by Adesina Tosin
Human capital development refers to the process of acquiring and increasing the number of persons who have the skills, education and experience that are critical for economic growth and development of a country’s economy (Okojie, 2005). No country has achieved all round economic development without a substantial investment in human capital through education which pays off in terms of higher productivity. The quest for Nigeria’s Human Capital Development will only be aided by an all-inclusive educational reform.
For starters, the annual budgetary provisions for education in Nigeria are way below the 26 percent recommended by the United Nations for member nations. A paltry 7 percent was allocated to education in the recently submitted 2018 budget estimates and with recurrent expenditure taking a chunk of the 7 percent, there will be little for capital expenditure.
Government at all tiers must progressively increase funding for the education sector but given current economic reality, government alone cannot adequately fund the sector.
Hence, government must partner with Alumni associations, philanthropists and the organized private sector. An example of this is the Oyo state education trust fund which provides for a consistent and defined source of funding for educational institutions in the state, it also helps to augment its capital infrastructural deficit and to provide more for its recurrent to settle its salaries and pensions.
Another challenge confronting the nation’s education sector is the outdated curriculums. With breathtaking technological advancements in an increasingly connected world, the curriculum at all levels must constantly evolve to be in sync with the new order. Furthermore, greater priority must be given to STEM (Science, Technical, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects. A country with huge infrastructure deficit and poor health indices will do better with an education system that produces more engineers and doctors than lawyers and accountants. Government can do this by reducing the subsidy to non-STEM students.
However, knowledge is not only acquired in the classrooms. Hence, government must aggressively promote vocational and technical education. But for citizens to change thinking about education, higher education degrees must cease to be the only sustainable meal ticket. This would mean having an economy that greatly uses the skills obtained through vocational and technical education. As a result, our technical colleges must be refurbished to the level of the existing ones in western nation’s to serve as an avenue to produce job ready graduates for Nigeria. In addition, its certification must be strengthened enough to beat the existing dichotomy existing between it and degree certificate through appropriate legislation by the National Assembly.
The apprenticeship system in Germany, where students learn in class and simultaneously in firms related to their disciplines, is a useful example of the dual training system that produces job ready graduates. Although Nigeria has a variant of this model in the Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), the program has however been poorly implemented.
A typical example of this problem is engineering students undergoing the scheme as sales attendants in supermarkets. Government must therefore rejig the scheme. An effective way to do is by securing placements for students and offering some tax incentives to companies that employs and pays interns. This will be a win-win for both the nation and businesses as brilliant interns can be employed upon graduation, thus reducing the cost of recruitment for companies and the nation’s unemployment rate.
To cap it all, the quality of teachers also has a direct effect on the quality of graduates we produced in Nigeria, Fixing public education—particularly, primary, secondary and vocational/technical education—is imperative. Massive investment in infrastructures like new blocks of classrooms and providing improved technology is not enough but also about having knowledgeable and diligent teachers.
Government must therefore muster enough political will to reform the teaching profession. Our teachers must be product of sound recruitment process devoid of any political interference.
Also, to also ensure that teachers stay productive in their delivery, Teachers promotion mustn’t be automatic; it must be earned. The sad reality coming out of Kaduna State, which is the aftermath of the teachers’ assessment exercise must not be lost on us in sympathy to the affected teachers but a needful sacrifice necessary to rework our defaulted educational process as it relates to the quality of teachers we parade in the country. Every state must re-enact this process devoid of Political consideration in a bid to improve the quality of graduate we produce.
The Government should therefore design a transparent process which includes but not limited to exams, interviews, feedback from students and performance of students in external exams—via which teachers would be appraised and consequently promoted if found worthy.
Result of such appraisals will also help government to determine what kind of training teachers need. In addition, poor teachers who refuse to get better must be shown the way out of the teaching profession. Public service is no charity and so, teachers must justify their pay.
For Nigeria to achieve accelerated and appreciable human capital development, the challenges of poor funding, outdated curriculum, inadequate investment in Vocational and Technical Education, continuous improvement in the quality of our teachers among others should be addressed to reposition the education sector.
Our reforms should not be politicized to prevent a still birth as we’ve seen in recent times. According to Ricardo Haussmann (2015) a country’s income is the sum of the output produced by each worker.
To increase income, we need to increase worker productivity. This productivity can only be realizable through effective education reforms.