Education should change behaviour – Obioma



Professor Godswill Obioma is the Executive secretary of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). In this interview, with AUGUSTINE OKEZIE, he explained the various transformations the Basic Education Sector is currently undergoing. Excerpts:

The role of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC)  in the education sector, is highly invaluable, how has  the transformation agenda of the current administration, fared in the sector?
In 2010, Mr. President directed that a stakeholders meeting be held, with particular focus on reform. Mr. President attended and chaired it. The whole idea was to ensure that there is a reformation of the educational system and a restoration of education quality at all levels. One of the windows of opportunity in that presidential stakeholders’ forum was the issue of content of education. If you think about reforming education you must think of what children should learn in school.

The whole idea of education is to change behaviour in a positive manner and to enable people acquire competence to survive in their world of work. I was part of the Presidential Task Team on Education (PTTE) committee that worked on the report of Mr. President’s stakeholders’ forum. One critical thing that came out sharply was that there was need to ensure that what we teach our children is internationally competitive and in line with best practices. So, at various levels of education we should teach them what is socially compliant in our context that would resolve our problems. We should also teach them what would make them compare with their peers elsewhere.

For instance, if you produce a Nigerian medical doctor in Nigeria, it is not just to solve the problems of this country but also to be able him  face his colleagues elsewhere to compete with international skills. Same goes to lawyers or engineers, same goes to teachers and same goes to anyone that is a product of education. So, my agency has critical mandate and one of them is to develop school curriculum and to conduct research for public policy. The other is to create avenue for language development and, of course, to create avenues for developing resources and textbooks.  So, with respect to latching on to what Mr. President has done, with respect to educational development, my agency creates contents of education or what is now referred to as ‘knowledge production’.

I could say that, following the transformation from that stakeholders’ forum, we have created a nine-year basic education curriculum which is being acknowledged at the highest level of UNESCO International Bureau for Education as globally competitive and it is a best practice for Africa. There is entrepreneurship, there is education and training, and there is basic science and technology. These knowledge aspects were not there in the old curriculum. We have been able to introduce that in our curriculum in order to give a broad base education to our children in line with transforming them. So, I could say that to that extent, we have been able to drive that transformation within the context of education by creating teachable and learnable contents that would help resolve our problems. For instance, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) have four main focal areas that are very critical. One is to empower the people and to change their values.

Are these entrepreneurship subjects to be thought at the primary and junior secondary school only?
At the senior secondary school level, we introduced 34 entrepreneurial/trade subjects. They were not there before 2008 in the old curriculum. I don’t know when you left secondary school, but if you thought of how you were taught to take WAEC or NECO, it was purely academic. I’m not too sure you were given opportunity to learning entrepreneurial skills. These are local skills that one may ignore, but they are very fundamental. I am talking about skills like garment making, hair dressing and technical skills. You will learn one so that even if you are going further in higher institution, you would have gained some skills. That is how countries developed, whether in America or in Europe or in the Asian pacific countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan among others. The youths are trained in functional entrepreneurial skills, just as they are also trained in education content. So, we have been able to bring these skills to bear in the senior secondary school curriculum. All these things go into the transformation; all these things go to ensure we give flesh to the president’s idea of transformation with respect to education. So, that is what we have been able to do and we will keep expanding and improving.

The role of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC)  in the education sector, is highly invaluable, how has  the transformation agenda of the current administration, fared in the sector?
In 2010, Mr. President directed that a stakeholders meeting be held, with particular focus on reform. Mr. President attended and chaired it. The whole idea was to ensure that there is a reformation of the educational system and a restoration of education quality at all levels. One of the windows of opportunity in that presidential stakeholders’ forum was the issue of content of education. If you think about reforming education you must think of what children should learn in school.

The whole idea of education is to change behaviour in a positive manner and to enable people acquire competence to survive in their world of work. I was part of the Presidential Task Team on Education (PTTE) committee that worked on the report of Mr. President’s stakeholders’ forum. One critical thing that came out sharply was that there was need to ensure that what we teach our children is internationally competitive and in line with best practices. So, at various levels of education we should teach them what is socially compliant in our context that would resolve our problems. We should also teach them what would make them compare with their peers elsewhere.

For instance, if you produce a Nigerian medical doctor in Nigeria, it is not just to solve the problems of this country but also to be able him  face his colleagues elsewhere to compete with international skills. Same goes to lawyers or engineers, same goes to teachers and same goes to anyone that is a product of education. So, my agency has critical mandate and one of them is to develop school curriculum and to conduct research for public policy. The other is to create avenue for language development and, of course, to create avenues for developing resources and textbooks.  So, with respect to latching on to what Mr. President has done, with respect to educational development, my agency creates contents of education or what is now referred to as ‘knowledge production’.

