By Amaka Abayomi & Dayo Adesulu
The plans by the Federal Ministry of Education to make bachelor’s degree the minimum teaching qualification in Nigeria has continued to generate mixed reactions from stakeholders in the sector, with some viewing the decision as a tall order, while some others say it will make Nigeria be at par with global best practices, as well as meet global challenges.
Recall that the Minister of Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, while receiving visiting Finland Ambassador to Nigeria, Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury last week said the target of the Federal Government was to make first degree a minimum teaching qualification.
Responding when the Ambassador pointed out that in Finland all teachers have a minimum of Masters Degree, Shekarau vowed that the Federal Government would explore all measures to restore the respect, dignity and status of teachers in the country. He was optimistic that a time will come in Nigeria when all schools will be handled by university graduates.
Welcoming the decision, the Deputy Director Academic, Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan, Prof Oyesoji Aremu, said if Nigeria wants to be at par with global challenges, then the country should raise the bar of teaching qualification entry.
He said “I quite agree with the Honorable Minister that the minimum teaching qualification should be university degree given the increasing pedagogy and androgogy challenges.
“This is not to say that the current National Certification is inferior. If Nigeria wants to be at par with global challenges, then the country should raise the bar of teaching qualification entry and it should be first degrees in education.”
According to him, it is the legislative responsibility of the National Assembly members to so legislate first degree as minimum qualification for teaching, adding that education is on the concurrent list which any state can legislate on.
Aremu, who based his argument on the premise that in most private primary schools in Nigeria, university degree holders are the ones teaching said, “Nigeria cannot pretend as if all is well with the education sector.”
Asked what the future holds for NCE holders, the Deputy Director, Academics, Distance Learning Centre, U.I said that this is not the first time we are migrating from one academic teaching qualification to another.
“What became of the holders of Teacher Grade III in the 1960s and Teacher Grade II Certificate in the 1970s?
He, therefore, posited that the NCE certificates should become feeding certificates for bachelor of education degrees, adding that it will make teaching profession to be truly professionalised.
“For us to raise the standard of education in Nigeria”, he noted, “the bar of teaching qualification should be raised.”
Viewing teachers as professionals, Aremu pointed that through university education, teachers are trained not only in the rudimentary knowledge of pedagogy, but also in the art of managing classroom and basic psychological knowledge in the handling of learners.
He said “While anybody can teach, it is only professional teachers who can truly educate for self-development and nation building. The art of teaching is scientific and if we want to get it right, we should do the needful.’’
Also, finding nothing wrong with making bachelor’s degree the minimum teaching qualification in the country is the Zonal Coordinator, Lagos Zone of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Adesola Nasir, who said the quality of the end products is what matters.
Nasir said “There is nothing wrong with it if the interest is to improve the quality of the end products which are the graduates of these institutions but the larger implication however is that we can’t give what we don’t have.
“The emphasis should be to improve the quality of our graduates as there are better things our graduates can contribute to than teaching. Though, it is understandable they are trying to create a critical mass of graduates for the teaching profession.”
Meanwhile, Professor Ladipo Adamolekun, an independent scholar and a professor of public administration is calling on the Federal Government to carry out an in-depth research and assessment of the Colleges of Education before such decision can be implemented.
He said that instead of making such announcement public, government should rather meet with the Provosts of Colleges of Education to know the challenges they face.
Adamolekun said “Even if it should be implemented, it should be phased because I don’t think what your certificate reads matters. Even if these Colleges are allowed to award degrees, it would not change the situation on ground as there needs to be total upgrading of these institutions.
“Why are primary school pupils not taught by school certificate holders like we were in the sixties who were better educated than most university graduates of today. I remember I had to teach with my HSC certificate.
“The short answer is that this is a cheap statement that is not based on any study as I doubt if any study has been carried out to find out what is really wrong with the teaching profession.
“Also, the Federal Government needs to meet with the Provosts to know what their problems are, the quality of their entrants, the quality of facilities they have, among other issues.
Holding a contrary view, Provost, Michael Otedola College Of Primary Education, Epe, Lagos State, Professor Olu Akeusola, said government is deceiving itself as it makes statements without considering the implications.
“They made such statement in the nineties and it didn’t work. They failed to realise that education is like a pyramid which is wider at the bottom. The idea of having bachelor’s degree holders as teachers would never work because we need to go back to the basics where students from the senior secondary are buffers and feeders for the universities, those from technical schools would feed polytechnics while those from Grade 2 would feed Colleges of Education” Akeusola said.