Education in Nigeria and International Competitiveness by Professor Adebisi Adewole

The importance of education in our national life cannot be over-emphasised. Globally, education is considered a fundamental right that all human beings should be accorded. The United Nations recommends that governments spend at least 26 percent of their Gross Domestic product (GDP) on Education. Education is the bedrock of development and the foundation for a nation’s advancement. Education is the most powerful instrument to change the world. It is the oil that powers the engine of change and national orientation. Education is the live wire of human development, and the experience and knowledge gained from quality education remains invaluable throughout life. Quality education enables progress, whilst poor and inadequate education is worthless to the receiver, as it fails to help neither innovation nor creative thinking. A poorly educated person remains stagnant, disoriented, non-competitive and constitute an embodiment of confusion to himself and to the community. Poor education leaves the receiver with no idea of the world beyond their immediate space and environment. They are normally far behind their pairs who are knowledgeable and creative in their approach to trend of things and the opportunities therein.

Overview of Education Policy in Nigeria since 1960
Although currently there is a notable upsurge in private nursery and primary schools dot-ting Nigerian metropolis and semi-urban cities around the country, this sector is dominated by public schools. Nigeria has witnessed several educational reforms which started at pre-independence. It was to the credit of Nigerians, notably agitators for self rule that led the British colonial rulers to change the educational system in operation in 1954 from 8-6-2-3 system that is 8 year primary, 6 year secondary, 2 year higher school certificate and 3 year university to a new system 6-5-2-3 that is 6 year primary, 5 year secondary, 2 year higher school certificate and 3 year university. The change resulted in reducing the number of years at the primary and secondary school levels. Nigerians leaders then were more concerned about education. It was viewed as a patriotic struggle to effect a change in the educational structure for the general good of the country. But since 1969, the Nigeria’s education policy had gone through many changes. The 1969 National Curriculum Conference was the first national attempt to change the colonial orientation of Nigerian educational system and promote national consciousness and self-reliance.

Participants at the conference were eager to see Nigeria chart a new course in its educational system. Such a system they reasoned will empower the country towards the path of scientific and technological development. They criticized colonial education system as lacking in vitality and relevance. In short, in 1982, the then Minister of Education, Professor Babs Fafunwa recommended changes in the system, from 6-5-2-3 system to 6-3-3-4 system; that is 6 year primary, 3 year junior secondary, 3 year senior secondary and 4 year university education. The recommended new system was the American system of education which Japan ably copied after 1945 and succeeded.
The significance in the 1969 curriculum conference focused on the Nigerian children in Nigerian society. The Federal Republic of Nigeria adopted the policy as an instrument “par excellence” for effecting national development. But despite the government’s commitment to education, the quality of education in Nigerian schools has declined tremendously, thereby posing uphill challenges for successive governments. Many times I ask questions, what is wrong with the Nigeria educational system? What are the real problems?
Whenever I visit public schools in Nigeria, I see zero level of modernisation from what it had been since independence. Classroom conditions are even less conducive for learning compared to what it used to be 40 or 50 years ago. This is an unbelievable backward trend in Nigeria’s education. School buildings are dilapidated, teaching resources are still mainly blackboards and white chalk, materials are out-dated and old-fashioned. I see no improvement in teaching and learning, as teaching methods remain predominantly archaic. No application of computer technologies except in affluent private schools. Teachers are lacking in contemporary teaching and presentation skills as a result of inadequate training and absence of continuous professional development. I see teachers whose confidence and self-esteem are very low due to lack of payment of salaries for months running to calendar years.

