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Education is generally defined as an aggregate of all the processes by which a child or young adult develops his/her abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour which are of value to the society in which he/she lives.
It is the conscious training of the young to a life useful to him/her and to the society to which he belongs. In line with this, Osindeinde (1999) stated that education is an organized and sustained communication designed to bring about learning which involves the acquisition of basic and necessary skills, knowledge and competence by the learner to change his/her attitude positively towards contributing to the national economic development.
It is the society that educates the child, and such education starts from early years of life popularly referred to as life-long education.
Education provides the child the opportunities to discover self and become useful and self-reliant. The various levels of education, which are applicable to the Nigerian situation, include the pre-primary, primary, secondary, as well as tertiary.
To catch up with the rest of the world, Nigeria has joined other developing countries in the quest for economic and technological improvement through education.
Whereas this is the case, a trip down the lane of education indicates that education in Nigeria has been declining in purpose.
The public seem to believe that the standard of education in Nigeria has fallen greatly.
it is the belief of people that most things the primary school leavers of yesteryears could do, cannot be effectively done by secondary students of today. For example, products of primary schools of yesteryears could easily write letters, whereas secondary school students of today cannot.
The views of scholars on the standard of education vary. This is because there is no well defined instrument to measure it with utmost reliability and validity, and so, it is a relative term.
Scholars view standard of education from different perspectives, depending on the angle each of them is looking at it from.
Causes of Falling Standard
Causes of falling standard of education in Nigeria include: Crave for paper qualification, Government Being the Source of the Problem, Poor Infrastructure, Accessibility to Schools, Teachers’ Welfare, Sector Neglect, Examination Malpractice, Lack of Dedication of Teachers, and Uninterestedness of Parents in their Children’s Education.
1. Crave for Paper Qualification: Nigerians’ crave for paper qualification above performance in the fields is alarming. Since there is very poor facility for teaching and learning, and overcrowding in the Nigeria educational system, the only resort is mostly theoretical teaching and learning without hands-on activities by students and pupils, which has led to rote learning. Field exposure in most cases is highly lacking.
2. Government Being the Source of the Problem: Government can be held to be responsible for the falling standard of education. Government change policies concerning education frequently, leaving both teachers and students confused. For example, the school feeding programme launched in 2005 by the Obasanjo regime was stopped at the pilot stage by next regime due to flimsy excuse of using the fund met for the school feeding programme for the provision of more needed infrastructure in the school system. They also do not equip classrooms, laboratories and workshops appropriately and adequately to enable effective learning. Corrupt officers who misuse institutions’ funds go unpunished. Exam malpractices, which is one of the major causes of falling standard of education has not been tackled by government.
3. Poor Infrastructure: Teachers cannot perform miracles without the necessary teaching tools. All levels of education in Nigeria lack the necessary facilities for teaching and learning. Seats, desks, library, books, laboratories and workshops are lacking in schools.
4. Accessibility to Schools: The Nigerian school age children have outnumbered existing schools. This is the result of over admission seen in all levels of the school system in Nigeria. The benchmark in all aspects of the school system towards optimum utilization of the school facilities that enhances attainment of students in the school is no longer feasible. For example, teacher/student ratio of 1: 25 is no longer the case in classes; students/ books/journal ratio of 1; 10 is no longer the case; admission targets to conform with existing facilities are abused by school authorities. At the university level, the recent clamp down by the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council (NMDC) on universities that have over-admitted students into the programmes in Medicine that brought confusion into the colleges of medicine is a case in point.
5. Teachers’ Welfare. Various Governments have handled teachers’ welfare with carefree attitude. Until university teachers go on strike to demand for increased welfare packages, federal government would not listen to them. Until teachers in both primary and secondary schools went on strike to make demands for the Teachers’ Salary Scale (TSS) (enhanced package), their employers, the state governments did not listen to them. Even when the parties reached agreement for a 27% increase in salary, many of the state governments who were part of negotiations took them many months to implement the TSS.
6. Sector Neglect: The problem of education emerged from the neglect which the sector suffered from in the 1980’s leading to the gradual erosion of the system. Inadequacy of funding, lack of teaching tools and modern classrooms, poor numerations and the acute shortage of qualified teachers, have all contributed to the fall in the standard of education in Nigeria.
7. Examination Malpractice: Examination malpractice has pervaded all the levels of education in Nigeria. Students are the centre of examination malpractice; they have masterminded various techniques of examination malpractice. Parents are also helping their children to cheat in examinations. Teachers are also at the centre of examination malpractice helping their students to cheat during examinations. At the secondary schools (mostly private schools), some schools have become miracle schools where schools make students pay to be helped in examinations.
8. Lack of Dedication of Teachers: Lack of dedication and punctuality to duty by teachers contribute to the falling standard of education. Teachers show divided loyalty to teaching. Most teachers pay lip-service to their jobs, spending more time and energy in other businesses and less time in the classroom.
9. Shortage of Teachers: High shortage of teachers in all subject areas in the school. The situation is so terrible to the extent that in some schools, only the principal may be the only staff in the school.
10.Uninterestedness of Parents in their Children’s Education: Parents are not left out in the blame on the falling standard of education in Nigeria. Most of them do not care about their children’s education. They put all their attention into money-making, leaving the children’s guidance and motivation to housemaids and drivers. As a result of this, the children’s projects, home work are left undone. Children are left to watch television all day to the detriment of their homework, projects undone.
Based on the problems or causes identified above, the following solutions are proffered:
1. Performance should be regarded and respected more than just paper qualification. Cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain should be used for assessment of students.
2. More schools should be built to increase accessibility to all.
3. Teachers’ welfare should be given priority by government to avoid unnecessary strikes in our educational sector while more qualified teachers should be employed to curb the present shortage of teachers in our schools.
4. Teachers should be trained to meet with new the challenges in the educational sector. All teachers should be trained to be computer literate.
5. Educational facilities should be upgraded to modern standards while teaching facilities should be adequately provided.
6. Improvement in student’s communication skills and the use of computers and information technologies will increase productivity, and in long run translate into lasting, durable and participatory democracy. This will help to transform the education sector to a viable sector.
7. The need to improve higher education should begin with giving greater attention to preschool, elementary secondary and vocational schools. These are the building blocks of the society’s educational foundation, as not everybody needs a university education. The Nigerian society must make meaningful use of the benefits of the UPE programme which provides free education between the ages of six and fourteen.
8. Governments in Nigeria should guarantee free lunch to children in primary schools to needy pupils as no child will learn while hungry. The school free lunch programme will ensure high enrolment and attendance of children to school. The school feeding programme which started in Nigeria in 2005 as a pilot programme in some states and was stopped by the Umaru Yar’Adua Regime, should be resuscitated.
9. Federal and State Governments should device ways and means of helping financially handicapped students in higher institutions by making available affordable financial loans to enable needy students to complete their education. Adequate arrangements must be in place to collect loans from students as soon as they are employed.
Ayoyo Taiwo is a student of Mass Communication at Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria.