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We’re Only Training Students To Speak English – Prof Bidmos

Professor Murtala Bidmos of college of education, University of explains why the 9-3-4 education policy cannot be implemented in Nigeria

Professor Muritala Aderemi Bidmos is a former of the education faculty, University of Lagos
Professor Muritala Aderemi Bidmos is a former of the education faculty, University of Lagos

In this interview, Professor Muritala Aderemi Bidmos, former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos (UNILAG,) speaks on challenges with Nigeria education sector and how to make education a tool for driving development.

In other climes we see how research from universities drive technological, industrial and even medical development. Why is it not so here?

Our case in Nigeria is different for a variety of reasons. First, there is a disconnect between our education and our culture. In China for example, education evolved from the Chinese culture to the extent that the medium of expression at home is the same used in the school, in the press, in the entertainment industry, etc.

So, there is a perfect harmony between the society and the institutions of higher learning. You have the same situation in the USA, UK, Japan and all developed economies. But in Nigeria, you are educated to join the league of elites and not necessarily to make impact.

Second, there is a perfect synergy between the gown and town in those developed economies. The gown is perfectly aware of what the town needs and works towards meeting such needs. A friend’s son who wanted to do a PhD in the UK looked for scholarship from Nigeria but could not find.

The boy’s supervisor, a Briton, someone we never even met, went around the industries in London and found a company that was interested in the boy’s area of study. The company did not only grant the boy a scholarship, it also refunded all expenses he incurred on his master’s degree because the programme was found impressive.

Who is interested in your research in Nigeria? Third, in our culture, there is no unemployment. So far, my best days were my primary and secondary days when we used to go to farm on weekends to work on the farm.

The motivation was feeding well and coming back home with something to sell that would give us enough money to spend in the school Monday to Friday. But unemployment is a product of our educational system which emphasizes the teaching of English, smartness and elitism.

You have to look for those who are interested in that kind of learning. In other climes, the societal needs determine what is taught in the school as against our situation where curriculum is permanently fixed.

We should be talking about the factors that produced 10.5 million out-of-school children. If somebody who cannot maintain one wife married four and all of them are producing maximally, you can expect 10.5 million out-of-school children.

How can we make education at all levels more impactful?

When we stop planning and start implementing our numerous plans. There must be a paradigm shift. Our education system is bedeviled by too much of planning with little or no implementation. There is what we call policy summersault; that is, issuing policies every day.

One minister of Education produced what she called a ‘’10 Year Blue Print in Education”. Her successor produced what he called a “Road Map on Education”. The next one, a female minister, produced her own policy and called it a name.

Then, there was a Task Force on Education set up by the Jonathan administration. The report of that Task Force was published as another policy on Education. You have to recall the publication of 9-3-4 policy which was to replace 6-3-3-4.

Ironically, the architects of 9-3-4 system, cannot not explain what it is all about. The system cannot be implemented because there is no provision that keeps the pupils in one place for nine years.

Many products of Nigerian university are referred to as half-baked and unemployable graduates. How can we reverse the trend?

How much time do they spend in the lecture rooms as against periods of “leisure”? Are we educating them for employment or for certification? Is the industry interested in what is going on in the universities?

Is there any synergy between the trainers and the end users of the products? Do the universities and industries interact to exchange ideas and funds? Is our education structured in a way that will drive industry?

The Nigerian character adversely affects everything we do in the country. When education is seen as an indispensable instrument of development by the university community, the industry and the government and all of them are ready to make education a priority project which is given all the attention it deserves, then we would be getting close to it.

One minister of Education produced what she called a ‘’10 Year Blue Print in Education”. Her successor produced what he called a “Road Map on Education”. The next one, a female minister, produced her own policy and called it a name. Then, there was a Task Force on Education set up by the Jonathan administration. The report of that Task Force was published as another policy on Education.

Do you think Nigerians need to pay more for better quality?

