Relationship Between Literacy and Productivity Across 36 States of Nigeria

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.”

6 thoughts on “Relationship Between Literacy and Productivity Across 36 States of Nigeria”

1. It’s very alarming, the disconnect between curriculum and reality is wife. Imagine a computer science student studyiny fotran 72 in thé University in early 20th century and 21st century…

2. Gani David

Lols!

I feel you Jamike. Though there are some institutions and businesses proffering solution to the disconnect, the government still has the biggest role to play by Democratising education with greater emphasis on skills.

1. Ugochukwu

Great findings Sir. I think there’s no straightforward solution and a trade-off would have to be made. I therefore agree with prof’s second option with respect to solving the literacy problem i.e. prioritizing basic education over university education…at least for some time.

1. Gani David

Thanks Ugochukwu for the commendation.

Yes, Prof is completely right in either of his recommendations. Your choice is very intelligent, I support for more than the meant time; we need it until our appellation change from LDC to join the BRICS to BRINCS, if you know what I mean.

3. Good findings.

But let me make a remark; the states in the danger zone are not sitting on a keg of gunpowder. They’re the keg of gunpowder that other states in the safety zone have been sitting on and it occasionally explodes little by little until the doomsday (when it finally and completely explodes) befalls everyone if no adequate measures are taken to “salvage” them literacy-wise. According to the already known trend, the bottom left in that graph have been the problem of this nation; over population, illiteracy (they’ve constantly not been open to modern education save a handful), volatility, intolerance, sentiments!

Subsidizng primary education is not really new in the country especially in the North. The western states in Nigeria does free education from my last check (I stand to be corrected if the trend has changed).
The problem now is “QUALITY” of education in our basic education. Although this cannot be isolated from the importance or the value the government places on basic education.

For the top right, what about some peculiarities that could account for their productivity? Such as oil (Core South South), proximity to the sea (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo) and legendary agricultural activities (Ondo State). Could this factor be overlooked in terms of productivity, and just marrying their productivity to literacy alone?

4. Gani David

Thank you sir for the commendation.

Yes, when we look at the high influx of of Nigerians from the states in the danger zone into Lagos, for example, this is responsible for the sporadic ethnic crisis between the Yorubas and the Hausas. Lagos is facing a ‘prosperity dilemma’ as the law prevents her from evicting these ‘immigrants’ and the progress it makes attracts more of them.

You are not wrong, basic education in the South West is still relatively free. I think the private sector need to assist the host government on QUALITY issue. Education is power, this is the reason this region is ahead of others in the country.

The determinants of productivity in the safe zone is not limited to literacy alone. Oil, proximity to the sea, agriculture, etc are other significant contributors to the wealth of these states. If I am to consider other variables, then a simple correlation test will not be adequate; I will have to run an econometric analysis using multiple regression model. I used literacy to emphasize the importance of education with respect to labour efficiency, holding other determinants constant.