The other anomaly that Government needs to look at is the one which inadvertently pushes candidates who fail to meet the cut-off mark for their chosen degree programs at university, to the teaching profession instead. This means they do not become teachers because that is their burning ambition but only as a fall-back after failing to gain admission for the regular degree course. This is because the cut-off mark to gain admission for Education courses is significantly lower. It is therefore difficult to see how we can successfully build centres of educational excellence when the government’s own policy primarily attracts 2nd XI players! Let us compare this to what obtains in Finland.
In Finland, all teachers, with the exemption of kindergarten teachers, are required not only to have a university degree but a Masters degree. Even kindergarten teachers must possess a university First degree. It doesn’t end there though. The hurdle that must be scaled to become a qualified teacher is set so high and as a result, teachers are selected from only the top 10% of graduates. As you may expect, this doesn’t just make it a highly sought after profession but it makes it a very respected one too. In the Finnish society, the whole system very intentionally comes together to motivate the teachers as well as inspire the pupils and students into wanting to fulfill their potentials. What can be more motivating or more rewarding for a teacher than to witness first hand, the all round progress one’s country makes, due to its ethos and its general pursuit of excellence which they played a significant part in embedding?
An army where everyone wants to be a General and no one wants to be a foot soldier cannot win a single battle because it’s common knowledge that Generals don’t fight – they only strategize, coordinate and command. I say this because in Nigeria, little effort has been made to develop vocational training to bring it to be at par with academic training, either in quality or in terms of social acceptance. Here in Nigeria, school children are left with very few options outside going to university and the truth is that we are not all suited for academics. The sooner we put ego aside and accept that reality, the better. I remember seeing an excerpt about four years of an interview conducted by Punch newspaper of Professor Muyiwa Falaiye, the then Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos. In that interview he complained bitterly that 60% of students at Nigerian universities had no business being there. He is in perfect position to know what he’s saying and of course, he’s right. Most who end up at university have either been railroaded by parents who don’t want to be outdone by peers whose children are at university or because they believe a university certificate is the surest way to secure their future. How different things could have been if successive Nigerian governments had cast their sights in the direction of countries such as Finland, who separate into two groups at the beginning of senior secondary school, those who will take matriculation exams to gain admission to university in three years time and those whose strengths obviously lie in their technical abilities. Kindly note that like the university destined pupils, the technically inclined pupils too are prepared for several years at secondary school before gaining admission to technical school. So there’s a deliberate policy to cater for academic and vocational education equally, without a hint of bias. Being an egalitarian society, both university educated and technical school trained citizens can look forward to respectable and rewarding careers. Both are equally appreciated for making crucial contributions to the advancement and wellbeing of their society.
There is certainly a dearth of and an urgent need for more academic institutions in Nigeria that can stand their own amongst renowned global peers. You will however find that it is the countries which approach education from a holistic perspective and not just from one of academics or even schooling, that score highest in all the relevant indices in gauging societal prosperity i.e per capita income and average life expectancy amongst others. This is worth noting.
Both the Nigerian federal and subnational governments have a lot to gain from studying Finland’s progressive educational policies. Though Finland runs a common comprehensive educational policy across the country, it decentralizes decision making, giving individual school authorities the power and latitude to make significant decisions despite being government funded. This foresight in policy of course leads to swifter decision making and greater efficiency. Perhaps expectedly too, this produces a better quality of decisions to address the individual school’s peculiar issue or challenge rather than having to abide by decisions made by a central body, which then has a blanket application across all schools. A decision beneficial to one school could be detrimental to many others as one size cannot fit all.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA. Author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.