EducationThe Academia

Education: Are students learning or just going to school?

A student applied to study Pharmacy in one of the northern Universities. When no place could be found for her in that course, the institution offered her Islamic Studies. At the University of Ibadan some of the students that applied to read medicine were pushed to other courses and asked to quickly accept or decline the new offer as many other students were in the queue to be considered.

These two examples illustrate the crisis that have ravaged the education sector in the last 30 years. But it starts from the pre-primary education. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not have any policy on pre-primary education. Experts have said that from birth to age 6, the brain develops the fastest and needs the best of care and guidance with respect to education. Whatever happens to a child at that age bracket determines how he or she would cope with leaning onto adulthood. In other words, by the time the child gets to the primary school level, that is from age 6-12, the brain is already fully formed.

 

A few years ago the country altered its secondary school system and extended the years of attendance to six. The big idea was the introduction of skill acquisition courses for students in the first three years of junior secondary. As at today, the skill acquisition part is dead. Yet, students are still required to spend six years in secondary schools instead of the five that it used to be, a collosal waste of one year.

Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu

As briefly mentioned at the beginning of this piece, tertiary education is in a huge mess. Most students these days end up studying what is available not what they set out to study. Besides, the tertiary education of today has no nexus whatsoever with the country’s industrial needs.

Graduates leave the universities with the hope of getting jobs to sustain themselves. The idea of doing research that may change the course of history is alien to graduates of our tertiary education. Even when they go out for masters programs in some of the best universities abroad, they still comeback home to a sterile research environment that makes it impossible for them to function.

ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi

The funding is not there. Ther tools are not there. Colleagues that they are supposed to collaborate with are not there. The ministry of science and technology exists only in brick and mortar. There no interest in any meaningful intellectual work. We attend conferences around the world and delight in writing meaningless memos on their experiences that do not add value to anything. The few that may be interested in reforms, are discouraged by the general atmosphere of laxity. The industry that will jump at the outcome of any research is not there. They are constrained by infrastructure deficit.

We are again in an election season. What are those running for office saying about education? The ruling party talks about school feeding programs to encourage young ones to enroll in primary education, a good idea. But what is the final destination of the enrollers. Is it not the same as those ahead of them. The issue of school fees or no school fees and poor funding of universities over which ASUU has just declared an indefinite strike also misses the point. It does not address the main challenge of content and linkage to science and technology.

Therefore , as far as education is concerned, Nigeria is running on a treadmill. All I have heard from some presidential candidates are generalized statements about improving education. The “how part” is conspicuously missing.

One is thing is sure. Nigeria can not become great with the current education system. The more we postpone addressing it, the more we will continue to spend our hard earned but dwindling resources on foreign goods and services. For now,  Nigerian students are only going to school. They are not doing any meaningful learning.

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