I could say that, following the transformation from that stakeholders’ forum, we have created a nine-year basic education curriculum which is being acknowledged at the highest level of UNESCO International Bureau for Education as globally competitive and it is a best practice for Africa. There is entrepreneurship, there is education and training, and there is basic science and technology. These knowledge aspects were not there in the old curriculum. We have been able to introduce that in our curriculum in order to give a broad base education to our children in line with transforming them. So, I could say that to that extent, we have been able to drive that transformation within the context of education by creating teachable and learnable contents that would help resolve our problems. For instance, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) have four main focal areas that are very critical. One is to empower the people and to change their values.

Are these entrepreneurship subjects to be thought at the primary and junior secondary school only?
At the senior secondary school level, we introduced 34 entrepreneurial/trade subjects. They were not there before 2008 in the old curriculum. I don’t know when you left secondary school, but if you thought of how you were taught to take WAEC or NECO, it was purely academic. I’m not too sure you were given opportunity to learning entrepreneurial skills. These are local skills that one may ignore, but they are very fundamental. I am talking about skills like garment making, hair dressing and technical skills. You will learn one so that even if you are going further in higher institution, you would have gained some skills. That is how countries developed, whether in America or in Europe or in the Asian pacific countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan among others. The youths are trained in functional entrepreneurial skills, just as they are also trained in education content. So, we have been able to bring these skills to bear in the senior secondary school curriculum. All these things go into the transformation; all these things go to ensure we give flesh to the president’s idea of transformation with respect to education. So, that is what we have been able to do and we will keep expanding and improving.

What of school drop outs who may have left school before these skills were being imparted on the students?
There is what we call upstream activities in knowledge production which is the knowledge and downstream which are the activities that follow. Recently the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) contracted my agency to develop special curriculum for out of school youths in South-south and South-east. We are currently doing that. Mr. President inaugurated a committee through the supervising Minister of Education for establishing special schools for South-south and South-east youths that are out of school. Youths are out of school. How do we bring them back to school? We need to create opportunity that would interest them and one of those opportunities is to create special content curriculum that would enable them deepen their skills functionally.
It is the curriculum that we developed that was adapted to the social context of the almajiri and some of the almajiri schools are now flourishing. So, these are some of the things I could say we have been able to do to drive into the transformation agenda of Mr. President to ensure that we get it right for education.

What are the challenges you encounter in doing all these?  
People refuse to move away from established tradition. For instance, if you as a journalist is attending a particular church, there is a particular seat you like to sit. The tendency is that if you keep sitting there, you will continue sitting on that seat. That is tradition. And so if you enter your church and discover that somebody sits on that seat, you will not be very happy. I am trying to show an allegory between resistance to change and the challenges we are having. It is to promote this transformation to say we need to transform the society generically that people are having issues of change because if you say you want to change somebody, he will say ‘but I’m used to where I am; I don’t know why I ought to go’. I want to make more practical what I have said. We are introducing entrepreneurial skills in schools, people ask ‘ah, Prof. who is going to teach them these entrepreneur trades? We have not even finished teaching the basic mathematics and English, you are talking of barbing and garment making as well as painting and decoration’. And I ask them at what point do we learn those things? And I say no, it is smooth transition.

There is what we call upstream activities in knowledge production which is the knowledge and downstream which are the activities that follow. Recently the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) contracted my agency to develop special curriculum for out of school youths in South-south and South-east. We are currently doing that. Mr. President inaugurated a committee through the supervising Minister of Education for establishing special schools for South-south and South-east youths that are out of school. Youths are out of school. How do we bring them back to school? We need to create opportunity that would interest them and one of those opportunities is to create special content curriculum that would enable them deepen their skills functionally.
It is the curriculum that we developed that was adapted to the social context of the almajiri and some of the almajiri schools are now flourishing. So, these are some of the things I could say we have been able to do to drive into the transformation agenda of Mr. President to ensure that we get it right for education.

What are the challenges you encounter in doing all these?
People refuse to move away from established tradition. For instance, if you as a journalist is attending a particular church, there is a particular seat you like to sit. The tendency is that if you keep sitting there, you will continue sitting on that seat. That is tradition. And so if you enter your church and discover that somebody sits on that seat, you will not be very happy. I am trying to show an allegory between resistance to change and the challenges we are having. It is to promote this transformation to say we need to transform the society generically that people are having issues of change because if you say you want to change somebody, he will say ‘but I’m used to where I am; I don’t know why I ought to go’. I want to make more practical what I have said. We are introducing entrepreneurial skills in schools, people ask ‘ah, Prof. who is going to teach them these entrepreneur trades? We have not even finished teaching the basic mathematics and English, you are talking of barbing and garment making as well as painting and decoration’. And I ask them at what point do we learn those things? And I say no, it is smooth transition.

No tags for this post.

Sign Up Now

ePaper Subscription