Nigerian Education: A National Failure By Terfa Naswem

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The university is an institution where the highest academic qualification is obtained. It is also an institution that is supposed to prepare graduates for the professional needs of a complex and technological society. Although Nigerian universities are producing graduates in large numbers in sciences, engineering and technology, they are not prepared for the professional needs of a complex and technological society due to lack of standard laboratories, lack of good libraries, lack of good instructional materials, lack of adequate qualified lecturers, poor university funding among others. And the problem also is attributed to poor foundation of students from primary to secondary education.
The nature of our education system from primary to higher institution has led to many questions to be asked by many concern Nigerians about what the government and educators are doing about the situation.
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THE NATION published an article on Thursday, October 17, 2013 from page 25 to 26 titled: POOR FOUNDATION, POOR GRADUATES. The article stated that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) lamented that almost 90 percent of Nigerian graduates cannot communicate effectively in English, which is the language of instruction in Schools and that educationists have faulted teachers, parents and technology for the problem.
The article made my organization which is established to promote academic research and excellence, NASWEM CENTRE FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH to embark on a general survey of randomly selected Nigerian public and private schools in February 2014 with the financial support of Professor Francis X. Steiner, Professor of Biology and Chairman of Biology Department, Hillsdale College, Michigan, United States. The following were our findings:
1.                   Academic standards and levels of achievement had declined in Nigerian schools.
2.                  Most politicians and affluent Nigerians have confused and distorted the purpose of the school. Whereas the school’s primary function is academic, anti-intellectual forces have made it a confused multipurpose agency. As a result, the public, parents, students, teachers, and administrators no longer have a clear concept of the school’s purpose and function.
3.                  When compared with the school systems of other countries, especially those of the United States and Europe, Nigerian schools and students are academically inferior. This unfortunate result is due to the fact that many U.S. and European systems have national standards and institutional tracks based on students’ academic abilities.
4.                  The entries of fundamentalist religious and culturally relative values into the schools have weakened the inherited and traditional civic, patriotic, and moral values.
5.                  The use of social promotion and the neglect of rigorous academic standards have caused deterioration in the quality of Nigerian education.
6.                  Schools have done little to correct the general decline in the fundamental moral, ethical, and civic values that is taking place in Nigeria.
7.                  The quality of instruction has deteriorated because of the employment of poorly prepared teachers.
8.                 Nigerian schools have become overly bureaucratic and expensive.
9.                  Problems in student achievement, such as inadequate reading, writing, comprehension, and mathematics skills.
10.              Serious educational deficits in mathematics and science, the specific areas most closely related to technological progress, manifested by “a lack of general scientific and mathematical literacy” and by projected shortages of skilled scientists and engineers; this educational deficit is aggravated by poor funding.
11.               A “teacher gap”, resulting in a shortage of “qualified teachers in critical subjects” such as mathematics and science.
12.              A low salary scale, in which teachers are paid according to “rigid salary structures” rather than a “system for rewarding exceptional teachers for their superior performance.
After the above findings were made, the following general recommendations were made for consideration by the federal government and Nigerian educators:
1.                   The federal government should fund schools to create broad and effective partnership, especially with business leaders, to improve schools. Such projected “partnerships between business and schools will:
i.                    encourage business leaders to share “their expertise in planning, budgeting, and management with school administrators;
ii.                 customize job-training efforts between business and schools;
iii.               train students and teachers in the skills, techniques, and equipment actually used in businesses.
2.                  Too many schools underestimate their students’ potential; they need to respect their students by raising their expectations and standards of accountability.
3.                  Schools, colleges, and universities should adopt more rigorous and measurable standards, and higher expectations, for academic performance and student conduct, and they should raise their requirements for admission. This will help students do their best educationally with challenging materials in an environment that supports learning and authentic accomplishment.
4.                  The standards for admission to teacher education programmes be raised and that prospective teachers demonstrate aptitude for teaching and competence in an academic discipline.
5.                  Teachers’ salaries should be raised but that increases be based on effective evaluation of performance.
6.                  The federal government should be as a stimulator and encourager of education and as a disseminator of information on educational improvement and as a source of federal funding.
7.                  Teacher preparation programmes should be improved by modifying the present programmes used by schools for education.
8.                 The conditions for learning should be improved by employing more teachers, reducing class size and improving the quality of educational materials.
9.                  Talented teachers should be attracted and retained by “competitive entry-level salaries” and “rewards for competence” and do not “selectively raise the pay for a few teachers at the expense of many”.
10.              The traditional role of teachers should be transformed by including them “in decision-making about teaching and learning and reduce their non-instructional tasks.
11.               Constructive and comprehensive teacher evaluation system should be established or existing ones should be modified to be constructive and comprehensive.
12.              The federal government should fund the creation of more opportunities for professional growth and development designed by professional educators.
13.              The federal government should approve funds to improve teacher education programmes according to standards that teachers “believe are basic to success in the classroom”.
14.              The federal government should assign higher budget priority to educational improvement and make certain that existing resources are used more effectively and efficiently, to improve educational quality.
15.               The federal government should fund boards of education to provide “quality assurance in education” by establishing objective systems to measure and reward teacher effectiveness and performance. While quality assurance evaluation should reward effective teachers, it should also lead to the dismissal of those judged ineffective.
A comprehensive report of the survey was forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Education for consideration in April 2014. This one is an abridged copy.
From the look of things, it seems the recommendations of the report have not yet been implemented. I just hope Buhari’s government will look into the report as a new copy will be forwarded to the Minister of Education under Buhari’s government through the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education.

My desire for quality education in Nigeria is built on Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy of education. He was the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. (First President, George Washington, 1789-1797. Second President, John Adams, 1797-1801. He was succeeded by President James Madison, 1809-1817). He made it clear that: “Education is the sure foundation for the maintenance of the republic”.

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