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What Buhari must do to uplift education – Okebukola

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By Dayo Adesulu

school-unilagTHE immediate past Secretary, National Universities Commission, Professor Peter Okebukola has averred that if Nigerians would see improvement in the education sector, the incoming government of Muhammadu Buhari must reform and massively invest in education.

Okebukola, a Consultant to UNESCO, while delivering the 2013/2014 convocation lecture at the University of Lagos, UNILAG pointed out teacher quality, provision of learner-friendly facilities and curriculum delivery as the three areas government must invest in.

He said: “The first line of business should be to improve teacher quality at all levels of the education system,” noting: “a 15-year study has shown that teacher quality accounts for about 22% of the variance of scores on overall quality of the education system.

“If General Buhari will want to improve the quality of education in Nigeria, he should dismantle the current model of teacher preparation and install one that will lead to the production of quality teachers who are steeped in content knowledge.” Okebukola who lamented the too many roadside teachers in Nigeria, posited that their presence in the classroom sets the nation back two years.

The Provost also argued that there is no way students can get the best in learning when there is no improvement in the quality and quantity of facilities for teaching and learning at the basic, post-basic and higher education levels. He said over 80% of public basic schools have facilities that are grossly sub-standard. About 65% of the tertiary institutions are faced with poor facilities. “Having found through our research that facilities account for about 18% of the variance in quality scores, paying attention to this variable should be of great interest to the Buhari administration.’’

On curriculum, Okebukola who stressed the need for quality of delivery of the curriculum by way of teaching methods, opportunity for practical work and engagement of students, noted that it will also entail values re-orientation and the teaching of 21st Century skills. Okebukola who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the International Academy of Education said there is a yawning gap between the expected profile of graduate teachers from the Nigerian university system and the kind of graduates that our universities spew out from year to year.

According to him, “we cannot hope for a top quality education system if we staff our schools with such second-rate teachers. We need a profession full of inspiring, innovative, creative and knowledgeable teachers. We recall those teachers who demonstrated these attributes and were part of shaping their lives to be giants in academia today.’’ To get the best from teachers, the Pro-Chancellor pointed out other areas that need to be revamped in the system.

Reforms in teacher education: Reduction in the load of Education courses: “Education courses for those wishing to be subject teachers should be maximum 15% of the total course load. For instance, if the Total Number of Units (TNU) for a four-year degree programme is 120, all Education courses from 100 to 400 level should not exceed a total of 18 units.  Interview data from the 2004-2006 national survey showed preference for the spread of the 18 units as shown below.

  • Foundation courses (Psychology, History, Curriculum, Philosophy) =  4
  • Methodology courses= 8 •Teaching practice=4
  • Project = 2;

Total= 18

“Increase in the TNU for Graduation for Education Students: There is a worry among staff in the Faculty of Education and hence members of ASUU regarding reducing the number of Education courses as this may cause job loss. ‘’While this in the long run will not necessarily be the case but in the short and long run be advantageous for the country and since ASUU will not want its members to be discomforted in any way, another option will be to request NUC to raise the Total Number of Units for Graduation (TNU) in the Education BMAS to 140 for a 4-year degree programme.

‘’This will give Education students ample room to register and take courses in their teaching subjects enough to prepare them as better-quality teachers. Courses that relate to senior school certificate topics that students find difficult to learn (see earlier listing for biology, chemistry and physics) should be made compulsory for the teacher trainees.

Alternativeproposal

‘’The alternative which we proposed while I was at NUC is to make Education a 5-year programme for the first degree. ‘’The first four years are spent largely in the cognate faculties while the fifth year is where we layer the training with Education courses. Upon graduation, teachers of the 5-year course will be placed a grade level above the 4-year degree holders and in addition receive other incentives. ‘The incentives offered teachers in Finland have made teaching one of the most attractive and as a collateral, made the Finnish Education system one of the best in the world.

More time for teaching practice: “A minimum of 12 weeks of full contact teaching practice should be implemented for effective preparation of graduate teachers. One-year teaching practice is ideal. In most colleges of education and universities, in spite of the provision for a 12-week Teaching Practice, actual practice lasts barely three weeks.  Supervision is also poor leading to shallow field experience for the teacher trainees.

Avoid early specialisation ‘’Specialisations at the undergraduate level such as Educational Management/Educational Administration and Planning and Guidance and Counselling should be discontinued in favour of specialisation at the Postgraduate Diploma level.

Limiting the number of Sandwich/Part-time Students: ‘’It has been found that over 60% of the poor quality teachers in the secondary school system are trained through Sandwich/Part-time programmes. In order to improve quality, the number of such candidates admitted into Faculties of Education should be drastically reduced.

Periodic training in modern methods of teaching: “Staff of the Faculty of Education in universities and colleges of education, should be exemplary teachers, yet many are regarded as the worst teachers on campus.  They are thus, poor role models for the teacher trainees.  All teachers in the Faculty/College of Education should undergo periodic training on modern methods of teaching.

Teacher quantity: ‘’There is an urgent need to double the current rate of teacher production at the basic and higher education levels. This is obviously a tall order given the aversion of candidates for certificates, diplomas and degrees in education. However, through a battery of incentives, enrolment into teacher training institutions at all levels can be bolstered.

Battery ofincentives

“These incentives include (a) reducing by half the current tuition for training in education in colleges of education, polytechnics and universities; (b) automatic bursary awards for all education students; and (c) enhanced post-graduation salary package for teachers.’’

Teacher licensing and revalidation of licence: ‘’A licensure system should be established for teachers by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN). The teacher licence should have a maximum life of life years. Renewal should be based on successful completion of a re-certification examination or evidence of in-service training within the 5-year period.

‘’The model hypothesises that education and training as well as the culture and value system of the community are the key variables in human capital development. Education and training have long been established as the major variable impacting on human capital development since the mind and body are developed through education and training.

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