Providing a sound education to the young population is a vital way to ensure a better Nigeria and it is high time for the government and other stakeholders to revamp the education sector. The year 2020 has introduced a challenge for education in the form of COVID and nations are beginning to adapt to the blight. Now is the time, more than ever, to give the education sector the attention it needs to live up to today’s global world.
Institutions around the world are now under increasing pressure to equip students with a broader set of skills that go beyond even subject-specific knowledge. To reiterate, it is time for Nigeria to move with the rest of the world. This article discusses the major components that need to be worked on to create an effective education sector in Nigeria.
Funding is the common thread that propels the education sector to success. Countries around the world have made deliberate and intentional investment in the education sector a priority. Sweden, for example, spends 7.3% of its GDP on education. This funding goes to both public and private institutions.
South Africa spent 16.7% of total government resources on basic education in 2019. The country now spends more than 20% of its resources on education. This is in direct contrast to what is implied in Nigeria which has not increased budget allocation to education by more than 10% since 1991. We do not have enough resources allocated to our education sector and to make matters worse, the small allocation to the sector is not well managed. I will explain further; Look at our basic education. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) program was introduced in the early 1990s to provide access to quality basic education across Nigeria. Now the federal government sets aside 2% of the treasury, which is then distributed to all 36 states, including the FCT, to support basic education. It gets more interesting.
The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) provides N500 million to each state per year to improve basic education infrastructure. However, access to this fund is based on states providing matching funding of N500 million. This means that there should be at least a one billion naira intervention fund available to each state per year to improve basic education. The assumption is that state governments will seize this opportunity to improve basic education. Well, it hasn’t because, with the exception of Lagos and a few other states, the will just isn’t there. In fact, UBEC almost always has to beg the states to come and access the money. In 2021, UBEC said it still had more than N41 billion in grants, with states refusing to access the fund.
The truth is that they are more interested in just taking the grants without providing matching funding and we know how that can end. Talk about misplaced priorities!
It is time for leaders to understand that there will be more peace in Nigeria if the number of children away from home is reduced. It is indeed time for some introspection.
There is a need for Nigerian educational institutions to adapt new technologies if we are to compete in today’s world. Technology has become an integral part of learning for most students around the world. Information technologies are beneficial in that they induce scientific, economic, technological and global awareness. It also promotes inventive thinking, develops effective communication which ultimately leads to high productivity. Truth be told, we need to prepare our neighborhoods for the real world and students have a chance in the job market after being exposed to new technologies.
On top of that, the improvement in teacher professional development cannot be overemphasized as technology will never replace a competent teacher. You cannot innovate without knowledge! As stated earlier, our schools must now exist to equip students with a broader set of skills that go beyond even subject-specific knowledge.
Embrace and encourage group work among students, as it gives them the opportunity to develop teamwork skills, e.g. distributing tasks among group members, gaining management and communication skills. This usually involves them working as a team.
Flexible learning and working options – Adopt learning options that accommodate students’ busy schedules. Students gain extensive experience working full-time or part-time as they learn. Implement the student career path – Partner with companies to connect students with employers, internships, virtual job interviews and training
In order to meet today’s global demand, there is a need to continually revise the curriculum of teaching programs. Determining what these requirements are, how to meet them, and how to revise the established program is a difficult and critical task. This demand for change to meet the needs of a 21st century educational program is a challenge for even the best education leaders, as societal values and needs change over time.
The world has become a global village where new ideas and information flow in a constant stream. It is therefore imperative to update our programs by introducing recent developments in the relevant fields of knowledge. However, the program must be revised regularly to keep students up to date with current events. Sticking to the conventional program will not yield the desired results.
We also need to explore a partnership between business and education. It is an involvement between schools and businesses, unions, governments and community organizations. These partnerships can be established to establish goals and to build an action plan for achieving those goals. An educational institution may forge a mutually beneficial relationship with a number of businesses and may have other stakeholders including parents, students, and community organizations. This type of relationship helps both parties achieve desired learning outcomes by sharing values and resources.
In conclusion, it is undeniable that the Nigerian education system requires total restructuring which is necessary to improve the performance of primary and tertiary institutions. Nigeria entered the 21st century unprepared to compete in the ever-changing global economy, where growth will be knowledge-based.
It is time to make conscious efforts to build a quality and sustainable education system so that Nigeria can rise up to be counted, especially in the post COVID world.
• Michael Emeka Ilouno is CEO, Next Generation Global Association.