Essay series: Education reform as a crucial link in Nigeria’s quest for human capital development

by Adu Michael

“Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.” –John F. Kennedy.

The recent revelation in Kaduna state where Primary School teachers failed a standard competence test meant for Primary Four pupils is still fresh in the memory. The incidence speaks, not only to the dismal quality of the teachers or their impact on the students they teach, but most importantly, to the root decadence in the educational system that produced those teachers to begin with. It is noteworthy however that the state of affairs is not in isolation nor is it limited to that particular state. The poor quality of education is pervasive in the country across all levels. Consequently, low quality of education reflects poorly on students and the nation as a whole. This in turn yields low human capital base. Human Capital index is ideally understood to be the ability of the individual to possess a collection of skills and knowledge prerequisite to developing innovative solutions to production problems and to learn new skills.

Unsurprisingly, the World Economic Forum has ranked Nigeria 114 out of 131 economies rated in its global Human Capital Development Index for the year 2017. Development, socio-political and economic, is inseparably linked to the quality of human capital. It has been identified that the dearth of human capital base, inter alia, explains why the country, though blessed with resources, is still a developing country lacking parallel economic transformation and development. This is in recognition that Human capital is the primary factor for achieving sustainable development goals.

In effect, enriching and advancing the citizenry’s human capital development is pivotal for achieving the country’s political, economic, and social objectives.  Without gainsay, a primary way of attaining this is through education.

Nigeria’s educational system has however been criticised for being an infertile land for developing the human capital base. The increasing number of ‘unemployable’ graduates in modern jobs in the country is a testament to the poor educational system.The root cause of this is manifest in inadequate institutions and support mechanisms for relevant education and skillset development. Further, limited access to education, poorly motivated teachers, overstretched tools and facilities, outdated curricula not reflective of global standards, fallen standard of education, and low funding have been identified to be the proximate causes.

This has necessitated a state of emergency call for reformation and paradigm shift in the content and quality of education towards learning and skill development in keeping pace with increasingly competitive globalized markets and rapidly changing technologies.This reform is not in the context of ‘structural’ systems which have erstwhile been adopted overtime (8-6-2-3 to 6-5-2-3, 6-3-3-4, 9-3-4).

The much-needed reform calls for a holistic approach towards rejuvenating the nation’s education sector in the hope of increasing human capital base.Sine qua non to this is reinvigorated government resolution. UNESCO’s recommendation for budgetary allocation to education expenditure is 26%, the federal government’s allocation usually falls below 10% of overall expenditure.

Provision of adequate teaching and learning materials and facilities in public-owned institutions, review of minimum wage to sufficiently motivate teachers financially, establishment of Research fund for lecturers in tertiary institutions, and enablement of scholarship programmes for students are also complementary.

Additionally, administrative control is paramount. Regulating and ensuring high standards of education at all levels is sacrosanct. This can also be complemented by providing providing an all-inclusive access to quality education, retraining and upgrading the knowledge of teachers, and implementing measures to reduce pupil-teacher ratio.

In conformity with global standards, the curricula and method of teaching in institutions should also be reviewed to include adequate technology and vocational training,

Ultimately, it is not left in the coffers of the federal government only to ensure that the standard of education in the country is enriched. Participation of the citizenry is also needed. This may come in the form ofpublic-private partnerships geared towards attaining the same objective.

Essentially, it is no longer debatable that the principal way of achieving economic transformation and effective participation and competition in the global world is to increase the quantity and quality of human capital base, through standard and all-encompassing education. In the words of former President Goodluck Jonathan “Education is core to whatever we want to do as a nation. Nigeria cannot make much progress towards the attainment of its vision20-2020 unless we strengthen our educational system”.

Conclusively, the fate and future of any nation lies in the quality of its citizenry. Each nation must therefore take necessary actions towards elevating the quality of its human capital base. As this essay has submitted, this can be primarily attained through the reformation of the current educational system which does not appear to be geared towards this goal.The necessary reforms recommended in this essay are complementary and are to be implemented if the country’s education system is to revisit its glory days.


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