NIGERIA @ 57: Educational system advancing in fits and starts
Fifty-Seven years after Nigeria became a republic, its efforts to increase human productivity through the educational system has been largely sporadic.
Results from global human capital development trend and gap analyses published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its recent Global Human Capital Report show that Nigeria is not equipping its largely youthful population with the necessary skills to enable them create value in the gig economy.
This means Nigeria’s largely youthful population, 44 percent of whom are below 15 years, would be disadvantaged in an increasingly global world, where competition for human capital is no longer restricted to national boundaries.
Nigeria is also estimated to have the world’s fourth largest population by 2050, with more than 400 million people living in the country. A low human capacity base means that this population will become a burden if not equipped with the right skills to compete globally, analysts warn.
“We have been saying this all the time, the state of the economy, the state of unemployment, the level of hunger and poverty, all these are indications that our human development ability is severely curtailed. We have to go back to the best traditions of the past and this is meritocracy” said Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, former vice chancellor of the University of Lagos, Lagos in a phone interview.
The WEF ranked 130 countries on its human capital development index and Nigeria ranked 114, among the lowest 20 globally, showing the country’s human capital is poorly prepared for competition in a fast changing global economy.
Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest economy, ranked lower than Rwanda, which was ranked 71, Ghana, which ranked 72, Cameroon (73), Mauritius (74) and South Africa (87). Only Ethiopia ranked worse than Nigeria at 127.
Despite a significant increase in net enrolment rates in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school according to United Nations’ International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), on its website. This means these children who are out of school are being denied a chance to compete in the future.
Even when children enroll in schools, many do not complete the primary cycle. According to current data, 30 percent of pupils drop out of primary school and only 54 percent transit to Junior Secondary Schools. Reasons for this low completion rate include child labour, economic hardship and early marriage for girls, says UNICEF.
Nigeria passed the Universal Basic Educational (UBE) Act in 2004 to improve education for children but the result has not been impressive.
To assess the efficiency and performance of the UBE school system, the Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA) project, an international consultative forum, in collaboration with the Federal Government, measured pupils’ performance in three domains of knowledge: literacy (English language), numeracy (mathematics) and life skills (social studies, health education, basic science, home economics,) across some states of the federation.
The mean percent scores on the literacy was 25.1 percent, numeracy stood at 32.2 percent, while life skills tests was 32.6 percent.
This corroborates the findings in a recent World Bank report on global development which warns of impending learning crisis in development countries. “While not all developing countries suffer from such extreme learning gaps, many fall far short of levels they aspire to. Leading international assessments on literacy and numeracy show that the average student in poor countries performs worse than 95 percent of the students in high-income countries” the report states.
Post Basic and Vocational Education
In a different report titled ‘The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa,’ the WEF highlighted four particular areas for strategic focus, which include: “ensuring the ‘future-readiness’ of curricula, especially through a focus on Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields; investing in digital fluency and ICT literacy skills; providing robust and respected technical and vocational education and training (TVET); and creating a culture of lifelong learning, including the provision of adult training and up skilling infrastructure,” the report stated.
Nigeria sorely needs a well thought strategy for vocational education, which will enable the youth become employers of labour. A TVET model to learn from is Germany’s. Germany’s vocational education programme is a dual system whereby students learn in the classroom and also learn by doing.
Typically, trainees attend vocational school one or two days per week, studying the theory and practice of their occupation as well as economics and social studies, foreign languages, and other general subjects. They also do a working apprenticeship in their chosen field where they receive about one-third of the salary of a trained skilled worker.
Germany policy-makers know that not all students like or flourish under the traditional studies system. They realise some clearly don’t have aptitude for college or academic work but are great with their hands. But they see all the kids as potential assets who will shine if they are matched with the right vocation. And it created a system – a strong partnership of employers and unions with government – to do the matching and provide the necessary training.
Incessant Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) strikes continue to disrupt the academic calendar and infrastructural deficits make students learn theories without practice.
Some of the reasons for these strikes have been poor implementation of 2009 agreement by the Federal Government, review of salaries, review of fringe benefits and allowances, increased university autonomy among others.
The effects of these strikes include: deteriorating quality of graduates from Nigerian universities since time lost due to strikes that should be used for delivering the curriculum is not recovered. The other effect is loss of revenue to universities.
Many potential students prefer universities in neighbouring African countries including Ghana, Benin and Togo because of these countries have stable academic calendar. Others cross the Atlantic Ocean to the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ukraine among others.
However, Nigerian universities can play a significant role in the fourth industrial revolution in a number of ways. The first direction is research capacity building. Beginning from 2016, there is the need to run annual, intensive, capacity-building (training) workshops on contemporary research techniques, for cohorts of science researchers.
“During the last five years, dotted all over Nigeria, are specks of such research capacity-building efforts which have had feeble impact in bolstering overall national contributions to the global science and technology research literature. What we need is a combination of the inverted pyramid and pulsating models of capacity building” said Peter Okebukola, former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC).
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