By Moses Nosike
The strength of any economy is traceable to a well structured educational system. That is why developed nations like US, Britain, China, Japan etc. don’t compromise with standard of education. Apart from national development, good educational system promotes personal development and job creation.
Having realised the role of quality education to nation building and personal development, Promasidor in its operation in Nigeria 20 years ago, decided to make an impart on the Nigerian education advancement through its Cowbellpedia TV Mathematics quiz which has not only shapped the quality of teaching and learning Mathematics in Nigeria but has enriched many families that participated in the quiz competition.
President of Mathematical Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Sunday Adeniran said that the environment for teaching Mathematics is not very encouraging and then the reward of teaching Mathematics is not very encouraging for teachers to put in their best. This has caused poor performance of students and also poor reasoning of the subject as it deals with logic.
“Indeed, the golden era of Mathematics teaching, especially in secondary schools, was in the 70s and 80s when the Indians were here. Since then, it has been a case of the harder we try, the more the kids loathe it.
Adeniran, a lecturer at Bowen University, also raises question about the poor reward system. This, particularly, is not an issue that can be resolved via a circular or an official pronouncement. Good mathematicians know that their services are much more competitive than what an average education policy maker can envisage.
So, with the knowledge of mathematics taking a lead role in the new economic order and getting attention from information technology, computing, financial sector , and other emerging sectors, chances are that our secondary schools can now attract more qualified teachers to teach mathematics and this would brighten the chances of private and public schools to compete favourable at any point in time.
This initiative which mostly targets young Nigerians in our secondary schools which is sponsored by Promasidor needs to go higher in preparation to compete globally.
This also calls for adequate preparation of teachers to measure up in teaching matchematics which helps in the development of science and technology in the country. Today, some schools are left to grappling for low-end personnel, who, sadly will only hang on the jobs pending when there are better opportunities.
Unfortunately, the survival of applied mathematics rests on the quality of individuals who teach the subject at secondary school level, which is rightly perceived as the foundation of the discipline. On the other hand, applied Mathematicians are only as good as the quality of teaching engagement at mathematics classes. So, when a multinational deprives a school of the best hands, it is only post-posing its own misfortune.
But a win-win arrangement could be worked out such that both the industrial sector and teaching profession are not starved of quality mathematicians. To kick-start that process, the supply side of the equation could be expanded. That would mean making mathematics learning less boring for students at the foundational level, the secondary school education. Again, the whole stigma facing the teaching profession with particular reference to Mathematics needs to be changed. To do this, teachers should be inspired to see their calling as a noble job they can recommend for their students.
Unfortunately, there are policy gaps in this regard. But alas, here are rays of hope. A few corporate organisations, which may have realised the danger in milking the proverbial Mathematics cow dry to the detriment of grooming a quality club of future professionals, are on a rescue mission. Leading the corporate interventionist activities is Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics TV Quiz Show. Cowbell, a flagship brand of Promasidor, has taken up the responsibility, through Cowbellpedia, to motivate both learning and teaching of Mathematics. For 13 weeks every year, the exciting, humour-filled programme is beamed to Nigerian homes, creating interesting viewership among kids and guardians.
Over the years, discussions have shifted to designing the most exciting strategies of imparting the knowledge of science, including mathematics, such that it becomes as entertaining as it is necessary. As Nigeria also contends with that concern, Cowbellpedia seems to have struck the right chord. While it may take it several decades to single-handedly demystify the myth around Mathematics, Cowbellpedia has scored some salient points: it has proved to the majority of those who watch it that the subject is learnable, it is fun and it can be mastered and that teaching it can be rewarding.
And the sponsor’s commitment to sustaining the gains and buzz of the initiative is amazingly reassuring. Previously, winners of both senior and junior categories of the competition received a cash prize of One Million Naira each and an overseas educational excursion, which beneficiaries have found extremely valuable.
For this year, the cash prizes have been increased to Two Million Naira while the excursion benefit will be retained. The prizes for first and second runners-up in both categories have also been increased from N750,000 and N500,000 to 1 Million Naira and 1.5 Million Naira respectively.
Perhaps, the most important aspect of the Cowbell Mathematics deal is the fact that it rewards excellent students without disregarding the ‘knowledge givers’. It recognises the ‘brains’ behind the winners, hence the teachers of this year’s winners, first and second runners-up will receive cash prizes in line with the tradition. This model is a remarkable departure from the norms, perhaps, not only in Nigeria but in other parts of the world.