I have always believed education should be driven towards self discovery. I read two books that changed my mind set about education, ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ by Peter Drucker and ‘Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. The two books opened my eyes to where the 21st century education is threading. The first speaks about entrepreneurship as a practice, the second dwells on the future of the world’s economy. The two books influenced the idea and thought of this writing. When I first came across the name Wilhelm Von Humboldt in Peter Drucker’s book , I was awed by contribution of this man, his philosophy about education and human development. It was Wilhelm Von Humboldt after the Napoleon war who conceptualized the “3 natural stages of education” which consist of elementary schooling, secondary school and tertiary education.
Wilhelm Von Humboldt, a German contributed greatly to cognitive growth of western education. He proposed the university concept of study and research, extensively advocated apprenticeship model of student and professorial concept. This concept of study and research helped produce the greatest physicist and scientist of 19th and 20th century, which includes Albert Einstein, Max Born, Max Planck and many that can’t be mentioned. The freedom of science and research and the autonomy of teaching staffs are his model’s foundation. The Americans got this concept and developed on it. The second book the ‘Second Machine Age’ distorted my cogitation. It got me seeing the global economy from expertise point of view, it made me reflect about my country Nigeria, it got me realizing and understanding that the western economies’ success is not coincidental.
Nigeria’s education was inherited from the British. The first secondary school in Nigeria was founded in 1859 by Church Missionary Society, while the first primary school was founded in Badagry in 1845 called St. Thomas Anglican Primary School. The tertiary system of education was first introduced in 1948 called University of Ibadan. This is the journey of Nigeria’s education which is purely based on literacy and not expertise. Education is the bedrock of civilization and industrialization. Without it man would become extinct. Because education has given man the opportunity to be fruitful, to multiply, replenish, subdue and dominate the earth. The root word of education is from a latin word called “educo” which means to develop within or to train the mind. If Nigeria wants to be a first world country, education is the only vehicle that can help actualize this lofty dream.
Today, education in Nigeria is literacy driven. The problem started with the introduction of the 6-5-1-4 system that later became 6-3-3-4. The latter model compounded the education industry by focusing strictly on certifications. The military regime crippled the education model in Nigeria by introducing 6-3-3-4 without considering its socio-economic impact on the society. I decided to analyze the problem of 6-3-3-4 in Nigeria, did lots of research about education and I was surprised.
Most elementary schools in Lagos talk about Montessori system for primary school. It is disheartening to know that 99% don’t understand what they are talking about. Montessori elementary school system primarily focuses on sensory training, language learning, acquiring motor skills and social adaptation learning. Montessori, because of her background as a pediatrician, her first school was more of a laboratory which later became a school. Her specifics was practical life, sensory training and language development.
The ranking of the 20 best nation’s education system in the world made me sad. Japan and South Korea came first and second, Singapore was fourth. What really got me sad was South Korea and Singapore. Singapore got her independence from Malaysia August 1965 which was 5 years after Nigeria’s independence. Today Singaporean economy is regarded as part of the Asian Tiger. Nigeria’s education is in shambles. The Ministry of Education in Singapore has a policy of helping students develop their talents and grow their potentials to the peak. The policy on education is broad-based while in Nigeria the ministry of education doesn’t have a national policy based on research and policy framework. Most times the ministers of education are appointed on the basis of personalities and status.
The states are not different because most schools are founded based on survival instincts. The Singaporean primary education is focused on language, Math and English but in Nigeria children take many courses which makes them sometimes to be confused. The overall aim of primary education is to give children a convenient grasp of English, Math and language skill. Also the way Singaporean secondary education is structured makes it viable for the children and cost effective for the parents. Students can choose between Normal Academic (NA) or Normal Technical (NT). Everybody has a right to GCE exam after 4-5years. Also, children can switch based on the assessment of their principal and teachers which makes it very practical because assessment is the yardstick for success but in Nigeria examination and grades are the yardstick.
These two stages of education are the foundation of a child’s future. If it’s not gotten right then the university education will be a struggle for the child. America has the best university education because it is based on expertise. According to Stuart Dreyfus’s concept on skill acquisition, his focus is on expertise and organic growth. He divided skill acquisition stage into five: novice, advance beginner, competence, proficiency and expertise. University education should be about building and transforming students to experts in all fields, be it art, science and social science and linguistics. It is the responsibility of politicians and policy makers to create a conducive policy that helps the destiny of these children. It is sad and disheartening that ministerial appointments are compensation for political loyalists. We can have two models in one by adopting the Singaporean model for primary and secondary school and America’s model for university.
It is not by luck that Mark Zuckerberg became an entrepreneur by dropping out from Harvard, it is the environment that allowed that. Many start-ups in USA are leading the pack in Silicon Valley because the system of education is based on expertise. Nigerian graduates are referred to as half-baked not because they are not good but because of systemic deficit from the government. Nigerian university education is based on literacy and not expertise. It is dumb and stupid to send a child to university to learn to read and write. Literacy should be for primary and secondary education. University should be a skill acquisition environment not a literacy center. Because of the grave danger our system of education is facing,, the federal government needs to convene a National Education Conference that should have in attendance, all stakeholders, academia, labour, private sector, religious bodies, artisans, politicians and policy intellectuals.
It is at this conference that a new education policy should be charted for Nigeria. Our peculiarity should be our strength and not weakness. I read an article on CNN’s website about a Nigerian girl in Britain that got admitted into university at the age of 10, and I was not surprised because Britain’s education is ranked among the best 10 in the world. Someone could still argue that the circumstance of her success is her parents and not the system, but it happened in Britain because of the conducive environment. Nigeria’s politicians and policy makers should know that we have a common destiny. Quality education that is based on expertise is still the best way to reduce poverty, to promote prosperity and gain respect in the comity of nations.
A report of the youngest billionaires in the world by Forbes is a testament that expertise is the new way of making wealth in the 21st century. All these young people were under 40, they are rich and influential. The majority of these young people had a good system of education from elementary to university. They developed their expertise based on exposure to sound and quality education. More young people will be rich and influential in this 21st century. The question is, how many such experts will Nigeria produce? These are the questions that should be on the lips of our politicians. How do we create a country that majorly produces experts? Back to the two books I read, it is a fact that most entrepreneurs are experts in their fields of endeavor. That is why it is easy to attract investors to whatever they venture into. Also, it is the truth that in the 21st century, machine can never take the job of experts but it will take the jobs of literates. The Nigerian government at all levels have to start creating platforms through the education system that produces experts that can contribute to the country and world at large. Facebook was created at Harvard. Today it is contributing not only to America’s economy but world economy. The future is great if our politicians and policy makers give priority to the economy using education as the tool to achieve economic prosperity.
Education should be seen as the path to economic freedom. The change APC is clamoring for is possible with education. We need to see education more than literacy, it is a viable tool to develop all sectors of our economy. What we are championing as education is literacy, it does not give the right awareness to solution of problems..Education is solution-based, it makes an expert. Experts are the new superstars of the corporate world, they are the real educated beings. Education that is solution-based is the way to alleviate poverty in Nigeria, while education that is certificate-based is literacy. The education reforms should focus on seeing education from expertise point of view. If quality education is the focus, economic development and growth will be fast in Nigeria. “The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.” God bless Nigeria.
—Oyebanji is Entrepreneurship consultant/editor-in-chief of SuccessPoint Magazine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel:07035458475; Twitter: @oluwagbenga6.