‘Nigerian Education System Need a National Vision’

DARE OJO is an education consultant who has for several years been training and managing people. In this interview with AMECHI OBIAKPU, Ojo, who is the Managing Director of International Management Training Centre (IMTC), an affiliate institute to universities in the UK, declares that without proper education road map the country’s education standard will continue to fall.

Business Express: What is your reaction to the recent reduction of JAMB cut-off mark from 200 to 180?
Dare Ojo:
It is an acknowledgement of the same issues we have been dealing with over the years about the dwindling general academic performance of students. In the first instance, the 200 cut-off mark, we were not given adequate information as to why it was set because in assessment we have what is called assessment bench marks wherein students are evaluated based on their performance capacities. Now it is been reduced to 180, I think it is a tactical way of saying that students’ performance on a national level can no longer meet up with the minimum performance that was previously set. Don’t forget that it is not just the JAMB cut-off mark – even in the national unity school examinations across the nation we have a stratified cut-off mark for different states, educationally disadvantaged and all. For me, I think it is a tactical admittance on the part of government that the performance level of the students can no longer measure up, so it’s a way of trying to accommodate more people into higher institution.

It was said to be reduced due to the poor performance of students. Given this information, how do you think it should have been handled?
I think government reducing it simply said we have no solution, because lowering academic performance is not something you treat at the JAMB level – it starts from the primary school and then to secondary school. If the JAMB cut-off mark was reduced because the performance of the students has fallen, that means the standard of education has fallen. What the government is saying is that the standard of education has fallen we have no answer.

What should the government have done?
I think we need to look at our educational system again and get our priorities right because this quick-fix solution to the educational problem is not sustainable. You must also not forget that national development is built on adequate, well trained manpower. We need to overhaul the entire educational sector and look at our national manpower road map again to identify those areas where we have strengths and weaknesses. Don’t forget our vocational and technical education unit is nowhere as we speak because there are so many people who are pursuing degrees whereas based on their intellectual capability what they need is vocational and technical education.

What then is the problem with the education sector?
As an educator, I do not understand what the national vision for education is; the fundamentals are not just there; it is after such foundation has been laid that we can have something to build on to be able to assess where we need to be. Where do we want to go as a nation? What kind of skill set do we need? What kind of education will provide the skill set? What kind of assessment procedures will enable us achieve those skill set and know who will drive the curriculum?

Does ASUU strike in anyway help the sector or the people?
I strongly feel that government should give the universities full autonomy; to hire and negotiate with whoever they want. Let the schools fix their fees, and manage the relationship between the students, and other groups in the school like ASUU, NASU while the government can provide regulations and support. In the UK there are support enterprises such as student loans which help to finance education after which one pays back when he starts working. I believe if introduced in Nigeria it will aid education.

TelI us the objectives of IMTC?
The International Management Training Centre (IMTC) is an education institution whose major goal is to develop local capacity by providing world-class education and supporting that process through a student centre learning approach. We work with British awarding bodies in the UK, who have affiliations with UK universities in business and information technology with a lot of emphasis on management, and have been doing that for the past seven years.
We are at a point where we want to expand to become a full fledged tertiary institution and are already working on it. In our own little way we have established some standards and a framework upon which our business is run. For example, the assessment of our students is not done locally, but by the awarding bodies. However, the students are tutored very well and they have done exceptionally well. Again, we have also been able to say that if we have small class size, it is possible for the students to get maximum attention from the teachers. By so doing, we are able to bring out the best in them.
Those who are not exceptionally brilliant in terms of academics, we have a pastoral care system to help them. There are so many things that affect students’ performance: some are very brilliant but are distracted; hence the pastoral care system we have put in place, which has gone a long way to ensure that the social issues that affect academic performance are dealt with.

How did it start?
Seven years ago, we had concern that a lot of people were travelling abroad to study, some were even denied visa; we decided to bridge the gap. It was not easy at the beginning, though, due to various challenges ranging from power to other economic challenges. Every year over 36,000 students apply for visa to study in the UK. The numbers we do each year is a fraction of that and we can actually reduce that number if we have support to expand our capacity.

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