry grew side by side in the 18th Century and the invention of steam-engine (James Watt’s Stream-Engine) was sold to a customer in 1776.
Industrial revolution, once begun never stopped. Our curriculum, which deals more with theory than operation, the content and style of delivery, the lack of adaptation of content to our natural resources, all conspire to make industrialization difficult in our country. For as long as we do not make the necessary review of content and style, industrialization will continue to elude us and we will continue to depend on importation of things that God already provided in our land; manufacturing will be difficult for us, as we even pretend to classify assemblage process as manufacturing. We will most likely continue in trading and remain consumers of other nations’ goods. Our economies will be determined by trading rather than production and productivity.
For emphasis, the education curriculum we inherited over a century ago seems to disconnect us from our land, and indeed really disconnected us from several other growth pathways of our lives. We must review them and adapt them for our benefit. The fault is in us, for keeping them this long. It is getting too late!
The curriculum was also presented to the children, to linguistically disconnect them from their parents and culture, by classifying local languages as vernacular never to be spoken in school, denying the children the opportunity to cross check facts of content from their wise but illiterate parents. The knowledge acquisition methodology was by memorization and regurgitation.
Comprehension testing strategy was only by who, for what and when. Never about why and how, denying the young minds the art of critical thinking. The damage of this strategy is that till today our project implementation must source experts from other lands who spent less time in schools of their language than our otherwise very bright youth denied opportunity of understanding.
Enough of lamentation. The fault is in us, allowing these serious damages to linger for well over a century. Even in the 21st Century, we have slumbered for another 17 years, 17% of the century. This is 2017. We must wake up, rise and move forward. The time and season of communication and strategy in technology, global world climate changes, with leadership deficit all around us and all over us, from our cradle to the grave, compel a total paradigm shift for us. We need new curricula all over our education system.
The 21st century curriculum
The theme of the curriculum is to learn from our deficiencies and prepare productive forward-match for at least another century.
The Crux of the curriculum should be Value system and Value Chain.
The value system
Each and everyone of us created by God is generally a complete system. Indeed a system of inestimable value. These values are eroding rapidly and daily. A large percentage of the parents today do not demonstrate the values to bequeath to the children, they even do not have the time nor the temperament. Some of them are worse than their children, to the extent of purchasing question papers for their children and hiring proxies for computer based test (CBT) to pass examination.
All we need to do is take advantage of teaching the children in various certified conducive environments. The value contents for the children are now available in teaching modules under deeply researched schemes of pedagogy.
It is most beneficial to teach the children in their indigenous languages, which elicit better understanding and deeper forms of communication. Some of these teachable values include:
Discipline – Cognitives
The self – Creativity
Ego – Fear
Willpower – Freedom
Honour – Etiquette
Conduct – Honesty
Discernment – Courage
Character – Integrity
Strength of character – Kindness
Quality of character – Altruism
Well-crafted teachable contents are also available in:
Mindfulness – Moralty
Ethics – Consciousness
Conscience – awareness
Social skills – motivation
Empathy – etc.
The field that has attracted so much attention in the past decade is Emotional Intelligence. It is a field where all leaders and parents must be players.
The parents and religious centres had largely complemented training of the child in the past. That was then. Now, both groups are otherwise busy, with less emphasis to do the needful in this regard.
The materials of instruction must be customised for the children to understand. Even if they have to be taught in their local dialects. The Social Media today is a déjà vu where truth and falsehood are trending together. It is difficult for many, particularly our youth to discern the difference.
At the same time, the reading culture has nose-dived, only for children to depend solely on the internet when in need. The internet is a veritable source of information; however, some of the content are not thoroughly certified for authenticity, before uploaded. Our children believe them as authentic. There is a serious threat to the culture of reading.
All of the issues of value system identified and much more are to be taught the children to fully understand and assimilate. Wherever necessary, they may be integrated into their appropriate academic subjects for fuller appreciation.
The current curriculum in agriculture for example, sees production as tonnage of crop per hecter e.g. rice, cassava, potato, plantain, cowpea, yam, corn etc. to be sold fresh and consumed during harvest season.
Whatever is not consumed or conserved is wasted. There is a lot of waste at harvest. A new curriculum should consider the effective use of every available part of the crop; the leaves, the stem, the produce itself, its peel, the pulp, including the liquid therein.
Tubers, in addition to direct consumption are good sources of glucose that are needed in our hospitals, the peels can attract various uses.
Value chain is in two parts:
Value creation and Value Extension.
Both must be integrated into curriculum in the Agriculture Industry where sufficient local research had been tested in practical terms for the past 50 year in Nigeria.
Value creation had collected wastes for cleaner environment and converted the wastes to Animal feeds using saw dust, cassava peel, plantain and banana peel, dry wood, farm weeds, tree back, cocoa husk, groundnut husk, palm sludge, garbage, any available organic farm waste recycled into animal feed to produce meat, chicken, egg, rabbit and egg. The system is Waste Recycling in the food chain. This system has many advantages. It is a relief for the competition between man and animal for our staple as animal feed.
Rather than offer maize, cassava, plantain and farm produce which are needed by man, we are to utilize the farm wastes to produce good quality animal by-products.
Value extension is to extend the use of produce and products beyond traditional consumption patterns and generate new values from them. A lot of research work established the feasibility and viability of the process and successful pilot runs have been established. It is vital to utilise our research results to feed the agroindustry, rather than the continuation of importing items that have already been developed in Nigeria.
The more we integrate our tested and viable research findings into our curriculum, the more we take ownership of our own sweat and our life.
Industrialisation in Nigeria is most assured through education, agriculture and the Agroindustry. Our education must recognise this and fast track this quick pathway.
Prof. Omole is the chairman, Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspapers