[LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT]
TREND OF EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
I crave direct audience with you sir but for the protocol and difficulty of securing appointment. Seeing the significance and urgency of this message, I resorted to reaching you through this medium. Interestingly, I now realize that using this platform has the added advantage of allowing thousands of others who are occupying leadership and presidential positions at various levels to pick some ideas that could collectively move the nation forward. Sir, the truth is that you cannot do it alone. This is the motivation for this submission. Understanding your busy schedule, I plead that you take time to reflect on this piece to allow for effective application.
Education and Development
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. There is no doubt that the more we know, the better we live. People are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Many African countries today fall into the category of under-developed nation largely because of the low quality of education in such countries.
Curriculum [Blueprint of National Development]
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. I am aware that the curriculum has recently been reviewed. I have just concluded an empirical research on the Junior Secondary School curriculum. I am also aware of the numerous subjects newly added at the senior secondary level. Many of the ideas are truly laudable. However, I have the following observations. I will address them under the three domains of curriculum effectiveness listed above.
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. For example, in the previous curriculum, 10 to 11 year old students at the Junior Secondary Schools were taking an average of 16 subjects. The weight of the textbooks and notebooks they carry to school was crushing. Often, they had to do assignment till 11 pm daily, barely having time to digest the lessons for the day. In the recently revised curriculum for the same level of students, one of the celebrated changes is the reduction of number of subjects to 10. However, closer scrutiny revealed that there was technically no reduction. What was done was the integration of subjects. The outcome was that schools still need about two or three different Teachers to teach one integrated subject in the new curriculum. This is causing more confusion to Students, Teachers and Management alike.
- 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. Imagine a student taking Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Further Mathematics [among other demanding subjects], and such is interested in taking some of these vocational subjects. The consequence could be catastrophic. Even if it is not, the level of achievement for such student will somehow diminish. The truth is that many of the newly introduced subjects are not worth being tagged ‘subject’. Some of them could be incorporated into existing subjects. For example, it is recommended that Photography, Sculpture, Painting & Decoration, Graphic Design, Picture making and Basketry be subsumed under Fine Arts; Computer Studies and Data Processing could be incorporated into Information and Communication Technology; Crop and Animal Husbandry should be included in Agricultural Science; (etc). If the integrated subjects are becoming overloaded, some of the components could be dropped. The most important deciding factor should be facilitating quality education that will galvanize world-class productivity and development. Please note that the merging proposed here is different to what obtains in the current Junior Secondary School [JSS] curriculum. It is apparent the ‘subjects’ proposed for merging here are within the same domain. For instance, typical fine art Teachers are trained in virtually all these areas. In the JSS merging, the components are so different that specialized Teachers are often required to take them.
- 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 synchronized 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 needs 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.
Curriculum Implementation & Law of Absolute Conditions
In many African countries, including Nigeria, a large chunk of the curriculum is well developed. The challenge of realizing the purpose of the curriculum [in provoking individual and national development] is often with implementation. The various factors responsible for poor implementation of the curriculum can be subsumed under law of absolute conditions.
Law of Absolute Conditions
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. A simple illustration is the process of baby formation in the womb. Some of the absolute conditions for sustained pregnancy are: availability of ovum [egg] and spermatozoa in the right quantity, correct genetic composition/configuration, right temperature and pressure, right alkaline, acid and base level [called pH level], appropriate blood pressure, sufficient oxygen, right nutrient composition, free fallopian tube (etc). These conditions and materials must be in place and in the right condition of functionality for the baby to be properly formed and sustained till time of birth. The reason for many premature abortions is lack of fulfillment of law of absolute conditions.
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. Application of this singular law in all facets of the economy is apt to significantly boost our national productivity and development drive. Failure to obey this simple law will not only lead to frustration in our quest to achieve targeted organizational and national goals, but is apt to lead to wastage of colossal human, material and financial resources.
The first logical step in the drive for productivity and national development, therefore, should be organizing 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.
Teaching & Learning Strategy [Curriculum Implementation]
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 is another vital condition that should be factored into the law of absolute conditions. Doing this will provoke productivity and development.
Curriculum Monitoring & Evaluation
Assessment Strategy [Monitoring & Evaluation of Curriculum Implementation]
What is not inspected should hardly be expected. The quality and tone of assessment naturally determines the quality of teaching and learning [i.e.. education]. Teachers and Students worldwide literally ‘dance’ to the beat of examinations. Examinations, a strong component of assessment, are therefore powerful tools for catalyzing productivity and development when handled rightly. A potent device for preparing effective assessments that achieve this feat is test blueprint.
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 evaluation], 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 practice 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. At the tertiary level, the effect of test blueprint will be more realized if the final assessments for the award of degrees are handled by external or independent certified Psychometricians and Subject Experts who are trained in the application of test blueprint and general test development/standardization practices. A pilot study can be done to prove this assertion.
The increasing rate of examination malpractices 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. When students cheat to pass examination, they often lack the requisite knowledge in such subjects. This automatically truncates the pathway of learning [see the chart in the next section]. The consequence is that such students barely have basic understanding of the subject matter that will allow for correct application of knowledge to evolve relevant solutions to the nation’s challenges. Such students often end up as liabilities than assets to the nation. Examination malpractice should therefore be fought to a standstill with every force we could muster. Application of strategic assessment techniques holds strong promise of significantly contributing to the reversal of this evil practice, among other plausible solutions
WAEC ‘s Grading Format
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 caliber 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.
Productivity & Development [Application of Educational Outcomes]
In the course of my lectures over the years, I have come to realize that 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 pathway of learning model below summarises this point:
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.
Law of Motivation & Reinforcement
[Promotion & remuneration criteria across different professions]
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. A situation where professions like accountant and those in the oil/gas sector earn almost twenty times more than Teachers who trained them is a misnomer. The national remuneration structure clearly needs urgent review.
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.
Adopting the recommendations in this article is apt to reverse the current retrogressive trend in the education system and catalyse indigenous productivity and national development.
Sir, this is the need of the moment for our nation. A stitch in time saves nine.
My regards always!
Jonathan Adedayo Odukoya, Ph.D [Psychometrics]
Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology,
College of Leadership Development &
Director, Centre for lifelong Learning,
Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.
Dr. Dayo Odukoya obtained his doctoral degree in Psychometrics from the Department of Guidance and Counseling, University of Ibadan in 1991. He is a specialist in Psychological & Educational measurement, test and evaluation [Psychometrics]. He worked in the Research Division of the West African Examinations Council [WAEC] in Lagos and subsequently in Accra, Ghana for eleven years. The exposure afforded him the opportunity to serve as Consultant to international organizations like UNICEF, UNESCO, ADEA, IDRC, ERNWACA and USAID/AED, among others. Dr. Odukoya, who is currently the Director of Covenant University Centre for Lifelong Learning, is also the Secretary General of the Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa [ERNWACA] in Nigeria.