Education and development in Nigeria: Memo to Buhari
Education is the bedrock of development worldwide. The quality of education naturally determines the quality of development. Education appears to be a mystical wand that wields answers to many of the challenges in the world today.
The curriculum is the grand plan of national education. By extension, the curriculum is the blueprint of national development. Just as the strength and durability of every building is primarily determined by the building plan, the quality and robustness of the curriculum determine the quality of personal, institutional and national development.
There are three dimensions to the effectiveness of every curriculum: Development; Implementation and Monitoring/Evaluation. Over the years, great efforts have been put into reviewing and developing education curriculum for the nation at various levels of education. The education system has been changed several times, all in search for a more effective education system that could deliver sustainable indigenous productivity and national development. It is for this purpose a professional body like the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) was established. It is important to mention here that the NERDC has been doing a wonderful job. However, on curriculum development, I have the following observations:
The current curricula at the Junior and Senior Secondary School levels are generally overloaded. There are strong indications that the cognitive readiness of students at these levels of education was not properly factored into the equation. There are too many subjects in the senior secondary curriculum. Some of the new subjects are not ideal at the senior secondary school level. For instance, what is the place of the following ‘subjects’ in a Senior Secondary School curriculum? – Upholstery, Sculpture, Picture-making, Basketry, Leather goods, Photography, Furniture making, Auto part merchandizing, (etc). Apparently the argument for their inclusion may be geared towards preparing the students for the world of works, should they find it difficult to secure admission to tertiary institution. The proponents tend to forget the distractive power of these highly practical vocational subjects. There is also need to review the content of each subject for relevance to current life issues and challenges. We are likely to record more qualitative achievements by pruning the number of subjects and content at the secondary school level.
There is need to review the curriculum at the tertiary levels. It should be more relevant to industry and societal needs. The tertiary curriculum should be more relevant to industry and societal needs. The curriculum should be aligned or synchronised with the primary and secondary schools’ curricula.
Apparently, it is the National Policy on Education that is guiding the development of the curriculum. The goals of education as stated in this all-important document clearly need review. For instance, the goal of building an egalitarian society is rather too egalitarian. Following the SMART goal rule, this goal is hardly specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, nor does it have a time frame for achievement. There are more cogent needs than this. When our national education goals are rightly crafted, they should naturally distill into the curriculum, syllabi, scheme of work [course compact or outline in universities], lesson notes, classroom teaching and national culture and so provoke wellbeing, productivity and development.
In many African countries, including Nigeria, a large chunk of the curriculum is well developed. Every product or service in the world has essential minimal requirements, factors and conditions that will guarantee its successful production. These are the absolute conditions for producing such items. Failure to meet such conditions will prevent or abort such production effort.
This law equally applies in the production of goods and services. The first essential step, therefore, for the successful production of our desired goods and services is to carefully identify all the essential resources, materials, skill, tools or gadgets needed for its successful production and work to put all these things in place, and in a sustainable manner, before commissioning the production of such goods and services. The condition should include provision of commensurate motivation for the production crew; effective iron and steel industries that can mould and fabricate structures of any shape or size; running refineries and related industries that can produce and mould various synthetic polymerized plastic products; uninterrupted electric power supply; adequate water supply; consistent country-wide security, peace; accountability, transparency at all levels (etc). God applied this law when He created the world. Plants and animals were not created until all absolute conditions for their production and sustenance were in place.
The first logical step in the drive for productivity and national development, therefore, should be organising focused group discussion integrated with brainstorming/critical thinking to delineate all the absolute conditions required to make the production seamlessly successful. No stone should be left unturned at this stage. The tiniest factor left unattended could lead to failure or non-realisation of set goals.
Integral to the success of curriculum implementation is effective teaching and learning. In close to 90% of schools in Nigeria today, including tertiary institutions, the predominant practice is passive teaching. This implies that teaching methods are largely teacher-centred with students barely actively participating in the classroom learning exercise. This approach often leads to poor learning experience. The level of learning achieved this way could hardly birth the desired indigenous productivity and development.
Teaching is the responsibility of teachers while learning is the responsibility of students. For successful curriculum implementation to be attained, it is imperative that the teaching and learning capacity of teachers and students respectively be continuously built.
This test blueprint is an indispensable strategic plan used in the preparation of examination questions. The power of the test blueprint is in the ability of the user to link it with the curriculum objectives and content of the subject. The test blueprint works in tandem with the curriculum. It is designed to ensure the efficient implementation of the curriculum. The test blueprint, designed around the Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluate), further encourages assessing students according to their level of cognitive development. Consequently, tertiary level students should be assessed at the higher level of reasoning – i.e. application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and creativity. This will naturally compel teachers and students to begin to learn and practise at these levels. So will productivity and development be spontaneously ignited. It is for this singular reason it is imperative that teachers, lecturers and trainers at all levels and spheres of education learn to apply the test blueprint.
The increasing rate of examination malpractice at almost all levels and facets of education is quite alarming. Of course, it is not unconnected with the current trend of corruption in the country. If unchecked, the long-term effect on national development could be catastrophic. Currently, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) uses the norm-referenced grading format. Consequently, if the best performance in the country in a subject like Mathematics is 55% The ceiling for Grade A for that year will be 55%. As you can guess, this practice is apt to breed mediocrity and evolve low calibre of students when compared with international standard. The ideal grading format should be criterion reference. The fear, however, is that many students are likely to fail with this format. This is only in the short-run. With time, as teachers and students adjust their teaching and learning experiences for mastery learning normally elicited by criterion referenced testing, the quality of education will soar and will naturally catalyse productivity and development. This is the way we should go.
True learning does not stop at the level of acquisition of knowledge. In fact knowledge that cannot be applied to solve prevailing challenges berating humanity is futile. The highest level of learning is wisdom – ability to effectively apply the knowledge acquired over the years to evolve relevant solutions to life challenges, and so make the world better in all ramifications.
The bridge between information, knowledge and wisdom is understanding. The deeper our understanding, the faster, better and more effectively we translate information to knowledge and wisdom. This will naturally lead to increasing productivity and development.
Still integral to the law of absolute conditions is the consistent provision of appreciable motivation and reinforcements for the key players in curriculum development, implementation and evaluation. A situation where teachers, the chief players in curriculum implementation, are ill-treated (being one of the lowest paid in the national workforce today) is counterproductive to the attainment of the goals of productivity and national development.
Promotions and award of degrees are powerful motivational tools in the academia. There is, however, need to review some aspect of the policies and criteria for these promotional exercises. One pertinent area that needs urgent review is in the award of doctoral degrees and professorial cadre. To catalyse national productivity and development, it is recommended that the application of knowledge in one’s field to evolve at least one useful and marketable product [preferably one that solves a pertinent problem in the society] should be included as one of the conditions for the award of doctoral degree and professorship. The quality of invented product or service should be higher for the latter. The production should be done collaboratively with relevant industries. This criterion should be added to the current emphasis on publication of articles in high impact journals and citations.
This is the need of the moment for our nation. A stitch in time saves nine.
Dr. Odukoya is Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, College of Leadership Development and Director, Centre for lifelong Learning, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org