Two key features of industrialized countries are high literacy and productivity rates, while the reverse holds for Less Developed Countries, LDCs. This fact makes literacy a significant index to attain for the growth and development of the Third World Countries. I was inspired to investigate the relationship between productivity and literacy across the thirty-six (36) states of Nigeria as I read Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe’s piece titled, Nigeria’s Big Challenge on Human Development. Using the Chinese and the U.S. model of funding public education at the primary and secondary levels, he called on the Nigerian government to shift its priority from subsidizing tertiary education to basic education if the country must make progress.
If productivity is defined as the amount of goods and services that a group of workers/citizens produce in a given amount of time, say, a year; and literacy is defined as the ability to read and write, and competence in a specified area, therefore, there should exist some form of relationship between these variables. Does higher literacy rate increase the productivity of Nigerians, and vice-versa? Is there a correlation or causal relationship between these factors? And based on the outcome of my investigation, what decision should policymakers take?
Using the Pearson Correlation Coefficient and data on GDP and literacy across the 36 states, save the FCT from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, 2018, I got a value of r = 0.01 indicating a weak positive relationship between literacy and productivity across all the states. A correlation is a measure or degree of relationship between two variables with possible values ranging from –1 to +1. We have a positive relationship if productivity increases with literacy. A negative relationship when literacy increases and productivity falls; and zero correlation when the change in the value of either affects neither.
On a graph, for a good interpretation, GDP is used to represent productivity on the vertical axis, while the literacy rate is plotted on the horizontal axis. With $7.9 million as the average output of the 36 states, the graph is horizontally divided into two sections; and with 64% as the average literacy rate for all the states, the graph is further divided vertically into two making four sections with significant implications.
In the top right section of the graph, there are eleven (11) states with their respective productivity and literacy rates above the averages of $7.9m and 64%. This is the Safe Zone. The states in this region are Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo(Southwest), Rivers, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River (South-south). These states are amongst the 13 richest states in the country. Here a positive relationship is observed between literacy and productivity but we cannot tell which one causes the other.
In the bottom right section we have ten (10) states that are above the average literacy rate and below average productivity. The states are Osun, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Kogi, Ebonyi, Taraba, and Kwara. Here a negative relationship is observed between literacy rate and productivity, that is, productivity lags behind literacy. This may be attributable to a disconnect between curriculum and industry.
In the bottom left section we have thirteen (13) states that are below the averages of literacy and productivity. This is the Danger Zone. The states are Katsina, Sokoto, Niger, Kebbi, Jigawa, Zamfara (Northwest), Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe (Northeast), Plateau, and Nasarawa (North-central). Here we observe another positive relationship but in a negative sense because productivity nosedives with literacy.
In the top left hand section, we have just two (2) states of Kano, and Kaduna that are both below the benchmark for literacy and above the benchmark for productivity. The reason for this could be attributable to Kano being the commercial hub of Northern Nigeria and Kaduna as the administrative capital.
The gap between the safety and danger zones with respect to literacy and productivity are 59.8% and $107, 363m. It means states in the danger zone need 59.8% improvement in literacy and $107, 363m improvement in productivity to catch up with those in the safe zone. Every state not in the safe zone, especially those in the danger zone, is sitting on a keg of gunpowder and something significant and urgent has to be done in the area of social investment at all tiers of government.
“Yes, it is either we find money to fund basic education and universities concurrently, or we prioritize basic education, and remove all subsidies in the universities.”— Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe.
The first part of this quote on finding alternative means to fund basic education appeals more to me. I recommend that education should be devolved from the concurrent list to the residual list to enable local communities to devise ingenious ways to equip themselves with skills through “community education.”