Here is what a primary school teacher I spoke to recently told me: “We still use black-board and chalk up till now. The classroom environment is very poor. We have more than sometimes 200 pupils in a class. Some seat under the tree to receive lessons. The classrooms are already old and unfunctional. Most of the schools need renovation”
Gentlemen and ladies, whenever I go round, I see a combination of poor environment, poor quality and poorly educated children on the ground. Where these underlying factors build up together, the results is certainly that of poor education, poor orientation and poor attitude resulting in half-backed school leavers who are in turn poorly equipped for secondary school education.
Secondary Education
With the enormity of limitation in knowledge and capacity carried over from primary schools, secondary school education becomes a huge challenge for the child. But the reverse is the case from what I saw early this year when I went round some secondary schools in Nigeria. I was disturbed to see that schools no longer have libraries, agriculture is no longer taught in secondary schools, Science laboratories are no longer existing and student are now left with alternative to science in their WASCE/GCE/NECO examinations whilst standard recreational facilities for sports are virtually none existent in most school. In Nigeria, students pass rate in WASCE is declining compared to their West African counterparts from Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.

In 2013, Only 86,612 out of a total of 298,971 candidates who sat the examination succeeded. This represents just 29.17 percent obtaining credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics; In 2014 more that 70 percent of candidates who sat for the November/December West African School Certificate Examination failed to make five credits, including English and mathematics. The Head of National Office of WASCE, Charles Eguridu said, out of 241,161 candidates who sat the examination in 2014, only 72,522 passed with five subjects, mathematics and English Language inclusive. This gave a pass rate of just 29.27 percent nationwide. In both years (2013 and 2014) the examination body withheld 28,817 results for reasons connected to examination mal-practices. What this simply means is that examination fraudulence numbering up to al-most 29 thousand was discovered among children of 16-17 year olds across the country. This is a clear manifestation of the root of corruption in Nigeria. If at childhood and teenage age, our children have known and practiced corruption through cheating in national examinations, and aided by adults in positions of authority, I am deeply worried the kind of future we are building for our young ones to live in and to enjoy.

In Finland, high school dropout rate is 2%. Most of the students in Finland can speak four different languages. Language skills make speakers to be internationally more competitive. Nigerian education curriculum at high school level could benchmark the Finland model and introduce African languages such as Swahili, the most widely spoken language in East Africa, whose over 180 million speakers spread across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi,, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Northern Mozambique; or Tamazight, another African Language, widely spoken by around 35 million people in North Africa in countries including Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Northern Mali, Northern Niger and Egypt. Ability to use these languages proficiently in addition to English and French Languages as well as the child’s local native language will place the child at a competitive edge across Africa and beyond. The Finland record on education did not happen overnight, they started to focus on education since the last half a century and their focus has not dropped off, instead it is improving progressively. Finish teachers are the best and brightest and come from top 10 percent of the students. Teachers are paid and respected like doctors and engineers. The school system of Finland is 100 percent state-funded. Each classroom consists of 16 to 20 students, and sometimes with 3 teachers. 43 percent of the high school students go to vocational school to learn skills. Nigeria has a great deal to learn from Finish Education system. Nigeria has the resources to build the capacity. 26% of Nigeria’s GDP as recommended by the United Nations will achieve great milestone in Nigeria’s education and prepare our youths for the future.

