Nigeria’s Education System: The mediocrity, hopelessness and schooling to fail

WordStage Newsonline– The complexity of the problem facing Nigeria’s education system is very difficult to understand. It’s a common thing for higher institution students not to expect graduation at the specified period for their courses, no thanks to academic and non-academic staff that frequently go on strike for more than an academic season, while government seems to be helpless.

Even when the students are finally able to pass through the schools, the belittle acronym Now Your Suffering Continues (NYSC) is most suitable for them going by the flaw in the education system that produces graduates who are not practically equipped for the new reality of time.

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu

Nigeria’s education system has over the years, been described as lopsided, focusing more on impartation of knowledge through theories and leaving out the practicality of learning.

This, it had been argued, had constituted a setback for the achievement of the country’s educational objectives, especially in the area of human resources development for nation building.

Some experts who spoke to WorldStage stated that it was pathetic for the country’s education system to have a high level of disproportionate theoretical impartation with little exposure of students to practical side of what they are taught.

They argued that beginning from the primary or elementary phase of education up to the university level, the educational activity is ineffectively filled with a greater amount of speculations from the past which do not meet with the present reality, which also do not fully equip the students for the outside world.

It had been observed that the traditional method used at different levels of schooling in Nigeria was centered more on theoretical teachings that were not enough for certification based on the knowledge acquired during the period, and also part of the reason while most graduates and students failed to perform well in their chosen fields of study after graduation.

Chief Executive of Learning Impact NG, Omagbitse Barrow during an interview with WorldStage expressed regrets over the low intellectual quality of new entrants into the Nigerian labour market due to lack of practical skills.

Barrow noted that most of the nation’s education curricular and programmes focused too narrowly on assessments rather than on practice.

He said that Nigerians were schooled in various subjects that prepared them only to pass examinations, but not enough attention was placed on the practical skills relating to their areas of specialisation.

“Even more importantly, broadening the scope of education to include the skills for life and success which are without a doubt more than the Maths, Engineering, Science, Medicine and Law that our youth are scrambling to get degrees,” he added.

According to Barrow, this accounts for the reason why young people were unable to meet the criteria for the available few jobs, adding that the spirit and skills for entrepreneurship and enterprise that should drive mid-career professionals to establish entrepreneurial ventures were non-existent.

He lamented that Nigerians had continued to wallow in the mediocrity of a rent economy with everyone waiting to secure jobs in the already over-bloated public service or end up as contractors to an increasingly corrupt government officials.

On the style of education in Nigeria, Barrister Ikechukwu Moagua, a lecturer in Anchor University, Lagos, emphasized the need to restructure the Nigerian educational system and position it on the path of practical education.

National Universities Commission

He said, “The Nigerian educational curriculum, as a whole, is designed to encouraging retrogression. That no doubt, has stagnated our progress. The theoretical approach to learning in Nigeria as against practical is appalling. We need to go to the basis and overhaul our curriculum.”

He further asserted that practical style of learning, if incorporated, would bring positive revolution to the system, which is by-product of theories, adding that this might be the reason why the economy of the country remained stagnant.

He added that, “The German system of learning is completely practical; students solve practical problems in their industries. Students do not go to school to learn theories, and you can tell where they are today.

“Nigeria system of education has robbed the students of their talents. There is no trace of project-based learning in our curriculum which encourages practical. Otherwise, why would an accounting graduate need basic training on the job before he or she is fully integrated into the system? To say the obvious, there is nothing like practical in our schools today.

“Testing of hypothesis is somewhat misapplied; the result is counterproductive. It is pure theory (garbage in garbage out). Nigeria may not get it right until our curriculum is changed to practical.”

According to him, in Canada for instance, pupils at the elementary level carried out projects because their curriculum encouraged that, while he added that the Chinese would not need much of theories to manufacture electronics.

 “Today, virtually every house in China is a factory that produces one thing or the other. The Indians that head and direct our engineers in Dangote Cement factory do not have many degrees as we have today in Nigeria.

“A Mechanical Engineer in Nigeria can tell you what may be wrong in a vehicle as he was taught, but in the practical sense of it, if he sees a car bonnet, he may not know how to open it not to talk of fixing the car.

 “Hypothetical information is a robbery to our society. Theories have rather made graduates stack illiterates outside the university. We do not have graduates who can solve problems today not because they do not have the brain, but they have rather become slaves of circumstance.”

An Abuja based computer scientist, Mr. James Ejeagbasi who reflected on why the educational structure in Singapore had been receiving a lot of praise said, “When Singapore gained independence from the British, it was a low skill labour-driven market.

“However, over 50 years, the government managed to create an incredibly advanced education system, where graduates went on into highly skilled jobs. Education in Singapore is superior because the classes are focused on teaching the students specific problem-solving skills and subjects.

