by Nnamdi Odumody
One of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals is the provision of quality education for everyone. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) set a benchmark of 26 percent of national or state budget to fund education. Sadly in the developing world like Africa this directive is not adhered to which is why African states are lagging behind in Human Development Indices index. Quality relevant education is the key to the sustainable development of any nation or state. Singapore’s success as an Asian economic miracle without natural mineral resources is due to the high emphasis its government places on education which has made its educational system the best in Asia.
Singapore has had a consistent educational policy sustained over decades. The first and main strategy was to invest heavily in the quality of its teaching force. The objective was to raise the prestige and status of teaching to attract the best graduates to teaching positions. Today teachers are recruited from the top five percent of graduates in a highly centralized system. All teachers are trained at the National Institute of Education to ensure quality control.
Finland which has the best school system in the world was able to come up with a strategy which ensures that Finnish kids have bright futures tailored to their strengths and interests, 93 percent of students graduate from either a vocational or academic high school. At age 16, children choose between a vocational programme which prepares them for work in different fields or to go on to a polytechnic or an academic programme which prepares them for university. Whether they go on to university or polytechnic, study is paid for by the government. No wonder they are a world leader in High Technology with success stories like Nokia.
In Nigeria, the federal government and states don’t spend up to 26 percent of their budget on education which is why graduates who cannot compete with their peers across the globe in terms of practical knowledge and workplace skills.
The South Eastern region which is known for having a highly entrepreneurial populace is not preparing its young population for the future. The emphasis on education does not take into cognizance the technology revolution which is sweeping across the globe disrupting various industries and creating exponential value.
How the South East can redesign her education strategy to create globally competitive youths who will transform the region and make it a 21st century global African success story.
1. Increased Investment in Education By State Governments and the Private Sector in The South East: The five states in the South East should declare a state of emergency in the educational sector in the region and allocate not less than 30 percent of her annual budget to education. Also private organizations and philanthropists can also support by investing in transforming education in South Eastern Nigeria. This is important if the South East must lead the continent of Africa in the Human Capital Development indices of the 21st century and experience socio-economic transformation.
2. Compulsory Foundation in STEM Education and The Arts: Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics education is important for making the youths of the South East relevant for the challenges of the 21st century. It should be made compulsory for every Igbo young child before the age of 10 years old to know how to write computer programmes and also exposed to liberal arts. This will give them sound analytical minds and make them come up with creative solutions to problems they face.
3. Emphasis on Pedagogy: A pedagogical approach which emphasizes both knowledge and practical skills acquisition by exposing both the teaching staff and students to state of art information and communication technology. Tertiary Institutions in the South East should invest more in training their staff and undergraduates to become 21st Century and Fourth Industrial Revolution skilled who will be employable and able to solve problems in the workplace as intrapreneurs or create ventures as entrepreneurs.
4. Using Digital Tools to Transform Education: The Classrooms of the future are smart and connected offering personalized learning and generating real time analytics on learning outcomes which will predict the likelihood of academic performance of students in the classroom. Public schools can be adopted by organizations and wealthy philanthropists in the South East and retrofitted with latest technology tools to make them smart schools that will train the young ones to become digitally relevant. A Smart Learning platform should be developed to train all public and private school students in the South East with the latest courses and subjects which will make them have in demand skills and prepare them for a digital future in English and Igbo so that they don’t lose their identity. Gamification can also be used to transform education in public and private schools in the East as game based learning provides a fun experience which can make the kids learn faster.
Using Virtual Reality can make public schools offer quality accessible education as the technology can aggregate lots of students at the same time learning courses and subjects from a remote tutor who might be based abroad. Augmented Reality is being used in medical schools abroad to train medical students. This will aid in the production of knowledgeable and skilled graduates, thinkers, researchers, scholars and leaders of tomorrow.
5.Establishment of Digital Skills Acquisition Centers in all local governments in the South East: Digital Skills Acquisition Centers should be established in all the local government areas to train the youths in 3D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Embedded Electronics, Blockchain, Data Analytics. These skills will make them to solve their everyday problems with technology and transform their communities too and also they could get employed from reputable foreign organizations.
In Nnewi due to the automotive cluster there a Digital Skills Centre can be established there to train the youths on how to use 3D Printing to manufacture automotive parts for the automotive companies based there. They can also be trained to be digital mechanics with a digital mechanic workshop established there for them.
In Awka and other towns in Igbo land with a history in skilled blacksmithing, fashion and metalworks, 3D Workshops can be established to train the youths on how to become digital craftsmen and creative artists using 3D design and printing technology.
6. Engaging in Industry and Society Relevant Research from Tertiary Institutions in The South East: Universities and Polytechnics should ensure that they engage more in R and D which will solve the immediate needs of the South East and also they should be industry relevant to make them engage in technology transfer and earn revenues from their inventions or establish startup companies to commercialize them and nurture them to scale as success stories.