By Elizabeth Uwandu
Professor Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, NUC, speaks on the incoming Minister of Education.
Let’s talk on the incoming Minister of Education
I propose only two agenda items for the incoming Minister of Education. First is to craft a continuation ministerial strategic plan from the Adamu Adamu 2016-2019 Ministerial Strategic Plan and thorough assessment of successes recorded, lessons learned and stakeholder consultations, come up with a 2019-2023 Ministerial Strategic Plan.
This is the essence of continuity in governance and the idea of ‘next-level’. Second, the minister should strenuously implement the 2018 federal and state government-approved implementation plan on the state of emergency on education.
If I had the ears of Mr President, the right person for the post based on my two proposed agenda items is Malam Adamu Adamu. Since God has blessed Nigeria with Malam Adamu Adamu’s return to the cabinet, assigning the portfolio to another person will impede in some way, the momentum gathered in the last four years in the education sector.
Since man proposes and God disposes of, if another person is put in the post, he/she should take-off from where the Adamu administration left off and not march us in other directions. Within the gross picture of the two agenda items are some very important details.
These include improving access to basic and higher education, improving quality of education at all levels, halting the spate of strikes that have characterised our higher education system; significant reduction of academic corruption including examination malpractice; improving capacities and welfare of teachers and improving the relevance of our education through the production of skilled and entrepreneurial graduates. Let me expatiate on two of these- access and quality, Okebukola stated.
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On the matter of access, the Minister (at the federal level) and the Commissioners for Education (at the state level) have to put their legs on the pedal of cutting the number of out-of-school children by minimum half in the next four years.
Access to higher education should be significantly increased through motley combination of mechanisms including strengthening the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to boost enrolment to one million; resourcing (human and physical) of existing universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to increase their carrying capacities hence enrol more students; and approving open and distance learning centres for universities for dual-mode of delivery. While quantity is attracting the gaze of the Minister, he should “shine his eyes” more on quality. The depreciating quality of products of our education system is the “talk of the town”. Employers decry the quality of products from our secondary and higher education institutions.
According to Okebukola, ‘I will be the first to admit that this general view is erroneous as quite a number of our graduates are top class and world-beaters. It is to the average graduate who is deficient in knowledge and skills in his or her discipline of training that we need to pay greater attention. The minister can make this happen through strengthening the quality assurance arm of the federal ministry of education and getting the commissioners for education to do the same at the state level. At the higher education level, regulatory agencies should copy and improve upon the globally-acclaimed quality assurance model of the National Universities Commission (NUC)’.