By Dayo Adesulu
Professor Olu Akeusola is a Professor of Comparative Grammar and Provost of Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, MOCPED. In this interview with Vanguard, he speaks on sundry issues bedevilling the Education sector, positing that ever since priority was placed on certificate, the love for college education declined. Excerpts:
How has the work on campus been thus far?
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and TETfund have been supportive to the development of the college. About 70% of our completed and on-going projects were sponsored by TETfund.
What is the core objective of the school?
It’s a kind of political creation that came as a result of a political somersault in education policy. What happened was that the then military Head of State, Ibrahim Babaginda observed that the quality of education was falling and he wanted to make the Nigerian Certificate in Education the least qualification to teach in Nigerian primary schools.
College for primary education
The moment Babaginda did that, Michael Otedola the then Governor of Lagos State, took advantage of it. The Federal Government made a policy that there should be college of primary education and it shall be the minimum.
This place was supposed to be made a grade two teacher training college or school of basic studies but Otedola established this college of primary education in 1994 and in 2004, the college was renamed after him. It was formally Lagos State College of Primary Education.
How relevant is this college to quality of teachers?
Federal Government that came up with the policy has never had a college of primary education. The Lagos State Government realised that error and arrogance of the military government and corrected it. Education is pyramidal in nature. When you are in primary school, the same 6-3-3-4 system of education is supposed to be interpreted as six years primary education, three years of junior secondary that is technical-oriented, that was why they brought those technical machines then. Then three years of senior secondary that should have been divided into three. It should have been three-year of senior secondary (technical education), three-year secondary, technical education and three-year secondary (general education).
Recreation of NCE: Anybody that finishes three years secondary or technical education could go for four-year polytechnic for a degree or its equivalent. Anybody that studies the three-year grade two or senior secondary then would have gone for NCE or college of education and someone that did three years generaleducation would have gone to the university for four-year degree program.
We now recreated NCE for primary. When you are still in primary school, you do all subjects and you see the teachers always. When you are in junior secondary school, you do about 16 subjects. When you are in senior secondary school, the subjects reduce to eight or nine. It is at that level you can do a lot of subjects. The moment you go further to national diploma or NCE, it turns to two or three areas of specialization. When you go for your degree, it becomes one major and one minor. We cannot afford to pay specialised teachers as it is done in tertiary institutions.
There is no difference between somebody that did NCE (English-French) in MOCPED and the other person that finished in Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education. The difference only is in methodology.
The one in AOCOED will be taught methods of teaching adolescents and junior secondary. The one in MOCPED will be taught method of teaching infants/ children. What we have is just a political ingenuity and that is why the Lagos State Govt is saying that instead of having duplication of curriculum, programme and wasteful utilisation of manpower, we should be thinking of allowing one to be running NCE and the other to be a total school.
What is your take on those who are not core teachers teaching in schools and how can the situation be remedied?
A lot of people will be talking about falling standard of education and I say, no. During our time, we were doing arithmetic and now, they are doing mathematics. Majority of those things we did in secondary school are being taught in primary school now. But what we enjoyed then that was instrumental has been destroyed now. As at that time, there was Grade 3, there was Grade 2 and there was Grade 1.
Standardised teacher education
We had teachers that were taught. We had teacher education that was well standardised. The little knowledge they had, they had good method of impacting it. It is either you are a teacher or you are a cheat. Majority of people found teaching today are not teachers but cheats. They don’t see teaching as a profession. They believe that when they get alternative jobs, they will leave. That is the problem we are having in our educational system.
Problems in education
The Ministry of Health is controlled by medical doctors. The Accountant- General of the federation can never be a teacher. But come to education, if you come to the ministry, the permanent secretary of the ministry is an accountant, the minister can be a politician, I am not against it, but what about his lieutenants, how versatile are they in education? They do not know anything and you cannot deliver what you do not have. That is the problem we have in education.
Ignorant owners: Many private schools are not after educational development. They are after money. Most private school owners know nothing about education. They ask themselves what is the easy way of making money? They invest in education. They do three things. One is to look for cheap labour from usually unqualified people. Two, the quality control is not there because they do not pay the money. It is only when you pay the qualitative money that you get qualitative education. Three, they rely so much on the money they gain from the parents and they have the tendency of aiding their students to pass their WAEC so as to give glory to their college.
Many students during UTME prefer university and polytechnics education to NCE. What do you think led to this?
There are about five problems to that and we all caused it. We have three levels as regards institutions. We have university, polytechnic and college of education. The day we destroyed the Grade 2, was when the problem started. Not until we bring back the Grade 2, we will still not be having feeders for college of education. The feeder that could be feeding NCE in college had been abrogated in 1992. If college is to pick its own product from the same source, automatically, it will be very difficult.
Decline in college education
Two, ever since priority was placed on certificate, the love for college education declined. The moment you go to college of education for three years, you now go back to university for three years and it is the same qualifications that you will use to enter both college of education and the university. Then what is the essence of wasting two years of your time? People will prefer to go to university and not college.
Three, in the past, in order to produce teachers that will give us qualitative teaching, they gave scholarships to teachers, they encouraged them by giving them one year salary advance. If we are not able to do that, we are going nowhere. We cannot eat our cake and have it.
Four, parents discourage their children from teaching. Parents tell their children that teaching is not a very good job.
Five, salary. If the salary for teachers is so poor, who would want to join? That is why we are killing teacher education. All these people that will become doctors and pilots tomorrow, need to be given solid foundation by teachers in the primary, junior and senior secondary before they go and meet the lecturers in tertiary institutions.
Only adequately trained teachers are supposed to be teaching in primary, junior and senior secondary schools. That is the method of impacting knowledge. If you want to build a house and the foundation is in a shambles, you are going nowhere.
There has been plan to scrap the 6-3-3-4 system and introduce a five-year system. How will it affect the educational system?
If it is cancelled and five-year system is introduced, we will move one step forward and three steps backward. What should happen is one, retain the six-year primary education. Two, three years junior secondary, fortify it and make it technically- oriented. Divide the three years senior secondary into three. Three years secondary (technical) for those who want to go into technical line; three-year secondary for teacher education to replace the old grade two; three-year senior secondary to replace the senior secondary and A level. If you finish from technical college, you go to polytechnic.
Then let Higher National Diploma (HND) be abrogated. Let there be National Diploma as a middle man power. After which you can do your bachelor in technology for two years.
Then it will be four years to do your degree. It will be advisable when you go for technical college for three years; you now do your bachelor in technology for four years. You are not losing anything. Some colleges are offering NCE as well as degree. When you finish a three-year senior secondary teacher education, they will enter into NCE; they will do two years for NCE. If they want to obtain the certificate, they obtain.
They will now do two years in same school in degree education. Within four years, they will have their degree. If you want to do your years and go, just like ND in technical college, you do your two year and go. In college, if you want to do your two years NCE, you do it you go, if you want to continue, you do another two years and you have your degree in education.
Let polytechnics and colleges be holding degrees only in their areas of specialization.