For Nigeria to develop a knowledge-based economy, it must invest in public health and public education, and reform public institutions tasked with developing healthy, smart and capable citizens.
The world has changed and the requirement for economic growth changed with it. To compete in the global market place, Nigeria has limited options.
It can use the Chinese model of manufacturing its way to job creation or develop a world-class knowledge-based economy that will bring jobs. Both models require extensive investment in public service. To go the way of manufacturing, one must compete with Chinese level of cheap labor, massive world-class public infrastructure, and a largely undemocratic governance system.
For Nigeria to develop a knowledge-based economy, it must invest in public health, public education, and reform public institutions tasked with developing healthy smart and capable citizens. Presently, Nigeria’s human development outcomes make a knowledge economy highly unlikely; also, the state of public infrastructures also destroys the likelihood of a manufacturing economy. If we keep the status quo, we shall have nothing but crumbling infrastructure, largely parasitic institutions, and a permanent oligarchy in the next decade.
Most countries in the world are already tapping into the reform of education policy as a strategy of economic growth. The Brazilian government understands that the “Brazilian miracle” will not last if it does not invest in its citizens. It is doing that with a $1.65 billion investment in education. Many other countries all over the world are following the same model.
Nigeria currently invests about 3% of its GDP in education, in 2012; the education sector was allocated only N400 billion. The low investment and abysmal educational policy implementation have resulted in 36% enrollment of secondary school aged students, with even lower test scores across all levels of education. Further, about 81,638 primary school students out of school in 2010. A shocking statistics recently released by the British Council states that a boy from a southern state has 35% higher chance of being enrolled in school than a girl in the north. It is likely that this number is higher in 2012, Boko Haram’s war against education. The reality is that our educational system is creating a permanent underclass that will become a major problem for Nigeria’s security and cohesion in the near future.
So what works?
Finland has the best educational system in the world, with students consistently attaining the best exam scores in the world. Finnish students regularly beat all students, even Asian ones, who are famous for their ferocious studying and concentration skills. A fascinating fact about Finland’s educational system is that its main goal is not excellence or competition but equity. Finland believes that all children should have the same access to quality education regardless of parental income, geographical location, or race.
The country does this mainly by investing in its teachers. Finnish teachers are paid well, they must have master’s degree in education and they are given incredible amounts of responsibility and autonomy. Many people will say that equity only works in homogenous countries. However I present to you a recent research that compared educational policy and outcomes between Finland and Norway, another highly homogenous society, which showed that Finland’s equity based policy is more important to creating world-class students than any other factor.
Nigeria’s economy is tasked with lifting 70% of its citizen out of poverty in the next decade. An efficient private school education in Nigeria costs parents around $2,000 per term. If 70% of Nigerians live on $1 a day, how can we truly lift most Nigerians out of poverty? To compete in the world economy, we must provide all Nigerian children with equal access to education through increased investment in this sector. We must increase the salaries of all teachers and weed out the bad ones. The federal government must partner with the states financially and regulate schools more rigorously. We must collectively increase the prestige of teaching and infuse teachers with greater responsibilities. We must invest in education more than anything else and this starts with all of us.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.