Unjust disparity between poly, varsity graduates in Nigeria
By Chukwuma Nwali
Most secondary school leavers seeking admission into higher institutions in Nigeria would hardly choose polytechnics as their preferred institution, and it is easily understood why it is so. Why should they choose polytechnics when the university is there for them? Why go to the polytechnic to obtain Higher National Diploma that will take additional two years to go for post-graduate diploma that will make it degree equivalent? Why would you go through all these and still not be sure about gaining an employment after all the rigorous exercises?
Some of these students have vowed not to go to polytechnics for any reason. I know people who graduated from secondary school for over four years and have not got admission into the university, although they have been offered admission into polytechnics but they rejected the offer. It is very degrading that graduates from polytechnics go back to start university from first year. Why not, when polytechnic graduates are regarded as mere secondary school products? All these are because of the undue preferential treatment to university graduates in Nigeria.
Now, one may try to ask questions leading to why the polytechnic system was even created or adopted in Nigeria. An answer to this question will probably lead us to what we have to do to remedy this situation that makes mockery of our education system. Was it to train less intelligent students or just to keep people in school for five years with little or no gain or to come and face unjust disparity in the labour market, especially in big companies or banks if you are opportune to be employed?
The polytechnic system was originally adopted or rather inherited from our colonial master. However, our colonial master, the UK, where we copied the polytechnic system from, intended the system not to be more than intermediate institution to train technologists and middle-level manpower. So, the UK system of education limited the HND to be only equivalent to a bachelor’s degree without honours, that is the lowest rank in the British university system which is a ‘pass.’ This means that the HND is only equivalent to a pass in the university system, even if it is the best grade in polytechnic which is distinction.
This unjust disparity continued to create ill-will in the British educational sector until 1992 when it was abolished under the Higher Education Act, hence all the polytechnics in the UK were subsequently elevated to conventional universities. So, there are no polytechnics awarding HND in the UK now as they all award degrees or their equivalent.
It is very clear why the polytechnic system in Nigeria is the way it is and until the appropriate thing is done, this disparity will continue to widen and the value of polytechnic certificates must continue to depreciate if we do not correct it now. If the British can abolish theirs over 20 years ago, what are we waiting for?
Only very few students seeking admission into the university would want to go to the polytechnic and this is only after such students have tried unsuccessfully in gaining admission into the university or the parents are not financially stable. Almost all the students in the polytechnics are there on second choice that is after they have tried the university. Some of the students in the polytechnics choose there because of their age, so that they can obtain National Diploma, ND, within two years against university which is a minimum of four years.
The polytechnic system is really degrading and time-wasting. Every student in the polytechnic spends a minimum of five years to get his or her HND which will take another two years after the compulsory one year youth service to go for post graduate diploma which would be degree equivalent. Meanwhile, the degree holder spends only four years except for engineering courses or Medicine which could take five years and above.
While a university student spends an average of four to five years as the case may be to obtain a degree, a polytechnic student spends a minimum of eight years including one year compulsory youth service. Eight years to just obtain a degree that people spend two years to acquire in other countries. That’s really ridiculous and time wasting. This does not mean that all the polytechnic students or graduates are dummies; not at all. Polytechnics are very good and if not mistaken even far better than some universities in Nigeria.
In fact, I am one of the polytechnic students also and as an engineering student I’m really enjoying the practical exposure I gained and still gaining from polytechnic system. The best thinker the world has ever produced is from a polytechnic also, Albert Einstein, from Zurich polytechnics (now called Federal Institute of Zurich, Swiss). I totally believe education is personal; eighty five percent of who you become largely depends on you, not your higher institution.
There are university graduates who are better than a polytechnic graduates likewise; there are also polytechnic graduates who are also far better than the university graduates. The practical oriented scheme of the polytechnic system is something to also to be encouraged. Skills are all we need in this age to control our future as a nation as Napoleon Hill puts it “knowledge is not power, applied knowledge is”_ what a swift analysis to the condition of Nigeria educational system.
If the people we inherited this polytechnic system from see it as old and not favourable to their educational growth anymore, then how about a society where this system has divided its higher institutions into two unequal parts. I think the ministry of education in Nigeria should waste no more time in finding how to solve the problem to our advantage.
I believe this is one of the major steps in tacking the admission issues in Nigeria educational sector. Instead of creating new universities, the polytechnics should be upgraded to an intensive research and technological oriented higher institutions, with the same ranking structures to the conventional universities in Nigeria.
I am against converting all the polytechnics or some big polytechnics in Nigeria into university, rather, they should be upgraded and converted into “polytechnic universities” and the higher national diploma (HND) should be abolished giving them privileges to award degrees, masters and PhDs. Also, the national diploma programme should be retained to supply the required middle-level manpower in the workforce. Just as the University of Technology is in Nigeria, this could also be another type of university “polytechnic university” mainly focusing on technological researches and practical oriented schemes.
Now that our higher institutions score below average in absorbing the candidates seeking admission into higher institutions in Nigeria, this is a way out. If all the polytechnics are upgraded and converted into “polytechnic university” it will be a major step in solving these problems that have frustrated our dear youths.