The Octagon: Thanks for accepting to be a part of this Octagon Room. Today’s topic is tagged “The reason and remedy for the decline in educational standard over the last 20 years.” Let’s begin with some introductions before going into the discussion. Can everyone let us know who they are and share a bit about what they do?
Moyo: I’m Moyo Jogunosimi, fondly called Moyotician. I’m a Math tutor. I run a company called The Lifematics Centre; a creative mathematics company focused on helping the African child enjoy mathematics.
Doyin: Doyin Idowu. Founder One Word Africa – A dyslexia 911 initiative
Tolu: Hello. My name is Tolulope Sokefun. I’m currently studying Early Childhood education in the University of Lagos. I run 2 radio shows on Unilag fm 103.1, Child World and Dream City.
Tola: Hi , I am Adetola Salau an international educator, Scientist, Engineer and the author of more than five books, one of which has been critically acclaimed as a roadmap for transforming our educational system; it is entitled, *”Future Readiness in Education”
The Octagon: The Nigerian educational system has been a thing of beauty especially during the era of our nascent republic. The crop of young leaders and their contemporaries that lived during that era possessed a high level of thinking, communication skill and purpose, including articulate strategies for charting a new course for history. Failure or success, Nigeria was birth out of those times. More so it’s apparent that these qualities possessed by the men of the older generation including; Bishop Ajayi Crowther, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Olusegun Obasanjo, Yakubu Gowon, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and so on are all part and parcel of the full package of education.
It is common knowledge that the standard of Nigerian education has fallen, based on the records of WAEC/NECO/JSCE/National common entrance. Somewhere during the late 90’s onwards, we have witnessed a steady downward slide in students’ performance in examinations, and several other important areas including confidence, articulation & leadership qualities.
There are many questions to be asked and also many stakeholders to be reviewed, but for the purpose of this conversation we will like to appraise what role education has played, how education can affect and how education can begin to change in order to shape now and the future.
Doyin: Yes these statements are true. The reason for the decline in my opinion is that the system is not moving with the speed of the world. The curriculum is still the way that it is – It worked for the likes of Ahmadu Bello, but so much has changed now. The standard is great if it’s preparing student for the 80s but not quite for 2017 and definitely not the future. 65% of the youth would be employed for jobs that don’t exist yet and the system is not preparing them (us) for it.
Moyo: Yes. There has been a decline. Several things are responsible for this decline but I’ll outline few.
1. Increased unemployment factor: due to increase in employment, many people have resulted into teaching. These persons have little or no passion for the job, hence going the extra mile is not in their agenda.
This affects the way they teach, affects what students know and of course their performance in external examination. And as Doyin said, education hasn’t been upgraded. Because most teachers aren’t speaking the language of the century, many students aren’t interested.
Tola: The decline is due to various factors. #1 is the effect of brain drain in my opinion – The best of our academics are all over the world. Brilliant professors like my parents relocated overseas and the best of their efforts were over there instead of it being dedicated to our nation. #2 is the lack of relevance we have given education as a nation.
Doyin: It’s even better if students aren’t interested and they are left to navigate their ways. They are chastised for not been interested and we are trying to suppress their knowledge. We want to force the old thinking style on them
The Octagon: There might be no “single pill” cure for all these issues. How can we remedy the situation such that it recovers progressively?
Moyo: Teach students the way they learn rather than compelling them to a one shoe fits all technique. Make students see education as a tool that will give them an edge in life rather than a means to getting “paper” (certificate). With reengineering of teaching techniques, it can be achieved although this may kick out the old cargoes that are resistant to change.
Tola: That’s what I kept stressing about in my new book- Future readiness in education. We need to restructure how we see education, and empower our students. The absolute most important tool for our children is creativity
Doyin: Yes totally agree. The problem is with the one size fit all mentality. If that can go, it’s the genesis of solving the problem. The one size cannot fit all. The system has to recognise the unique potential in every child and harness it. First we need to recognise there are four specific learning styles. Second we need to restructure the curriculum to serve the world of now. Third it needs to be sustainable. Four it needs to be in line for the future.
Here’s how I see it. I’d like to share an article that I wrote a while back.
My stand on the educational system. According to the definition by Wikipedia Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. So in other words the goal of education is ensure that students are LEARNING
“We define learning as the transformative process of taking in information that—when internalized and mixed with what we have experienced—changes what we know and builds on what we do. It’s based on input, process, and reflection. It is what changes us.”
Second focus is the Complexity of the human brain. The fact that no two people are the same. Every individual is unique. And the process of learning will differ.
There are four learning styles.
1. The visual
2. The auditory
3. The read write
4. The kinesthetic
People learn using a variety of these methods, but one method is usually predominant in everyone.
But in the educational system of today teachings are usually made to serve mostly the read-write learning style (ask around. Do your personal research, attend a class if you are no longer in school. Just get the facts)
But have we ever heard the saying “Everyone is a genius. And if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. It will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”?
What about the Observation “For a fair selection everybody has to take the same exam”?
Both of the statements deal with the educational system and the mode of evaluation.
So would you agree with me that the system has been automatically telling the elephant, the monkey, the chicken and the fish to climb one same tree?
While the monkey will find it very easy to climb the tree, and the chicken may make an effort which could still result in success (the chicken would actually have to fly not climb) but the point is it’s on the tree. No matter how much you tell the elephant and Donkey to read more and pray more (Nigerian parents watch word) it can never climb the tree.
So parents, teachers, educators and care givers rather than frustrate the Donkey and elephant. Making them repeat a class, calling their test scores in class and making their mates make a mockery of them, rather than reducing their self-esteem to zero, and making them get to the point where they personally identify themselves as stupid, dumb not enough. Rather than flogging them and trying to make them conform to a system that shouldn’t be. Rather than comparing them to that child that doesn’t have two heads but comes first in class.
