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Education: Beyond the facts and figures

By Kayode Crown

Education is beyond the acquisition of facts and figures contained in textbooks or outlined in the curriculum.

It should be beyond “copy and paste”, “garbage in garbage out,” beyond mindless repetition. It should move beyond being a drudgery, beyond generating the I-can’t-wait-to-leave-the-class-to-do-some-fun-things attitude in the learners.

There is need to change how we think about this all important part of our societal well-being and development.

For the government to policy makers and other stakeholders, there is need for major adjustments.

The teachers should not see their job as a necessary evil towards earning a paycheck at the end of the month. Each child under their care should be able to make a reference to the teachers as someone who goes beyond the call of duty to offer genuine care, support and mentorship to the wards under their purview year in year out.

The attitude the teacher displays in the classroom should be that of joy and excitement, which will in turn determine the attitude of the students to the subject or course.

With a loving attitude towards the students, we would no longer have repulsive stories from our ivory towers about sex for marks, or victimisation of the students in such ways as have become a blight on tertiary education in Nigeria.

It seems that for a long time, the concerned authorities have treated this issue with kid’s glove, almost as if they are siding with their colleague or they also have their hands soiled by the same forbidden fruit.

With universities seriously affected by sex predation of lecturers, what kind of society would we have, since the lecturers are preparing the leaders of tomorrow? Won’t they become people with pent up anger waiting for the opportunity to unleash such on the unsuspecting public?

There is also the need to actively link educational activities with the current trends in the job market. We shouldn’t just develop mental acuity in the halls of learning, education should also have a strong connection with job relevance.

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The current educational trend is to link classroom with the workplace, with real life situations brought to the table as case studies. Classroom should connect  to day to day life, connecting with trending issues grappled with in the workplace.

I watched a TED Talk video where the woman making a presentation reflected on her learning the words of the alphabet starting with A for apple.

The speaker revealed how her lack of familiarity with what apple is, developed a sense of inferiority and a disconnect between herself and the education she was supposedly acquiring at primary school level.

She commented on how that has been the manner the letters of the English alphabet is learnt by English speaking African countries for decades, from the time when colonialism was in full swing.

The TED talk struck a cord within me. It shows that the education we receive seems like the reality of other people and not ours. It’s like we are in an educational trance which has nothing to do with us and we can’t wait to wake up from.

With that as a picture of our education system, we don’t have a choice but to say what we have is archaic, retrogressive and merely about regurgitating information acquired long ago, which have not been questioned and repurposed  to fit our reality as a people.

Hence, we produce people who think education is merely about sterile facts and figures to be regurgitated dispassionately during tests and examination to get good results that will get you employed by banks where the rat race to “make it in life” begins.

No one is being trained and prepared to be solution provider, because, how can you even solve a problem that you are not aware of, that you are disconnected from as you merely “cram and pour” and after then forget and move to the next thing to “cram and pour”?

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A way to rectify this is to rethink the process of assessment towards putting more emphasis on case studies and real life relevance of what is learnt. This would generate more engagement and education will better connect with the ongoing reality in the society.

It should not just be teachers in training who do teaching practice that need to engage is such active outside-the-walls-of-the-lecture-rooms acquisition of practical experience, with direct interaction with the public when it comes to their particular area of educational pursuit, everyone in school need something like that.

This disconnect from the reality of the modern workplace is why many employers of labour complain, not of the dearth of people looking for jobs, but those properly qualified to solve the problems for the companies.

The society is breeding people who are only money-conscious and looking for all manner of ways to get as much of it as possible with little effort on their part.

The consciousness has not been developed in them that they are meant to develop themselves in a particular area of passion where they are more suited to help the society to grow.

They have not been trained to think of providing solutions and that when they do that, they can make profit corresponding to the problem they solve by applying themselves profitably.

We are breeding people who are perpetually looking for handouts, rather than what they can contribute through new thinking, by coming up with creative solutions to some old problems. But it is through those people that the society can develop.

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We truly need to think of the way that we can better transform our education sector.

Taking education beyond the facts and figures also includes prioritisation of ongoing training even after the basic educational pursuit ends.

Advancement is taking place all the time. Therefore, the imperative of training and retraining cannot be overemphasised. It is the quality of people we have that will determine the quality of the society as a whole. A laid back attitude will not do.

Those with the passion to see transformational education system in the country should be deployed to take the initiative in this area.

We need new education models developed. Subjects that are difficult to teach need to be creatively taught to made them interesting and engaging for the learners. Teachers who excel need to be regularly recognised and rewarded to impress on them that reward is no longer in heaven, but on the earth.

While talking about taking education beyond the facts and figures, one figure that we cannot avoid is the amount invested in education. But it is not enough to just pump money haphazardly into this important sector. There needs to be a clear definition of where we want to go and money allocated intentionally in that direction. If you want to become technologically advanced, then that will be where the financial energy is channeled because if we aim for nothing then that is what we will get.

I also want to suggest, as it is done in more advanced country, for the setting up of special schools for specially gifted children, so that they can be better challenged by those around them, and properly groomed and challenged to translate their abilities to public good and the end, and not just rot away. It is time we take an educational leap as a nation.

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