Temie Giwa: Why we educate our children (YNaija FrontPage)

…the fact that Nigeria clearly fails even this mediocre test, by the perpetual reduction of standards, is a major cause for alarm.

…our leaders have given up on Nigerian children.

My last column focused on the inefficient Nigeria education system committed to churning out mediocre adults and a permanent and angry underclass. I suggested the Finnish education reform based on equality of access to all students regardless of social economic background. The reform was successful because of its focus on equity and also by investing in good and well-remunerated teachers. Finland improved teacher training by committing to a rigorous meritocracy in admission to teaching programs, increased teacher salary and endowed educators with more responsibilities.  The country today enjoys one of the best education systems in the world, where the best student aspire to teaching. The Finnish model encourages us to ask important questions on how we are educating our children.

The alarming fact that Nigeria is doing the direct opposite of this is supported by the recent decision of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, to reduce the cutoff mark for admission into university to 180 out of 400.

While I am the first person to admit that standardized tests are a mediocre method of gauging the efficiency of the school system, the fact that Nigeria clearly fails even this mediocre test, by the perpetual reduction of standards, is a major cause for alarm. This decision was made during a meeting of the education sector’s stakeholders held last Monday and chaired by the Minister of Education and is a clear indication that our leaders have given up on Nigerian children. What struck me as the most bizarre betrayal of our children’s future is the even further reduction of the standard for admission into colleges of education to 160. It seems to me that we have given up on Nigeria by sanctioning the fact that those who teach our children not only would lack all motivation, but that they will also be the least qualified of students.

This begs the question; why do we send our children to school? Why did Nigeria plan to spend around N400 billion on the school system in 2012? Is it to create children that are smarter in getting for themselves larger pieces of the national cake? Perhaps it is to create more efficient workers in a technical economy? Or do we educate our children to give them the skills to create the lives they want, to nurture their natural sense of enquiry and creativity whether they choose carpentry or physics, and to help them hone an abiding sense of morality by always doing what is right and prudent. I believe that a system tasked with creating a knowledge based economy must use the strategy of equity of access not just to create good workers, although Nigeria isn’t doing even that right, but to create a critical mass of moral, skilled, and creative young men and women. Clearly Nigeria has failed in this regard.

 So what works? I was privileged to engage in a fantastic conversation with some really brilliant young Nigerians on twitter last week about how to reform Nigeria’s education system in the fastest way possible while still focusing on equity and qualified teachers. A critical mass of amazing ideas came out of that conversation, and I urge you to read the conversation HERE.

However one idea struck me as genius in its simplicity and potential of solving a couple of systemic problems. There are quite a number of bright graduates who are currently unemployed all over Nigeria. Suppose we are to give them the grand privilege of helping to develop the next generation’s genius? All we need is a 12 months intensive training on how to teach well and deploy them to the schools all over the county as assistant teachers? If we include a good salary and a sense of responsibility, will this change things? This all could be paid for by the 2% tax currently levied on business. For this to work, it needs the support of the civil society and a little political will. Could this simple idea be just what Nigeria needs?


Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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