Address what ought to be addressed.
Stop the violation in every form and put your energy where you ought to put it.
Tolu: Ignorance on the parts of some of the classroom teachers is not an excuse. I’ve had the opportunity to visit some schools who claimed to have been using the British curriculum when they do not even know or have not seen the Nigerian curriculum. Every teacher is expected to have a copy of the Nigerian curriculum at hand and follow the guiding principles of the curriculum. Nigeria is a country of its own. While it is encouraged to learn from other developed countries, we should also have it in mind that their curriculum is structured according to their societal needs so adopting their curriculum verbatim by verbatim is absolutely wrong. I also believe that it is pertinent for every single person in the education field to understand that they are major stakeholders in curriculum development and should not hesitate to contribute effectively towards the development and implementation of the Nigerian curriculum. Also, one of the major content stated in the Nigerian curriculum is that “the language of teaching should be the language of the immediate environment”.
How many schools are aware of this? How many schools practice this? How many parents are knowledgeable about this? This is one of the major problem as major stakeholders are not enlightened on this issue. We have situations where schools trying to practice this are being threatened by parents to withdraw their children from such schools as they fear they won’t be able to speak the borrowed language, English well. This I fear is one of the major factors leading to the deterioration of our culture.
E Nyamador: Education has declined because we have failed to redesign our curriculum to match the 21st century skills required. Our curriculum is too rigid. It doesn’t allow room for creativity. It’s mostly about “chew and pour” (reproduction of what has been taught). We assess our students without considering their abilities. There’s is this image on the Internet showing animals such as an elephant, a monkey, a bird and a fish attending an interview. The interviewer in that image said for the sake of fairness, all the interviewees will have to take the same exam- climb a tree. For me, that sums up our educational system.
Doyin: We are blinded by the fact that we all share same physical characteristics – Hands, Legs. Etc. We don’t accommodate the differences in humans. People have different learning capacities, People have different potentials. We can’t impose what we feel on students. We can’t continue to teach what to think but rather how to think.
Moyo: Exactly my point
The Octagon: Clearly the educational revolution Nigeria needs won’t come on a platter. One issue that stands out is the “one size fits all” system. What are the tangibles and intangibles required to facilitate the process of changing this system?
Doyin: First recognise the different learning styles, then recognise possible limitations – like the presence of a learning disability or mental disability. Third we should let kids explore their minds, train them to be thinkers, encourage innovations and entrepreneurial skills. Fourth we should think in line of the 21st century. Fifth people making the decision about education like the curriculum should actually be in the system, be attending classes, be facing this things first hand, not people who haven’t seen the four wall of the classroom since their graduation. But because they are in power they make decisions based on what worked for them not what works now. In this line One Word Africa has invented the Support Curriculum. I shouldn’t say invent, but we restructured the curriculum provided by the ministry of education, accommodated the British and Montessori curriculum, putting into consideration learning disabilities, mental disabilities and physical disabilities.
E Nyamador: The curriculums of the international schools around the world (CIE, Edexcel, IB etc) are quite flexible to the extent almost every child with a learning disability can fit in and learn something but that is not the case with ours. Most of the students in these international schools cannot thrive in our schools.
Moyo: I agree. Those creating curriculum should be classroom teachers not some political officials. Primary school teachers should create primary school curriculum not University professors creating primary school curriculum.
Tolu: I advise all passionate educators to participate actively in changing the educational system of our beloved country.
Doyin: Good points stated here. But I do not totally agree with you. I have been able to review four major curriculums – The Nigerian, The British, The Montessori, and Finland’s. Putting major highlights on the Nigerian curriculum (I don’t hate Nigeria as a matter of fact am in love with the country and I feel we can do so much more than we are doing now, we have the capacity to pull off anything we want to pull off here in Nigeria). But the way the curriculum is structured, I personally would not use it, learning your culture and heritage is amazing, no doubt about that but learning it to do what with it?
I’m sure if we think deep we would come up with ways to use what we learn from the culture and heritage of Nigeria, but there’s no follow up in the curriculum that gives room to harnessing that. That said, I agree with you about not focusing on other curriculums but focusing on Nigeria’s but the way the situation is as of now. We had better learn from others who have gotten it right. We need to train products that can compete globally. Another point you stated about the teachers. Yes agreed the structure in itself has different faults. It would take more than a 1 hour conversation to tackle it. Some teachers are not supposed to be teachers. First teaching has to stop being a course that is open to all. The criteria needs to be high for admission requirements. The way medical students, engineering or law students go through so much just to get into school is the same way it needs to be for teachers. So that we can easily filter the mass in the field and have just the passionate ones that know what teaching entails. As long as we have teaching as an option for anyone who didn’t get their specific courses in schools, o someone who just doesn’t want or stay at home pending admission, We will always get a lower quality than what we expect.
I won’t agree to ignorance. Some “teachers” are not ignorant – they just need to be ripped of the title because they are not “teachers”. Let’s forget about the problems for now and let’s focus on what learning is and what education ought to be, that’s when we can really get a solution.
What is Education?
What is learning?
What is a brain?
How does it work?
What is the 21st century about?
What are the new things that are likely to happen in the next century?
What are the required things the students need to know to be future ready?
How can we teach them?
What are the possible limitations that would stop this from happening? (This part will open our minds to accommodate learning disorders, physical disabilities, and mental disorders)
When we know this then let’s move on to answering the question
How can we make it work in spite of this limitations?
Until then, please stop fighting for the rights of students to gain access to free education, some of them are better off, with being taught a skill that they can make money from.