By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
FOR the Roadmap of Nigerian education sector to make appreciable positive impact on the nationâ€™s education system, attention must be paid to grey areas at the different levels of education, including Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD)/basic schools, post-basic and tertiary institutions.
This was the position of Professor Placid Njoku, a renowned educationalist, in a paper entitled: â€œSustaining Policy Reforms and Implementation For Education Development,â€which he delivered at the second national conference for nation building and global competitiveness organised recently by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council.
According to him, at the basic education level, for example, a lot need to be done in expanding access of children to education. This is so because there is still over nine million children and 17 million illiterate adults who are currently out of school. In addition, the school feeding programme is being poorly implemented.
Although Prof. Njoku explains that the 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum is good but regretted that standards and quality assurance at the basic education level is nothing to write home about because the number, quality and welfare of teachers fall below expectation, adding that there is limited school inspection as well as poor deployment of ICT.
The level of implementation of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) at the ECCDE/basic level is, according to Njoku, abysmally poor. He says: â€œTeacher/Pupil ratio is still very wide in many states, teaching facilities are extremely limited. There are no school farms in many school and handiwork is monetized and there is poor vocational training for non-transiting JSS pupilsâ€.
On funding, he said UBEC funds are available but many states are unable to access it, explaining further that salaries are paid late in many states with school management committees (SMCs) yet to be established in many states.
While assessing the implementation of the Roadmap at the post-basic education level which include secondary schools, technical colleges, vocational enterprise institutes, vocational schools and open apprenticeship centres, Prof. Njoku said that there is confusion on mode of transition from JSS to SSS and that transition rate of JSS to SSS is very low.
For this level, the number of teachers, their quality and welfare are still major problems, there is limited school inspection and that ICT deployment; laboratory and library facilities are quite poor.
At the post-basic level, he says TVET is poor implemented as teaching facilities are extremely limited, that VEIs, vocational schools and open apprenticeship centres are poorly equipped with limited teachers, saying further that funding from states is very inadequate, mobilized resources are re-channeled to other state projects, salaried are paid late in many states with SMCs yet to be established in many states.
For the tertiary education sector which include universities, polytechnics/monotechnics, colleges of education and Innovative Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) Njoku rates access at this level as low as 20 per cent, putting higher education participation rate at only 80 per cent, that the development of Open University is rather slow and that some private universities are very expensive for deliverables.
These challenges on access for the tertiary level could be addressed, says Njoku, by carrying out massive development of new building and rehabilitation of existing ones as well as by converting selected polytechnics and Colleges of Education to universities.
On standards and quality assurance, he says the curriculum is fair at the tertiary level, that the number of teachers and their quality still pose major problem, the quality of many state universities is very suspect, ICT deployment in most state universities is still very poor and that quality assurance agencies need more powers to deal with emerging issues.
Before the nationâ€™s tertiary institutions can be globally competitive, the educationist said that laboratory, studio, farm facilities must be improved and that the direct teaching and laboratory costs must not only be sustained but should also be enhanced, adding that although funding to federal institutions is not bad but staff salaries should be indexed with productivity and that university councils should drive for increased internally generated funds.
He offered a wide range of recommendations which will go a long way in addressing the four focal points of the Roadmap, including access, standards and quality assurance, TVET as well as funding.
These include the need to establish a Quality Assurance Commission for ECCDE/basic and post basic education sub-sectors, institutionalize regular training and re-training of teachers, prioritization of policies for implementation, establish a National Commission for post-basic education as well as the need to consciously drive entrepreneurship education.
He also urge the re-introduction of the one-meal a day programme in all basic educational institutions and boarding in JSS and SSS, adding that the nation should re-focus the application of ETF to tertiary education as well as ensure a faithful implementation of policy.