Higher School Certificate of Education/ GCE Advanced Level
The introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system of education pre-supposed that the old system of education (6-5-2-3) in which 2 years of Higher School Certification of Education (HSCE)/Advanced Level was a part, was archaic. The then Federal Military Government reasoned that the 6-5-2-3 education policies failed to provide for the needs of indigenous Nigerian because, according to them, it placed too much emphasis on paper qualifications. They claim that the new system was modern, dynamic and progressive. They also said that the system would assist in the attainment of some of the objectives of National policy on education with emphasis on meeting the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian society. They pre-supposed that the system would help Nigeria to develop technologically and that there would be more technical graduates from the various technical colleges, polytechnics and universities of technology in the country. They also pre-supposed that the system, to some extent, would help to cater for individual differences in intelligence, physical ability, and individual aspirations, which would enable the individual learner to develop his/her potentials.
However, Fabunmi J. O. (1986) in his work, Social and legal implication of the 6-3-3-4 system of education in Nigeria, published in Journal of Ancops, vol2 (1), p 7 pointed out that ‘despite all the lofty presumptions, the system failed’. Fabunmi viewed that the new system of education lost its quality and there was a total collapse of the sector. He explained that the predicaments to a proper execution of the 6-3-3-4 systems were: (i) Problem of non-availability of adequate textbooks as well as shortage of teachers. (ii) Political problem, that is, the idea that the system was conceived by military government that favoured centralization. (iii) Financial problem: Since the success of any educational programme depends heavily on fund made available, most of the equipments and facilities required for the system could not be bought due to inadequate government funding. (iv) Public Enlightenments: The general public seemed to be unaware of the benefit of the programme, hence its catastrophic failure. (v) Inadequate statistics for national planning on education: There is the inability to obtain detailed and up-to-date statistical data needed for effective educational planning.

But although Fabunmi may have identified the problems with the 6-3-3-4 system, he did not extend his work into identifying the impact of the removal of Higher School Certificate of Education (HSCE) from the system. In my view and understanding, the removal of Advanced Level Education from the pre-university education system had done more harm than good. The A’level (equivalent of the European Baccalaureate or UK NVQ level 3) is a major disadvantage to Nigerian students. HSCE, if still in the system would have enabled young ones leaving secondary school Ordinary Level to proceed to the Advanced level stage and proceed by a direct entry to the University, thereby cutting out the problems of writing JAMB or being subjected to any University’s Post-University matriculation screen tests (Post-UME. The removal of this very important part from the Nigeria’s education system has created a wide gap in the system. I therefore call for a review of the current system of education in Nigeria with a view to bringing the HSCE qualification back into the system. Bringing it back will give back strength to Nigerian education. It will remove the unnecessary time-wasting for school leavers sitting down at home for years to write and pass JAMB examination before university education can be accessible.

Higher Education in Nigeria

Teaching and research constitute the main functions of higher education. The Nigerian Universities of today have lost the glory associated with academic excellence in our ivory towers. Many universities in Nigeria of today, if not all, have become a place for the production of occultists, social thugs and half-baked graduates. In many Universities, academics lack access to current information in their various fields. Old and outdated text books are still the key resources for teaching. There is limited access to international electronic journals to keep up with the trends on impact case study research due to lack of fund to subscribe.
Lecturers working in Nigerian higher education no longer have the confidence to appear at international academic arena to present or showcase their work. Creativity and innovation in research and research activities are almost extinct and Nigerian academics are less challenged and less motivated compared to their counterparts in the international community. Access to knowledge infrastructure, such as adequately equipped libraries; modern computer technologies including information, communication and design systems; steady supply of water and electricity amongst others to support teaching and learning, has become a mirage in our institutions of higher learning. It is sad to observe that in the 21st Century Nigeria, the common visible phenomenon amongst Nigerian Universities are poor quality, out-of-model, non-value added and knowledge poverty characteristics just to mention a few. Unless these barriers are removed and turned around, the future of Nigeria’s education will continue to go down the drain. I therefore call on the governments at federal and state levels to review their policies urgently and bring education to the top of their priorities.

How Nigeria ranks with the rest of world Universities
On the 2017 world prestige University ranking, the best University in Nigeria, University of Ibadan ranked 1,335, followed by Covenant University, Otta on 1,788, whilst Obafemi Awolowo came a distant 1,986. University of Lagos 2,613, University of Port Harcourt 2,840, University of Agriculture Abeokuta 2,914, University of Ilorin 2,965, Ahmadu Bello University 3,049 and Federal University of Technology Owerri came 3,214. These are the Nigerian ten top Universities and how they currently rank at the international level.
On the African University ranking table, University of Ibadan, Nigeria came a distant 15, whilst universities in South Africa took up the first five out of the top six, with only Makerere University in Uganda ranking 4th on the African University Prestige league. Universities in Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and Morocco ranked higher than Nigeria on the table. Where is the self-acclaimed giant of Africa.

