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REVIVING TECHNICAL EDUCATION FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

By Edwin Uhara
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Recently, I read an article by a member of the British Parliament MP, Tristram Hunt, in The Guardian Newspaper of United Kingdom (UK). It was entitled: “Universities Can't Do Everything. Reinvent the Polytechnic”. The call by this Labour MP, may sound strange because it was exactly 20 years ago, that the Polytechnic education was phased out of the British Educational System with the passage of the “Further and Higher Education Act 1992”, which transformed British Polytechnics to fully fledged and Independent Universities awarding their own degrees.

However, it is instructive to know what circumstances led to the phasing out of polytechnics in the United Kingdoms? Before the establishment of the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) in 1965 to validate academic degrees in the British Polytechnics, the first polytechnic known as: “Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society” had been in existence dating back to 1832. Some years later, when the unnecessary argument between CNAA Degrees and University Degrees ensued and began to cause acrimonies and envies in the work place, just like the current dichotomy between HND holders and BSc holders in Nigeria is doing, the British Government decided to intervene by replacing the term “polytechnic “ with university. But now that, the gap between applied education and academic education is glaring, it is understandable why this British MP Tristram Hunt is calling for the reinvention of polytechnic education in the United Kingdoms. He said: “No one wants to return to the funding and quality hierarchies between the pre-1992 polytechnics and universities, but if we are serious about true equality between vocational and academic education, then a new plan for some form of polytechnic-style capacity is needed”.

When the current Minister of Education, Professor Ruquyyatu Rufai was sworn-in by President Good Luck Jonathan last year, some of her priority areas of reforms in the nation's educational sector were; Access and Equity, Standards and Quality Assurance, Technical and Vocational Education, and Funding and Resource Utilization. One year later, she was asked why the dichotomy between what is supposed to be an equal level and equal ranked certificates still persists in the country, she told her audience that such dichotomy no longer exist in the nation's education sector, except in the civil service which is not under her jurisdiction as education minister! But, she later said that, it was within the purview of the Head of Service of the Federation to correct or put paid to the needless controversies often occasioned by this logically bankrupt and less to be desired policy.

The question on the lips of many Nigerians is: “How long must the feverish birds tremble in silence before their keepers?” Answers to the above question is very necessary, because when Mr. Steve Oronsaya was the Head of Service of the Federation, the matter was brought to his notice, unlike the British Government who abolished this arcane policy, Mr. Oronsaya dismissed the well-thought-out and discriminatory policy which the realities of the 21st century forbids with a wave of hand, saying the curricula leading to the award of the two certificates are not the same. Instead of facing the compelling evidence and realities on ground, he chosed to maintain the primordial imaginative thinking about the supremacy of Bsc to HND. Now, the question is what is technical education? According to Britannica, a general English Language encyclopaedia, technical education is the academic and vocational preparation of the students for jobs involving applied science and modern technology.

Finally, since globalization is a concept driven by people, and never a policy, the Nigerian Government and other employers of labour who still emphasize on the unnecessary dichotomy between the HND Holders and BSc Holders should rescind such incoherent and highly segregative decision reminiscent of pre-1992 British Society, because, any policy that violates logic needs a review, or else, insistence on such illogical policy will continue to produce systems where PhD Holders are applying for driving jobs instead of academic jobs.

Comrade Edwin Ekene is the National President of Young Nigerians for Change.

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