By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Last week, a large number of education stakeholders from tertiary institutions, Federal and State Ministries of Education, parastatals and the Civil Society gathered in Abuja to devise strategies of re-positioning the nationâ€™s education in order to make it an instrument for social and economic reconstitution.
Putting in place functional education and the provision of resources by governments to rebuild a quality public education system were identified by over 310 delegates from across the country as crucial to the task of nation building as well as the quest of Nigeria to occupy a respectable place in global competitiveness by year 2010.
According to them, very central to functional education is huge investment in Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET), inclusive education, paying attention to access, equity and quality assurance as well as the need for governments and relevant stakeholders to key in to the new dynamics of education through curriculum diversification, ICT, life-long learning, networking and social responsibility.
The platform for this national discourse was provided by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), which organised the conference with the theme: â€œEducation for Nation Building and Global Competitivenessâ€, and which has five sub-themes.
Professor Taoheed Adedoja, Commissioner for Education, Oyo State spoke on â€œChallenges and Opportunities in Expanding Access, Equity and Quality Assurance in Education while Dr. Kabir Usman, Technical Adviser to the Minister of National Planning Commissioner handled â€œFostering Public-Private Partnership in the Funding and Delivery of Education in Global Economic Melt-downâ€.
The former Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof U. Ivowi did justice to the topic â€œEffective and Sustainable Entrepreneurial Curriculum Development and Implementation for National Buildingâ€ and Dr. M.B. Hamawa, Head of Department of Computer Science, University of Abuja spoke on â€œICT-Driven Education for Sustainable National Development and Global Competitivenessâ€, Professor Placid Njoku of the National Universities Commission presented the paper on â€œSustaining Policy Reforms and Implementation for Educational Developmentâ€.
Professor Victor Owhotu, Director, Distance Learning Institute, University of Lagos delivered a thought-provoking keynote address tagged, â€œNigeria On Track?â€
Professor Godswill Obioma, the Executive Secretary of NERDC said that the theme of the national conference draws its strength from the Roadmap for the Nigerian Education Sector. The outcomes of the discourse, he says, is to support the evolution of education policy reforms and their implementation, adding that these are therefore to contribute to the attainment of the aims of the Roadmap at turning around the sector positively.
Making a case fro the entrenchment of functional education in the nationâ€™s education system, Obioma, who has just been re-appointment for a second term in office, said: â€œEducation being regarded globally as an instrument for social and economic reconstruction is intricately linked to nation-building. Thus countries in which more citizens have gained functional education have a comparative advantage in global competitiveness.
The challenge before governments is to invest the resources that are desperately needed to rebuild a free, comprehensive, quality public education system.â€
According to Prof Obioma, attention must be paid to the following needs if Nigeria is to attain global relevance. Provision of a foundation of knowledge and skills that is durable and transferable to address decline in job security, production of knowledge workers that can match global competitiveness, upgrading of curriculum and content standards at all levels in response to rapid technological change and the development of the nationâ€™s intellectual capital to meet local needs, national competitiveness and global relevance.
Speaking in the same vein, the Minister of Education, Dr Sam Egwu stressed the need for functionality in the nationâ€™s education.
He says: â€œEducation remains the bedrock for any meaningful national development. The global community to which Nigeria belongs, has in recent times, witnessed significant technological advancement,â€ adding that he came up with the Roadmap in order to actualise the strategic role which education is expected to play in the attainment of Vision 20-2020 and in the prosecution of the development of human capital component of the 7-point agenda of the Federal Government.
For Nigeria to survive the challenges and stiff competition that follow the global financial meltdown, says Egwu, the nationâ€™s educational system must be re-positioned to produce competent and capable labour that can compete favourably on the international scale.
A number of observation and recommendations were made at the end of deliberations by delegates, all of which are meant to contribute to the effective implementation of the on-going reform process in the education sector. They called for re-orientation of educational institutions and demonstration of desirable quality assurance models and policy.
It was noted that a bane of the sector is policy somersault whereby there is no follow-up, with policies dying with their initiators. Other problems are infrastructural deficiency, lack of robust public private partnership.
As a way of tackling the multi-faceted problems bedeviling the sector, the delegates recommended that educational reforms must be participatory and adequately supervised and that adequate funds must be allocated for educational development.
Delegates also stressed the need for government at all levels to exhibit political will to implement education policies and human capital development must be taken seriously.
Again, quality assurance among teachers and students should be maintained through external independent and internal monitoring mechanisms and government should establish a National Commission for Senior Secondary Education, community participation in education through the establishment of school based management committee should be promoted while conducive environment should be created to promote public private partnership in education.