A Silver Lining in the Cloud
I admire the courage and the tenacity of Nigerian students who are lucky enough to study abroad. I have had to teach hundreds, probably thousands, of them in my 17 years of experience as a university teacher at various Universities in England and Scotland. I am very proud to say that hundreds of Nigerians had passed through my tutelage at varying levels of their degrees including PhD supervisions and they have always excelled among their colleagues. I am always extremely proud at graduation ceremonies year-in-year out whenever I see them receiving best student awards. They make me proud as a teacher who had been part of their achievements and they make me proud to be a Nigerian. But also, I have always flashed back to the Nigeria education environment and ask myself – if these students had undertaken their education in Nigeria, would their potentials have been identified and recognised? And if I were to be professor at a Nigerian University, would I have been able to contribute to the excellence achieved by these students as I have been able to here in the UK? I wish I can arrive at satisfactory answer one day.

One of Africa’s greatests, late Nelson Madiba Mandela was angry with Nigeria and gave his advice in 2007 when he said: “spend a lot of your resources on education. Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. Poverty does not breed confidence. Only confident people can bring change. Poor, uneducated people may also contemplate change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and wealthy……..give young Nigerians good education. Teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice, and discourage them from crimes which are destroying your image as a good people.”

Conclusion and Recommendations
It’s only frank to state that much has not been achieved in terms of education development and advancement in Nigeria since independence and there is a monumental work to be done now and into the future. Although, over the decades since 1960, Nigeria has witnessed massive increase in the number of schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities, it is however not by the increase in number of schools that continuous improvement is measured, but by the quality of teaching and learning delivered. I therefore take this time to call for a SUSTAINABLE EDUCATION policy that will benefit the country youths and the entire Nigerian society.
In order to achieve this I suggest the following:
1. Adopt the United Nations recommendation of 26% of GDP investment in education. Ensure adequate budgetary provision (funding) for the educational sector.
2. Declare a state of emergency on education in Nigeria to give attention to a robust revamp of the education sector
3. Parliamentary padding of education budget should be a crime against the Nation State
4. Invest in training and employment of professional teachers (qualified teaching staff)
5. Overhaul the current JAMB-University admission imbroglio and institute a better, more user-friendly admission process for monitoring admissions to schools and higher education based on merit and not political grounds.
6. Re-introduce the HSCE qualification to fill existing critical gap in the education system and to enable participation by international students.
7. Build quality requirements into the system at all levels. This must include curriculum development, delivery, assessments and feedback systems, particularly at college and University levels.
8. Provide funding for adequate continuing professional development and resources, including modern learning technologies for teachers for the promotion of quality teaching and learning.
9. Institute credible corruption-free school/ college/ university governance that will be capable of delivering quality at all levels.
10. Devolve more power to schools and higher education sectors to encourage positive competitiveness.
11. Make adequate recreational facilities in schools at all levels a requirement for delivery of quality education
12. Develop a culture of respect for teachers/lecturers and pay their salaries as and when due without defaulting.
The blame is always, and will always, be on the inability of the political class and the ed-ucated elite to rise up to the challenges of a crumbling nation. The consequences of their inability to call a spade, a spade will always result in a consistent systematic destruction of the political, social and economic systems of the country.
I belong to the educational elite of Nigeria. I love my country dearly and today, I have played my part.
Thank you

Dr. Adebisi Adewole Dip (Mass Comm) LLB (Hons) MA MBA PhD PGCert Ed Professor of Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Strategy University of the West of Scotland Paisley, Glasgow, United Kingdom Fellow Higher Education Academy Chartered Member, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Consultancy African Pulse Magazine Member of VISION ENTERPRISE Centre for Media Communication, Business and Management Consulting (CMCBMC).

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