The Task Force on Education set up by President Jonathan after his election in 2011 invited input from the public on how to revitalize the education sector. Below is the proposal I sent, followed by an update.
There is an urgent need to transform Nigeria into an enlightened or, at least, a learning society. The formal education sector can only thrive when it is supported and reinforced by an environment that appreciates the importance of information and knowledge, and actively promotes their application in order to improve the quality of life. So far, education has not had a sufficiently significant impact on life in general, as the approach tends to promote rote learning. Attention must be paid to both formal and informal/civic education.
- A general re-orientation is required: The purpose of education as a means of developing society and giving the population a better life, rather than merely as a meal ticket.
- Primary education: Should emphasize the acquisition of cognitive skills (logical thinking, recognition of patterns and systems) rather than facts. Teacher-re-training needed.
- Secondary education: Should be mostly about knowledge of the world (how things work and their underlying principles).
- Tertiary education: Engagement with the world through an analytical and problem-solving approach. Research is crucial.
Informal/civic education to be promoted through:
- Provision of information on official transactions (steps for obtaining a passport, driver’s license, etc. and time required).
- Publication of pamphlets on citizens’ rights and responsibilities in various languages (as a tax payer, a property owner, a road user, etc.)
- More participatory governance for greater accountability of elected officers to the people – Provide a forum for people to interact with their leaders.
- Appropriate legislation to promote a more orderly society (e.g. forbidding any private appropriation of public property and spaces).
- Teacher training and re-training is vital for confidence, competence and professionalism. Appropriate remuneration for teachers is non-negotiable.
- Learning must take place in a stimulating environment. The modernization of the classroom through the deployment of appropriate technology is an urgent need.
- The curriculum must be dynamic, geared towards responding to society’s needs. Internet accessibility is crucial. Creative ways must be found to fire the imagination of pupils and steer them towards the subject areas they are best suited for: e.g. through a mentoring system in which successful professionals visit schools either in person or through video recordings or Skype.
- We must work to achieve professionalism across the board, including for vocational training, so that carpenters, electricians, bricklayers, masons, painters, etc. render service that meets global standards and are able to earn a decent living.
- Education must also involve learning about the care of the environment (e.g. avoiding waste, promoting cleanliness, etc.) and responsibility towards other people, especially the disadvantaged.
- Tertiary educational institutions must be completely autonomous, having the responsibility to select their leaders and council members, without the involvement of the government. Tertiary institutions do not thrive in an atmosphere of political interference and control.
- Tertiary institutions thrive on research, excellence and innovation. Appropriate funds must be available to support research in our tertiary institutions so that our nation becomes a producer of knowledge and manufactured goods, not just a consumer.