Credentialism – Public Perspective of Education in Nigeria.

Credentialism – Public Perspective of Education in Nigeria.

  • Objective (what is the piece supposed to achieve?):  To educate the public on the danger of credentialism to our educational system. To eradicate the perception of certificate acquisition as a meal ticket.
  • Audience (who is the piece targeted at?): The Nigerian government, parents, students and educators.
  • What is the audience looking for?  To assess the threat of credentialism to the development of education in Nigeria and how it can it be ameliorated.
  • Thesis/Argument: Nigeria’s education sector is bleeding and may not recover so soon as a result of undue political interference, policies head-over-heels and the wrong attitude of the public towards education. The Nigeria’s environment emphasised on paper certificate as a key pre-requisite for job selection and placement over knowledge acquisition. This increase student’s insipidity towards reading and amplify their craving to acquire certificate by all means.

When knowledge acquisition or human capital formation becomes an end itself that is it becomes a decorative factor in developmental efforts, then investment in human beings becomes debatable. The acquisition of a chain of certificates is good, because curiosity is the basis of education, but the over dependence on credentials is toxic to our educational system. This is because not all schooling is education.  The notion of gaining qualification as a means of improving one’s social and financial status as against acquiring knowledge is one of the factors making our youth crave for paper qualification. Also, this gain momentum as a result to thrive due to the notion that education improves the standard of living and the illusion of getting more for outlay on education is by undergoing excessive procedure to access this height of first class education which will add value to their future.

The outcry by employers of labor on the quality of graduates and their unemployment status in our society today gives us a vivid picture of the poor learning pattern in our society. This cankerworm is also the major cause for upsurge in examination malpractices and the rush to acquire paper qualification for jobs lacking the right skills to be productive. The emphasis on certificates over knowledge is so prominent, prompting the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to say that students perceived education and getting a job only as a means of getting a meal ticket. He further argued that such mentality must be eradicated for learners to appreciate the intrinsic value of education, which brings about individual growth and orchestrate their tangible contribution to the society

Joe U. Umo (1985) in his book titled; Economics: An African perspective posited three motives for the ever-increasing importance attributed to paper chase mentality in our society. First is the desire of Nigerians to delight themselves in the numeral of degrees they can list after their names. Secondly, the propensity of students to consider their educational certificates as meal tickets which must be acquired, sometimes at all costs. Thirdly, there is the increasing preference among Nigerians to be addressed by their professional designations for example, Economist, Barrister or Banker. There is yet another cluster of those who seem to love certificate. They move from one department to another or from one field to another, that is accumulating one degree after the other including diverse first degrees and/or higher certificates. The possession of a chain of certificates gives them a sense of fulfillment and self satisfaction. Many of the people involved are those who have lucrative jobs and therefore have the financial capacity to study part time and are mostly resident in college towns. Here one may include University staffs (both academic and non-academic) who find it easy to pursue academic or professional degrees. 

In recent times, learning institutions are viewed as places where students will earn degrees and diploma certificates, so that they can enjoy a better job placement above their peers with fewer credentials than they do, when applying for a job. Thus making our learning institutions become more examinational oriented at the expense of a genuine education. This public view is in contrast to the primary purpose of higher institution, which is to specialize and expand knowledge.

Conclusion: Education is far more important than spending several years gaining credential in a specific discipline that does not interest you or that has no relevance to your prospects in life. Thus, a paradigm shift is needed on the value we place on education as a society.


Credentialism and Disposable Income

Quality education is very expensive and finance is a major factor to take into consideration. Definitely, the acquisition of more education and certificates comes at an extra cost to the learners. In a developing country like ours where student loans and grants are unpopular across all academic strata. It is evident that most of the students will have little or nothing left because they have accumulated a considerable amount of debt. Thus, their marginal propensity to save will decline.

The Nigerian Graduate Report by Stutern shows that most recent graduate earns between N50, 000 to N99, 999 ($139 – $278). The average tuition fees for MBA program in public universities ranges between 500,000 to 1,500,000 while that of private universities ranges between 2,000,000 and above. Based on the available data, an average Nigerian graduate who desire to acquire more certificates will be financially handicapped. Thus, it is impracticable for any learner in our cost unfriendly and low income environment to have enough money left for consumption and savings.

Learners in developed countries have access to loans and grants for studies compared to those in developing countries like Nigeria. This serves as a income relief for the students and ease the pressure on their earned income. Thus, once they graduate and find a job where they are earning over the threshold to make repayments, they can slowly pay off loans spread across different years. Education is truly an investment in your future but it is not always guaranteed to pay off.

Credentialism and Employment/ Returns on investment in higher education

Educational attainment in present-day Nigeria does not really correlate to employment prospects. This serves as a reality shock as most people belief that the more credentials you acquire, the more job opportunities you should have. 

The Nigerian youth make up a staggering 60% of the Nigerian population that is over 190 million. The unemployment situation is even worse so, a stock and a flow challenge among this segment of our population. As secondary and tertiary institutions graduate more young people annually with poor skills, the new flow of entrants worsen the stock of the unemployed. The economic future and social stability of Nigeria is definitely vulnerable to the existential risk of having about 2.5 – 3 million young Nigerians annually enter the labor market without the prospect of jobs for about 40% of them (Stutern Report, 2016).

However, a report conducted by Stutern and BudgIT on recent graduates mostly between 2010 and 2016 showed that employment favors the most educated graduates. Graduate unemployment is at its highest for OND and HND degree holders, and it is at its lowest for MBA and PhD degree holders.  Labor is cheap in Nigeria. 1 out of 4 graduates earn less than ?20,000 ($40) per month as salary for entry level jobs while well over 80% of employed workers earn not more than ?150,000 as monthly.



Arnoye, R. F. (1980). Philanthropy and cultural imperialism. Bloomington: Indian a University Press.

Barrow, C. W. (1990). Universities and the capitalist State: corporate liberalism and the reconstruction of America higher education, 1894-1928. Madison: university of Wisconsin.

Benevot, A. (1992). Educational expansion and economic growth in the modern world, 1913-1985.”, 117-34 in the political construction of education, edited by Bruce fuller and Richard Rubinson. New York: Praeger.

Brown, D. (1995), Degrees of control: A sociology of educational expansion and occupational cerdentialism. New York: Teachers College Press.

Brown, D. (2001). The social sources of educational credentialism: status cultures, labour markets and organization.

Collins, R. (1979). The credential society. New York: Academic Press

Collins, R. (1979). The Credential Society: an historical sociology of education and stratification (New York, Academic Press)

Dore, R. (1976) The Diploma disease: education, qualification and development (London, George Allen and Unwin)

Dore, R. (1997). The Diploma Disease: Education qualification and development, 2nd ed London, Institute of Education).

Fuller, B., & Richard Rubinson (1992). Does the state expand schooling?” The political construction of education, edited by Bruce Fuller and Richard Rubinson. New York Praeger, 1, 30.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks. New York: International. (Original work published 1928). 

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling society, New York: Harper & Row.

Share this post

Post Comment