HOW TO TRANSFORM NIGERIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM (2)
The Nigerian Constitution has prescribed a free, compulsory universal primary education. This is an unequivocal law of the land that must be obeyed without exception. For many reasons, it is in the best interest of Nigeria as a nation that we eradicate illiteracy. In America, education through the completion of secondary school is free and compulsory for all. If a child misses school or is not enrolled in school, the parents or guardians will be contacted immediately by the school authorities. If it continues, the matter is reported to the local government authorities, who immediately contact the local court.
The court will issue a summons for the parent or guardian to appear in court and explain to the Judge why their child was not in school. Should the parent not appear in court to face the judge, a warrant for their arrest will be issued. A parent can be put in jail for violating the law of the land, and could remain in jail until the child resumes attending school. But in most cases, most of these parents would plead ignorance of the child's behavior and promise to make sure the child is always in school. Can we implement this in Nigeria? Certainly yes, with proper sensitisation, media campaign, and carrying all stake holders along, especially the National Assembly and Federal Executive Council. Will Nigeria benefit from such measure? Most certainly, by significantly reducing the many evils of illiteracy in the society.
PROBLEM WITH TEACHING METHODOLOGY AND UNMOTIVATED TEACHERS
The report of a dialogue between a researcher and a group of teachers at an education workshop illustrates the problem with teaching methodology and unmotivated teachers in Nigerian schools. It was at the end of one of the three-hour workshops with educators. The group had started the workshop reticent, each explaining why they would have to leave early. By the end of the workshop, everyone was still participating, and extending the workshop with further questions. As a facilitator, I thought I would ask about their approach toward critical thinking skills among learners. They did not understand what I meant by critical thinking skill: they wanted an example. I said, 'Ok, let's say that you are explaining something in class, and a learner raises her hand and challenges your way of thinking about that concept. She has another way of thinking about it. How do you respond?' There was quietness. An otherwise animated and at ease group stared at their hands. I waited. Finally, one educator hesitantly spoke: 'I can't remember the last time a student asked a question in my class.' I was unclear. I said, 'Do you mean you can't remember when a child asked a critical question in your class? 'No, any question?' 'You mean if you are teaching something- let's say long division- learners do not even ask questions of clarity?' 'No.' The rest of the teachers nodded in agreement.
'Do all of you have the same experience?'' They all shook their heads. 'How do you do it then- how do you know learners are listening, let alone learning?' Another teacher raised his head, 'We know. We know that they are not.' Another teacher added, 'There is one child who listens in my class.' She mentions her name. Other teachers shake their heads and agree that, yes; she is the one who listens. 'So you mean you have the painful task of getting up in the morning, facing the most difficult task of being a teacher, wanting to make a difference in a child's life and knowing that no one is listening?' Slowly others raised their heads, many of them nodding yes. There was silence. One older teacher starts, 'You see, we never get to talk like this. I have never admitted this before – that I don't know how to get these children to listen. The easiest thing is to blame it on the parents-then we don't have to think it is us that fail each day.' There was a sense of relief that a long-held secret was not only on the table, but shared by other colleagues.
The authority of the teacher is feared in the Nigerian educational system. Teaching methodologies employed do not encourage freethinking and active participation and articulation by the student. In most classrooms in Nigeria, the entire education experience is focused on the teacher, and the class is designed for listening to the teacher, rather than engaging the student in learning. The emphasis is on delivery of the curriculum to a class rather than on learning by the individual student. Very few schools are designed with learning by the individual student as the priority of the educational experience. How can we hope for or talk about everyone having the right to basic education in Nigeria when so many teachers do not show up to teach, and so many learners do not show up to learn?
SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM OF TEACHING METHODOLOGY AND UNMOTIVATED TEACHERS
We need to retrain our teachers. Teaching and learning is all about the student. Students as individual learners should have the center stage in the classroom. We should motivate and energize our teachers through better pay and performance-based incentives. For example, teachers whose students perform extremely well in national standardized exams should be given a merit award or bonus pay. We should create professional pride in teaching, and use that to motivate and raise the commitment of teachers. Teachers and school administrators should be helped, through dialogue at education seminars, to understand and accept their responsibility in setting examples for students as role models. One of the most powerful ways of children and young adults acquire values is to see individuals they admire and respect exemplify those values in their own being and conduct.
Parents and educators or politicians and priests who say one thing and do another send mixed messages to those in their charge who then learn not to trust them. The question of leadership generally, and in the education sphere particularly, is therefore of vital importance. Teachers need to commit and uphold the noble calling of their profession to educate and train the learners who will be future leaders of this nation. They must understand that their attitude, dedication, self-discipline, ideals determine the quality of education. There was a time when teachers were highly respected members of the society, not just because of their class and educational status, but also because of the nobility of their calling. Once this sense of vocation and professional pride is regained, teachers will once more become respected community leaders.
PROBLEM WITH UNDERSTANDING THE PURPOSE OF EDUCATION
In the contemporary Nigerian society, most people believe that the main objective of the education system is to carter to the job market. For many, education is simply a means of social mobility. It is about social status and economic returns. Most parents relentlessly drive their children toward 'high achievement' and 'excellence', in education, which translated into vernacular, simply means passing exams well. This distortion of the objectives and purpose of education is responsible for many problems in the Nigerian society. The development of our youth into good citizens who are socially sensitive and responsible is often not considered as a major purpose of education. The truth however is that education does not exist simply to serve the job market, but to serve society, which means instilling in pupils and students a broad sense of values that will enrich the individuals and society. Inculcating a strong sense of values at school is intended to help young people achieve higher levels of moral judgment, decency and integrity.
John Dewey, a famous American educator and philosopher, draws a very clear distinction between education and schooling. Schooling is a necessary but insufficient component of education. We often talk of education, but in fact focus on schooling. Consider the following distinct characteristics of schooling versus education.
4.1 Teaching Vs Learning
In many classrooms, the entire education experience is focused on the teacher, and the class is designed for listening to the teacher, rather than engaging the student in learning. The emphasis is on the delivery of the curriculum to a class - not on learning by the individual student. Few schools are designed with learning by the individual student as the priority of the educational experience.
4.2 Information Vs Knowledge
The lack of proper definition of learning in schools inevitably leads to a focus on the replication of information rather than the creation of knowledge in schools. This is very evident in assessment systems which tend to focus on 'right' and 'wrong' answers as derived from a curriculum presented by teachers. Even at the university, only very few examples of assessment of students are focused on the creation of knowledge. True education is concerned with the conversion of information to knowledge through a process of reflection, practice and application.
4.3 Competencies Vs Qualities
The measure of competencies in education inevitably leads to a focus on those aspects of schooling which can be measured. There is emphasis on the tangible, the pragmatic, the numbers and the instrumental. The qualities of an educated person, such as a moral sense, engagement with cultural issues and values, the ability to debate and question, are inevitably subordinated to those elements which are controllable and measurable. Schooling is a necessary but insufficient component of education, but too often the two terms are seen as synonymous.
4.4 Employability Vs Humanity
For many education systems the fundamental purpose of schooling is to ensure a suitably qualified workforce. However, it is the broad range of human qualities, rather than the narrow and limited view of specific skills that are needed for both employment and coping with complexity of life as responsible and sensitive humans in the society. Such human qualities may include:
•commitment to personal growth and learning
•requisite skills of upholding democracy and pluralism in society
•perseverance and optimism
•the ability to work and live interdependently
a clear sense of personal moral values.