…Practical policy review of education and digital compliance are vital to Nigerian academic advancement in the post COVID-19 period
The Federal Government of Nigeria has announced August 4 as the reopening of schools for exit secondary students in another phase of the COVID-19 lockdown easing.
This automatically compels the state governments to follow suit in returning students to academic environments following disruption of their school calendar for nearly five months as a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The recommencement of the academic programmes is to prepare them for their terminal examinations according to the timetables provided as applicable to the younger generation. It is relevant to note that while the graduating primary school pupils are included in the resumption plan, tertiary education is left out which poses a concern for the academic blueprint of the country.
While it is appropriate to consider the safety of the Nigerian students by providing adequate measures to help them combat and curtail the pandemic, it is also instrumental as a nation to review our educational roadmap considering the new normal post COVID-19 era.
The New Normal is a system that the society settles into after a disaster different from the prevailed situation prior to the pandemic. The point is that the educational system is advancing globally to the new normal, but are we prepared as a country, and in this context educationally?
There is no gainsaying the fact that the post-COVID-19 era will be driven by technology. All sectors of the economy would function effectively with the aid of technological and digital skills, and education that drives growth and development would be dominant to achieving this but it does appear that the authorities in Nigeria are still oblivious of this reality. Nigeria’s education policy and its operation is backward. This explains why the university and other forms of tertiary education cannot resume their interrupted programs.
Primarily, education by its definition is targeted to inculcate values, skills, aptitudes, and beliefs that will refine the human mind. It is then obvious that Nigerian education has failed in the 21st century to address this, because most values, skills, aptitudes and beliefs in this period are technologically-oriented. At this present digital age, economies are driven by computerised abilities. This elucidates one of the reasons a large chunk of our teeming graduates cannot compete in the digital world.
During the COVID-19 total lockdown, education globally was only adjusted but not completely grounded as we had in our case. Afghanistan continued its education through the sharing of educational content as videos on websites and schools’ portals as well as on social media. The same went for Austria, Argentina, and other economies around the world. It was impressive to realise that the oversea schools still maximise virtual means to continue their admission, registration, learning, and scholarship activities, while Nigeria was submerged in confusion.
There is a lot wrong with our educational system. It cuts across stagnant educational policy, outdated curriculum, lack of incentives for teachers, unavailability of credit support, and infrastructural decay. All these paucities constantly paralyse our education, thereby largely affecting national progress. Nigeria should take a giant step in the right direction to address these anomalies before the full resumption of the educational system. However, the question remains if we have any plans, mechanisms, and resources to achieve this phenomenal project. If there is none, it is not late to begin.
The United States, which Nigeria models her presidential system of government after, is enough a model for this country in the journey to educational advancement. America constantly reviews its educational curriculum and policies to fit into the primary need of the society as well as addressing the globe. For instance, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law in 2015 reauthorising the existing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to redirect the longstanding commitment of the government to equal opportunities for all students.
As regards educational policy formulation and review, all stakeholders should get involved including the students, guardians, teachers, government planners in education, and the entrepreneurs. The system can be remarkably functional if the economic drivers and the education planners have consultations to regularly analyse and evaluate the economic needs and equip their graduates to fit into the specific industry which determines the entire economy. The relevance is so remarkable that a course taught as Telecoms in the previous year has been modified to WiFi and Broadband Technology because the US does not waggle in obsolescence.
How about funding of education? It is a collective framework of responsibility. There are organisations and government educational loan schemes that students can access to finance education. The American society works on interconnectivity of systems that private and public organisations can fund students’ education in return for their services after graduation for certain period of time.
In terms of online learning, children from kindergarten levels have access to virtual learning in which diphthongs and other subjects could be learned on their iPads. During COVID-19, academic works were done at home, sent to the teachers who graded them and returned to them, all virtually. In the same manner, students from the elementary stage would receive surveys to evaluate their teachers’ performances and sent to school authorities. The list of the American educational advantage for Nigeria to derive is immeasurable. And considering the space, the experience of the high school and college students in the use of virtual skills to education cannot be discussed in this piece.
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The Nigerian educational system needs a comprehensive revamping. The obsolete courses and subjects that do not fit into this 21st century should be removed. Of what relevance are Philosophy, Zoology, Archaeology, Classics and the likes to the Nigerian economy? The point is that the advanced nations still inject their significance into the system, but reverse is the case here. What we know best to do is turning these graduates of these dignified courses to classroom teachers.
Recently, Microsoft launched an initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire digital skills needed in a post-COVID-19 economy. The courses include Project Management, Digital Marketing, Data Analysis, Graphics Design, Financial Analysis, Customer Service, Sales Representation, Software Development, IT Administration, etc and registration is free. These are the directions that Nigeria should pattern her educational policies. Blockchain and startups, content production, and social media management, artificial management are filling the workplaces rather than all craps we promote in our higher institutions.
The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommends that 15 per cent– 26 per cent of the annual budget should be voted for education. Nigeria, however, allocated 7.04 per cent, 7.05 per cent, and 6.7 per cent to education sector in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively – an indicator that our educational system is malnourished. This has to be addressed at least with 15 per cent of the budget allotted to education as it enormously furnishes the laboratories, libraries, infrastructures, loans, scholarships, and grants which are an integral part of the sector.
More so, if progress would be hugely recorded, the experts in education should spearhead the affairs both theoretically and in implementation. Nigeria has sufficient natural, material, and human resources to thrive as a nation in the post-COVID-19 era, as our development depends on numerous factors, and education is fundamental.