“The classroom is highly scripted, and the curriculum is focused on teaching students practical skills that will help them solve problems in the real world. Exams are essential and classes are tightly oriented around them. Over 98 per cent of its population can read and have access to higher education. It is also improving its mathematics and science literacy significantly.”

A typical poorly funded school

For Abigail Okafor, an educationist, the current arrangement of Nigeria’s educational curriculum was overwhelmingly theoretical in the framework, while she emphasized the need for a restructuring of the country’s education curricula.

According to her, for Nigeria to gain a place in the comity of nations, her educational curriculum needed to be changed and restructured to accept practicality at all levels.

She said, “We need a working curriculum in the education sector. What we have now is not workable, and is one sided. It is still way behind and incomplete. The curriculum is not thorough enough and this has made us not to move with the speed that we need and also produce the graduates that our society needs.

“We need to restructure the curriculum to be able to adequately train the students. These three things are very important in restoring the glory of the teaching profession – teacher training, a well blended curriculum that accepts practical and the learning environment.

“Government has to be more involved in the educational sector, seeing that these are the children who would take over power in the future and this matter of practical should be included in every level of education.”

Similarly, the Founder, Precious Foundation School, Mrs. Veronica Ukanwa, lamented that Nigeria’s education system had lost its glory by virtue of being in the 145th position of primary education advancement in the world’s record following some bedeviling factors.

She said, “Still, I think that those countries that advanced the furthest in terms of social development tend to be those who migrated from a system of education that only dish out theories to a system that promotes the acquisition of knowledge at both ends of the spectrum and acquired it in a variety of ways.

“Practical knowledge would help the Nigerian students to acquire the specific techniques that become tools of their trade. It sits much closer to their actual day-to-day work.

“Practical knowledge can often lead to a deeper understanding of a concept through the act of doing and personal experience. Theory and practical are essential, but it becomes unproductive when the system tends to go with only the theoretical aspect.

‘The Nigeria students should understand that a person won’t survive in any career unless he or she can bring results and to do that you need practical knowledge. There’s no avoiding it.”

Also speaking, a Veteran journalist and educationist, Mrs. Adesola Ayo, said that Nigeria’s education sector got it wrong by not putting infrastructure in place, pointing out that non-availability of teaching materials for practical are issues endangering the teaching profession.

She said, “Giving the preceding defects and shortcomings, our system of education needs a radical change. Practical knowledge, self-reading, information gathering, work experience in school life should be given more importance to bring about a complete and harmonious development of all factors of human personality.

“Our educational framework ought to be burdened with a greater amount of achievable works and little of theories. The government should provide adequate and satisfactory facilities that would help the students in the functional and practical part of education to improve and set the students prepared.

“The government should, notwithstanding, give working educational programs that are based on providing practicality in the primary, secondary and tertiary education. This would surely improve the products of our educational institutions which would thus have an indirect impact on the nation.”

On the poor performance of students after graduation, an environmental science graduate from the University of Abuja, and a school teacher, Mr. Okeke Nnaemeka, argued that the practical part of education was not in any way omitted in the policy document of education, but the significant faults and lapses that were retrogressing to the system include poor funding by government and lack of employment of professional teachers.

“The policy documents of education are meant for educational efficiency, but the major setback has been poor governmental funding. This makes the implementation unrealistic. There are other problems that have made enforcement difficult. A situation where professional teachers are not allowed to do the teaching they are trained to do.

“The educational curriculum needs to be revised too, since the school is the reflection of the society, in the face of fall and rise in unemployed graduates. It is high time the educational system addresses the challenge facing the society by producing learners with skills that would sustain them after school.

“The government must also ensure that education is given priority by taking steps in guaranteeing that the UNESCO 26 per cent budgetary allocation is given to the education sector.”

 However, he said the truth must be told that the theoretical method used in Nigeria had failed to offer the best.

“The Nigerian educational system has for long not taught the children how to cultivate their intelligence through critical thought and doubt; instead, the educational system had taught them to memorize and accept established ideas, beliefs and discoveries without questioning anything, to make our society continue to run smoothly and succeed in standardized tests”, he said.

The Proprietress of Precious Foundational School, Veronica Ukanwa, who bemoaned the system education practiced in Nigeria, advised that the system should invest more on practical so that the students would be able to get the knowledge and wisdom behind its education.

She said, “The current situation with Nigeria’s educational framework and what it offers is not sufficiently adequate to deliver men who are changers of time, inventors and industrialists. Instead, it has for a long time ago provided liabilities, unremarkable alumni and graduates who do not have the entire blessing that education offers.

“Think about why we do not have incredible creators and extraordinary masterminds in Nigeria and your mind will go to the uninspiring educational arrangement o which is entirely hypothetic.

“This is the motivation behind why a student who succeeds commendably in his school examination flops in the examination of life.”

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