Nigerian Tertiary Education: Need For A Paradigm Shift!
by Ahmad Faruk Umar
Our educational system is NOT working, as expected! The present setting cannot push Nigeria out of the woods. Almost everything is wrong, right from curriculum development to the anticipated outcome. The system is being choked up with frivolities that make it to produce products like zombies!
Nigerian tertiary institutions produce millions of graduates every year, only for them to join the already saturated labour market. An efficient school system is supposed to produce employers, not job seekers. Tertiary education is a collaborative institution to push the economy forward. The world today is spurred by a knowledge-based economy.
Nigeria has not given education the adequate attention it deserves! Policies in education are so weak to make it perform optimally. Something is definitely wrong. Any stakeholder in Nigerian education today has cause to be worried. The government and major stakeholders must have a rethink of the present scenario. It is unimaginable with the high number of universities, polytechnics and colleges in the country; the system has not impacted positively to the dynamics of development in Nigeria.
The Asian tigers adopted strategies that helped them change their educational system by technological transfer and consolidating in the gains over the years. Now, Malaysia and a host of others can boast of having high ranking universities in the world among the 100 best! The Indian model has a history of perseverance and wisdom. They retained their culture and language, and developed technologies that are community-friendly, to excel. They are now leaders in various fields, such as ICT and health. And education was the reason for this giant stride. The Chinese style is far the most formidable. After the Mao Revolution in the 1940s, there was no looking back for China! We can safely deduce that they are the strongest and comfortable country in the world today.
The best investment any wise country can make is education. Nelson Mandela, a former South African leader, said “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”. Our educational system has only provided forlorn job-seekers in Nigeria. Almost all graduates have one thing in common – “to be salary earners”, no matter how subjugating the offer could be! Imagine a graduate feeling sad to finish NYSC, because of the allowance of N33,000 that would be missed. Sad!!
Whitecollarism is the dream of tertiary institution graduates. The present trend can be reversed if policies on education can be changed and realistic and implementable measures formulated. The measures, if adopted can create a change in the mindset of our graduates from job-seekers to wealth creators.
Updating our curriculum to reflect issues related to our peculiarities as a nation. This is a great challenge to the agencies responsible for the development of curriculum using practical models to achieve the needed growth in the educational system. Entrepreneurship/ Technopreneurship should take the centre stage during the development process. Likewise, nationalism and Pan-Africanism should be emphasised in all ramifications. This psychological or mindset reset will change the stereotyping of the present prejudice held against the country.
We must lay emphasis on skills, not certificates!
Show me what you can do, not degrees! De-emphasising degree, but skill in employment opportunity will make our graduates wake up. Science and engineering-based graduates should, as criteria, be linked up with industries or specific companies to execute projects in line with their discipline. This will horn their capacity to match up to the expectations of their employers. Practical skills should be the benchmark for employment. It is absurd to produce an automobile engineer who looks for the services of a roadside mechanic when his or her car breaks down! Or worse still, a chemist that cannot produce simple products like ethanol, vaseline, or even shampoo! Another vivid example is an agriculturist looking for a white-collar job. The list is endless.
There should be a close collaboration between tertiary institutions and industries.
Our industries are distancing themselves from tertiary institutions. It is supposed to be a form of collaboration if we are indeed looking for the desired change. Industries should pursue partnerships with tertiary institutions. They should open up and push in what line of research activities our higher institutions are supposed to embark on. Industries and employers should perform their role in the transformation of “theory to practice”, not blaming higher institutions for producing unemployable graduates!
Things are definitely easier with technology! Higher institutions should be supported by the government in technology transfer. Our students are very brilliant. Just give them the chance and they will perform. In the 21st century, technologies are upgraded, refined and designed for higher efficiency! It is a sad commentary that we are still using the hoe to till our land.
The government and key stakeholders should step up their game towards proper funding of institutions of higher learning. This will improve research and development, thus, improve innovation. Training and re-training, coupled with upgrading facilities will enhance global competitiveness.
Nigeria should not continue being complacent or at the receiving end. Nigeria is blessed with all it takes to make it real big! The only problem is seizing the opportunity; which education is the answer. Our Nigerians in the diaspora are sick and tired of lamentation. Things should never be allowed to continue sliding down. It is better late than never. Nigeria, with its enormous human and material resources, can spur the needed development. The major problem in Nigeria is being copy-cats of the educational system. Nigeria has to develop an indigenous educational system based on its peculiarities. There must be a paradigm shift from borrowers to doers!
Nigeria is certainly heading for the dooms if we do not change for the better. The problem is the strong will and commitment from the leaders. I pray our chief education officer, Mal. Adamu Adamu will kick the ball rolling!!!!
Umar writes from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi