Innovative and Transformative Learning as a Strategic Pathway to Development by Dr Lilian N Schofield

Education and poverty alleviation are important debates in international development and form two of the Sustainable Development Goals. Many countries are investing in education as it plays an important role in the development of a country. Education opens pathways to Innovation, which is an important element to economic development. According to the OECD 2012 report, several emerging economies –in particular China have become significant actors in the global innovation system. Innovative countries are able to deal with the challenges of development such as reducing hunger, improving access to drinking water, electricity and providing employment opportunities, thereby bringing out many out of abject poverty.

Countries in Africa such as Nigeria have a high youth population that are unemployed. According to the ILO 2019 report, the youth unemployment rate in Africa is expected to exceed 30% by the end of 2019 and young people will continue to be unemployed. Youth unemployment also remains a major issue in Nigeria even with some of the innovative policies introduced by the Nigerian government (Dandago & Muhammad, 2014). Although, Nigeria is the continent’s second biggest economy and leading oil producer, unemployment is said to cut across all age groups with the Nigerian youth between the ages of 15 – 24 bearing the biggest brunt of it. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in in the third quarter of 2018. Youth unemployment is purported to have led to problems such as youth delinquency and an increase in violence (Akanle and Adesina, 2015).


Kaduna Market, Nigeria


The discourse of youth employment and job creation has attracted the attention of policy makers and development practitioners globally.  Jobs are one of the main sources of income for the majority of households and a key driver of poverty reduction; consequently, jobs have been described as the most important determinant of living standards around the world (World Development Report, 2013).  There is the general assertion that today’s young generation are the most highly educated in world history (Matsumoto and Elder, 2010).  However, many young men and women equally experience challenges in entering and remaining in the labour market. In Nigeria, there are large number of young people who are unemployed and their transition to work dysfunctional.

Focusing on some of the above-mentioned challenges, attention should be given to transformative learning and learning geared towards preparing the youth to be part of the solution. Therefore, secondary schools and higher education Institutions should include in their curriculum teaching that entails critical thinking, problem solving and innovative thinking to allow students to understand and make sense of complexities of the society they live in and develop solutions. Schools should move past the conventional ways of teaching and develop appropriate approaches of knowledge transfer. In Paulo Freire’s (1970) the Pedagogy of the Oppressed,  “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention…”. Innovation oriented knowledge that meets the needs of  the people should be of high priority to any developing country as opposed to traditional curriculum that has become obsolete and generally observed as disengaging from today’s youths. Recommendations to overhaul curriculum has become popular, emerging from different charitable organisations and youths themselves. In the UK for instance, some programmes have responded favourably to the generation and development of life skills through the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a very popular programme for school leaving students.

Perhaps this is a programme that can be replicated in emerging countries that include those of Sub-Saharan Africa. An inventive programme that supports and enhances the education needs of young people and helps them transit successfully into sustained employment should be strategically placed at the top of the agenda of all education ministries for effective implementation and a pathway to development.

Dr Lilian Scholfield is a teaching fellow at University College London where she delivers on the MSc Development Administration and Planning course.





8 thoughts on “Innovative and Transformative Learning as a Strategic Pathway to Development by Dr Lilian N Schofield

  1. Apt. An indepth write up on the need for Nigerian educational organisations and ministries to invent and implement innovative programmes for youths. The government should encourage the youths by creating jobs, holding workshops and actually creating opportunities for these youths to improve and master their skills.

  2. Dear Dr lilian,
    I am very pleased with your paper on innovation and transformative learning as means to tackle some of the pressing problems affecting Africa. Education used to be acknowledged as one of the ways to alleviate poverty but unfortunately, it is facing challenges and no longer the case. Education in its traditional sense has been disrupted with technological innovation and the growth of different platforms of learning that is now empowering people with skills and knowledge across the globe. While I acknowledge and share your view that most African countries especially Nigeria have invested in education, I still think is not proportional to the needs of the population and actually I doubt if our current education is fit for purpose and context to address the problems you raise. This is supported by the example your highlighted Princes Trust which lays emphasis on skills than general knowledge. I hope the strategic learning you propose will actually analyse what type of education Africa needs. Why can’t we develop skills that orient towards agricultural development and transformation which will infact, not only address the problems of hunger but provide the foundation for agricultural transformation? Why can’t we learn to produce tools, technology, banking methods, cars and harness the sun we are blessed with to produce cheap energy and allevite poverty that are suited to our context?
    Dr, you will agree with me that the Millennium Development goals have been a failure and with limited resources, I doubt that they will be fulfilled. I think African entrepreneurs and intellectuals like you have a role to play with which we have to break the impasse. More articles like yours and investment in time and money need to be put in place to come up with real solutions.
    Congratulations again and keep shining the light.

  3. Transformative learning and targeted learning I believe is the way to engage and capture the interest and imagination of the youth. It is all good to provide a broad range of knowledge, however, learning a specific skill and industry help to harness mastership and commitment from the youths.

  4. Dear Dr. Lilian N Schofield,
    This topic you have addressed is very critical in motivating 21st century individuals; those who have a ready approach to problem solving.
    Innovative and transformative learning is truly the way to go.

    1. I agree with your point. However I find it difficult to understand why developing countries will not key into this model. Education remains the fastest way out of poverty, yet most developing nations will rather spend a lot on defence relegating education to the background. What do you think?

  5. Hi Dr, just to update you after the write up: I tried to check how much the Nigerian government invested in education in 2018 and it was 7% of the budget in comparison to 8.4% for the military. While I understand the current socio-political context of the country, it is a wider illustration of how African governments spend their money. How can they alleviate poverty with this mindset?
    Furthermore, when I spoke of our education, I didn’t clarify the excellent work of teachers but I still ask: are we teaching the right curriculum? Are we using technology to transform and eradicate poverty? I look forward to join your discussions and insights.

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