Former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, has reiterated the need to reconstruct and reformat the country’s education system.
The imperativeness of this rebuilding, according to him is as a result of an understanding that in the nearest future there would be a disruption and significant turnaround in human and economic activities, nationally and internationally and since education is critical to this change, its system should be reconstructed to produce the right human resource.
In a thoroughly researched paper titled, “Reconstructing the Shattered Education Mirror: Hard Choices We Cannot Side Step,” which he delivered at the second convocation of McPherson University, Ogun State, Okebukola did not mince words to state that the country’s education system is “anchored on sinking, sandy shores.”
He noted that certain factors are inhibiting the system from releasing the dividends of the sector, adding that the impending issues bother on enrolment, which is still low at all levels of education. Not only are numbers in school low, but the quality of learning outcomes is poor.
The curriculum he also said is not appropriate for the needs of modern society, as secondary and tertiary education are failing to prepare students for the world of work thereby failing to contribute to national regeneration.
The technical and vocational skills programmes that are oriented towards teaching traditional skills, he regretted are not necessarily linked to market needs and do not place the graduates at a competitive advantage with their university counterparts. Inadequate attention he also added is paid to the learning needs of adults and youth in the non-formal setting.
And so to a large extent, the education sector both suffers from and helps to create socio-cultural problems. These scenarios Okebukola expressed requires an urgent reformatting of the system so that the country will fully begin to reap the benefits of education as well as align appropriately with the future.
He listed the areas that need to be addressed and reformatted to include the issue of policy and implementation, the curriculum, teachers’ challenge, student-related challenge, facilities, curriculum delivery, among others.
He said: “These are hard choices we have to make. How do we reformat our educational system to ensure it is on firmer ground and to respond more effectively to the demands of job creation and service delivery? I used the term reformat in the computer analogical sense. Reformatting means cleaning the medium of old content and installing a new framework for fresh content. Perhaps the correct action will be partial reformatting since a total format will be stiff to achieve giving all the players and stakeholders that will be affected and the processes that are good in their present form that need not be changed.
“The first area that needs reformatting is the curriculum. We need to shed the fat from the curriculum. The curriculum at all levels of the education system is laden with too many topics that can be labelled as junk in the light of modern development in the discipline and prepare for the world of work and effective service delivery. Teachers often describe the curriculum as overloaded. When we compare with curricula in more far-sighted countries, we boast that ours are ‘rich’ and students to whom the curricula are delivered are ‘well-grounded’. Beneficiaries of the Nigerian curricula who proceed for studies overseas have a different story to tell.”
Affirming that the contents of the curriculum may give learners fair theoretical grounding, the former vice chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), regretted that the much-desired process and hands-on skills that will facilitate job creation are grossly deficient.
“For instance, the high school science curricula in the US and UK are about half in terms of theoretical content load than that of their Nigerian equivalent. American and British students are given a wide vista of opportunities for laboratory work, indoor and outdoor projects and extensive exploration. The Nigerian student is busy cramming formulae and struggling to cover the huge number of topics in the WAEC and NECO curricula before the senior school certificate examination comes knocking.
“The reformatting plan for the curriculum is to shed all those topics that weigh heavily on the content load of the curriculum to free space for process skills and projects. This plan has implications for resource availability. If the school has resource deficiency as most do in Nigeria, steps will need to be taken to clear such huddle before the redeemed curriculum can work.
Insisting that the curriculum should be reformatted to respond to jobs of the future, he declared that in the next ten years, the jobs that will be available for products of the Nigerian school system at the national and global level would be quite different from what exists today.
On teacher education reformatting, the pro-chancellor of Crawford University said the nation cannot hope for a top-quality education system if schools are staffed with second-rate teachers. “We need a profession full of inspiring, innovative, creative and knowledgeable teachers, keeping in mind that the quality of teachers is largely dependent on the quality of training (preservice and in-service)”.
He said there is need to reduce the load of education courses; increase the load of teaching subject courses; devote more time for teaching practice; avoid early specialisation; limit the number of Sandwich/Part-time students; ensure periodic training in modern methods of teaching; training in pedagogical skills; mentoring, teacher licensing and revalidation of licence and teacher quantity.
“There is an urgent need to double the current rate of teacher production at the basic and higher education levels. This is obviously a tall order given the aversion of candidates for certificates, diplomas and degrees in education. However, through a battery of incentives, enrolment into teacher training institutions at all levels can be bolstered. These incentives include reducing by half the current tuition for training in education in colleges of education, polytechnics and universities; automatic bursary awards for all education students; and enhanced post-graduation salary package for teachers.
He said it is important for stakeholders to urgently address all the issues raised so that the country will begin to use education to leverage economic growth and diversification.
In addition, “Technical and vocational education, which has taken a back seat for too long and should be given greater visibility from 2018. The Ministerial Strategic Plan 2016-2019 for revitalising the education sector should be implemented without delay. In 2019, efforts should be stepped up to enhance access and improve quality of university education,” he said.