20 May Educating Generation Next
In a 2013 report by Daily Times Nigeria, the then Minister of Education; Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai; said that the capacity of tertiary institutions in the country was about 500,000. In that same year about 1.7 million candidates sat for exam into these tertiary institutions. This definitely means that about 1.2 million candidates will be unable to get into the tertiary institutions in the same year. This definitely highlights a major problem with our educational system as it is quite inadequate to cater to the millions of youths in the Nation. This is coupled with the fact that out of the potential 500,000 candidates that may get an admission, many of them will be registering for a program of study that does not exactly align with the life’s dreams, hopes and aspiration. The education system therefore has a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution.
Asides the problem of capacity and space, there is also the problem of the quality of education. Many of the tertiary institutions lack the infrastructure to raise well-rounded graduates prepared to use their skills to better the society and their standard of living. Without the needed infrastructure and human resources, our graduates will be second-class to their global counter-parts and will be unable to compete strategically in the global labour marketplace. Employers in Nigeria are quite dissatisfied with the quality of graduates the Nation’s ivory towers are churning out and therefore prefer to hire their foreign-trained counterparts.
Another major problem with the Nation’s education system is that the youths are not prepared for life after their time in their tertiary institutions. They are unprepared for not only the labour market but also on how to make a difference in the society through social or business ventures. The youths either know nothing about entrepreneurship or what it takes to start a business venture. Although there has been some improvement as some institutions have introduced entrepreneurship into their curriculum more needs to be done to train our teeming youths in practical entrepreneurship in a tough business environment like Nigeria.
We can summarize the problems facing our education system as follows:
- Capacity and access
- Infrastructural and human resource deficit.
- Lack of entrepreneurship training
The Nigerian government has identified some of the issues above and have started working with the private sector to solve these problems. There is however a lot that still needs to be done regarding the challenges identified. Some of the solutions to the above problems are discussed in the following paragraphs. The solution to the problem of capacity includes focus on other means of education and other types of education. For example vocational education has been taken as second-hand where as it is known to employ a lot of the youths in the informal sector. Some of the people in this sector include the locally trained business men and women, the artisans etc. We need to increase capacity and access through funding to expand these schools, not only should the ministry of education supply this funds, the private sector can also help as part of their corporate social responsibility. Education should be taken online, the ministry of education should encourage and support a function within it focused on standardizing this alternative source of education. This function or department should also be tasked with accrediting distance learning programs and monitoring the quality. Private institutions can also come together to create associations like the United States Distance Learning Association, Open and Distance Learning Quality Council in the UK (originally created by the UK Government but is now independent) and others like them. This associations will support their goals to offer the best content and education service online and off-campus. A major breakthrough in this area is the National Open University which has increased access although small to those who would otherwise have had no other choice.
In solving the problem of infrastructural and human resource deficit, the government should increase the funding to paying teachers and making sure they are satisfied. Our teachers’ training schools should also not be looked down on, the government should ensure that they have all the resources needed to graduate well-rounded individuals. The standard for the teaching profession should be raised with the quality of recruits for schools taken seriously. As it is a lot of education employers do not care about the quality of their teachers either due to ignorance or for lack of funds. Either way the quality of a school’s teacher should never be toyed with or compromised.
The government has done a lot to encourage entrepreneurship education in the nation with the launch of Youwin which trains and funds entrepreneurs in the country. A lot of schools are also beginning to introduce entrepreneurship in their curriculum but this is just a few. The youths should be taught right from the primary school stage to pick up vocational skills and the basics of starting a business including financial education. Entrepreneurship should be made compulsory for all players in the education sector.
In conclusion, although a lot has been done as regards solving and attending to the numerous problems facing our nation’s educational system, a lot more still needs to be done to create value in the educational sector in order to move the nation forward. Part of the solution includes increasing access to quality education by taking quality education online and off campus.