There is an element of hypocrisy in the whole education business. For example, what some parents spend on a child in the high-profile primary and secondary schools in Nigeria is enough to educate ten undergraduates. Records are there.

Some universities in West Africa survive on fees paid by the Nigerian parents or their wards. What are we talking about? In the developed economies, university education is financed through reasonable fees, grants from philanthropists, endowments and funds from alumni. But in Nigeria, we expect the government to foot the whole bill. It is not done in other climes. If we want quality education, all hands must be on deck.

There are over 10.5 million out-of-school Nigerian children, how can this trend be reversed?

We should be talking about the factors that produced 10.5 million out-of-school children. If somebody who cannot maintain one wife married four and all of them are producing maximally, you can expect 10.5 million out-of-school children.

China had one-family-one child policy. It worked for them. Recently, they saw a need to review the one child policy for demographical reasons. Is the promulgation of such a policy possible in Nigeria without stepping on toes of some religious vendors who will be wrongly interpreting the holy books to justify multiplicity of wives that leads to reckless production of the 10.5 million out-of-school children?

In the Qur’an and Hadith, polygamy is permissible, optional and not compulsory. The insinuation created in some quarters to the extent of making polygamy (up to four wives) mandatory is misleading, un-Godly and an outright misrepresentation of Shari’ah (Q. 4: 3).

It is emphatically stated in the Qur’an that God will not put any difficulty (haraj or kulfah) on human beings in matters of religion (Q. 2: 286 & 22: 78). What is the ranking of education in the scale of priorities in Nigeria?

As a people, if we are ready to right-click education, that is, put it in its normal position, we should critically and honestly study all the cultural, religious and political factors that are responsible for denying 10.5 million children education.

We've seen a number of teachers sacked in public schools over poor qualification. How did the quality of teaching get to this level?

You cannot improve the quality of education by sacking the so called unqualified teachers. Where are the proud, keen and enthusiastic teachers in the system? Right now, teaching is not a prestigious career.

Parents would not like to see their wards train as teachers. In the fifties when I was in primary school, teachers were held in high esteem in the society, respected and wowed. They were proud of their profession and status because the government paid special attention to their training and welfare and the society revered them.

They were a special class. Unfortunately, the oil boom era dramatically changed the equation; the value system was altered and money only became the yardstick to earn respect. Teachers became faceless and were dragged to the back seat.

Adequate attention to the plight of teachers such as serious training, provision of a robust welfare package, a serene school environment, school curriculum that is in tandem with the societal needs will do the trick.
Ironically, the architects of 9-3-4 system, cannot not explain what it is all about. The system cannot be implemented because there is no provision that keeps the pupils in one place for nine years.
Is there a future for public schools in Nigeria considering how private schools are taking over?

There is no place in the world where education enterprise is the preserve of the private sector. Neither should we expect the government alone to handle it.

Education should be treated as a joint venture between the public and private sectors. The resources required to float quality education is so huge that a single sector of the society cannot afford it. All hands must be on deck.

The fundamental issue is our perception of education and its role in the society. Do we see education as an indispensable instrument of development in all its ramifications? A critical examination of our attitude to education will reveal our inner feeling about education; it is to produce elites who can speak English fluently and be smart. Please, we must admit the fact that education for certification and mastery of English cannot fly.

Right now, our philosophy of education is fluid. It is an essay that lacks precision.

If you had your way, what would be your top priorities in education?

Statement of a philosophy of education that is concise, definitive and pointed will take the driver’s seat. Right now, our philosophy of education is fluid. It is an essay that lacks precision. I will pay attention to what happens in elementary and secondary schools; pupils at this level must be given integrated knowledge in a manner that accurately sharpens their world view.

Teachers will be reasonably trained and respected. I will ensure selection to the tertiary institutions a corps of personnel who can correctly define what university education entails and who will never take industrial actions as a way to speak with the authorities.

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