TEACHER EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY: WHITHER NIGERIA’S COLLEGES OF EDUCATION
A CONVOCATION LECTURE
PRESENTED BY PROF. NIKE Y. SIDIQAT IJAIYA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL MANAGEMENT,
UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN, ILORIN. NIGERIA
AT THE KWARA STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ILORIN
ON FEBRUARY 12, 2019
The graduands of this year’s combined convocation deserve our hearty congratulations. So congratulations to all of them, their families and friends. The College Management and staff also deserve our appreciation for their efforts and determination to arrange this age-long highly respected academic tradition in spite of the challenges. Congratulations too.
I like to start this lecture on ‘3 Ws’ meaning (i) Where we were in Colleges of Education (COE); (2) Where we are now; and (3) Where teacher education ought to be in the 21st century. Then we would examine the contributory factors and proffer some solutions. Many rhetorical questions would also be raised as food for thought in this lecture.
To begin with, we need to touch briefly the genesis of the Colleges of Education (COE). Their birth name was Advanced Teachers College and were four in number namely Advance Teachers College, Ondo; Advanced Teachers College, Zaria, Advanced Teachers College, Kano and Al van Ikoku Advanced Teachers College. The report of Ashby Commission in 1958 which condemned the quality teachers in Nigerian schools then and raised the need for higher grade or more qualified teachers gave birth to those three Advanced Teachers Colleges which have now metamorphosed into today’s numerous Colleges of Education spread across the country. So it was demand for better quality teachers that led to the establishment of the colleges of teacher education. A logical question to ask now perhaps is- Are we back in the same situation we were in 1950s?
In order to fully appreciate the role of teachers and the colleges, we need to underscore what correct education is. This becomes necessary in view of our experiences today.
What is education?
It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify who is truly educated in Nigeria today. Is education simply about being present in school? The education space is so confusing these days that I guess the students are equally confused on their role in education. Truancy, lack of seriousness, anti-social behaviours, and even crimes are common in schools and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). There appears to be what I classify as ‘scholars’ who take their studies seriously and are hardworking as against ‘schoolers’ who just move about the campus without any substance in their head and just waiting for ‘let my people go degree’.
Attempts to define education have been mainly stating its importance rather than its components. For instance, for Nelson Mandela,
Education is the great engine of personal development.
It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can
become a doctor,….that a child of farmworkers can
become the president of a great nation. (Mandela, 1995, p. 166).
Ijaiya (2012) also affirmed “The intention behind education is pure and good. It is to equip the child, as early as possible, with the knowledge, values and skills he needs to navigate this complex world for the sake of his comfort and that of the society” (p.6). The Federal Government of Nigeria captures it as a tool for sustainable development and national unity. From the World Bank perspective, the quality of a country is not so much as number but on the total quality of its citizens (World Bank, 2003) and that is highly dependent on the quality/values of its educational system
Then Mandela provided this wisdom about education “It is what we make out of what we are given, that separates one person from another” (p. 166). Isn’t it true? Today the rise in education standard is creating challenges for quality and confusion for education managers and students that need to be sorted out. How do we match the rapidity of change with quality or funding? This is where the role of the teachers comes in, referring to parents as the early teachers and the school teachers as the guardians of the child.
A look at Nigeria’s National Policy on education, 2013 edition, shows the following specific objectives of our education system: To
From the above objectives, something about education is conspicuously missing, which is character - training. It was perhaps, assumed that it is automatic in schools. This may be because the writers were products of the ‘good old days’ we all yearn for its return, when our parents and the community held themselves accountable for the moral training of their children and other people’s children, and thus complement the schools’ efforts. The society in those days was an embodiment of morality and decorum. Can we say the same today in Nigeria? Where are the credible models?
What therefore is correct education?
From my professional experience, education has three components: Knowledge, Skills and Character (KSC). They are not in any particular order. In fact, they complement each other. Knowledge is about acquisition of information and processing it such as arts and sciences and technical and vocational subjects, while skills are practical-based including language, and now ICT skills, critical thinking, creativity, etc. Language proficiency is basic to all of them and to life-long learning. Character i.e. our behaviour which encompasses core values such as honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, hard work, shame, empathy, humility, respect, morality, accountability, loyalty, etc. The three must be balanced in a correct curriculum. Shamelessness was a big thing in those days frowned at in the community. Without morality, knowledge and skills can become counter- productive and an enemy of the individual and the society. It was part and parcel of the curriculum right from primary schools. It was taught in poetry and practically monitored. Today’s parents prevent teachers from disciplining their children sometimes by beating the teacher while the children are the worse for it because teachers simply give up. They become victims of cultism, rape, hard drugs, examination fraud, peer group influence, prostitution, etc., due to inability to think for themselves. Why are Government and private businesses collapsing? Were things like that in those good old days we now reminiscent about? Were teachers’ colleges or the training of teachers the same as today? At no time in the history of man is critical thinking and morality more in demand than today with the knowledge explosion we now witness that creates anything no matter how dangerous, e.g. the GMO rice, eggs, fake drugs, adulterated drinks, etc.
Where we were in the COE: the good old days
Nigeria’s expectation of teacher education as stated in the national policy on education goes thus, to:
Can we say these goals are being achieved? Is the teacher education space as conducive as that of yesteryears?
Please permit me to use this college as a typical example of teacher training of four to five decades ago in this country. I am using this college to represent others of the time not because of convenience, or because it was my college or for favouritism but rather because in those years it fairly represented its peers professionally in terms of quality of training and output. Those colleges may not have the best of facilities but with what they had then, the professional training was good. The Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin was established in 1974 by the Kwara State Government. After the pioneer four COE, Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin was another destination for teacher trainees. It attracted students not only from Kwara State but also from different parts of the country particularly from the South western Nigeria. I joined the college in 1981 and moved on in 1994 after 13 years of service here and as a Principal Lecturer and Acting Dean of the School of Education. I served no fewer than three substantive Provosts and an Acting one. Any lecturer in the School of Education would have come across all students in the college for lectures at least. So I can say a few things at least about that period.
In terms of administration, we had it good. All the Provosts demanded and received high level of discipline from the staff and students. Students’ results must be out on official date. I recall the era of “if you do this, axe will fall”. Every staff had to be on their toes. In the presentation of results at the Academic Board meeting, the lecturer must account for every missing result. No blank space and failure to do that would earn you a subtle reprimand you would not enjoy. What it means is that, the lecturer must be able to find out why a student did not take the examination or test and indicate it on the result sheet before presentation to the Board. Any Dean whose results were not ready for presentation would also get the ‘reaction’ of the Provost and his colleagues. Sometimes laughter could be a reprimand.
The lecturers responded to these administration’s challenges with all sense of responsibilities. Professionalism was the main focus. We were conscious of the fact that we were to produce highly disciplined and professionally qualified teachers and that was what we did. Right from student admission, quality was never compromised by the Provosts. Credit in English and Mathematics and three other relevant subjects or full Gd II teachers certificate was our admission requirements. Even to qualify for Pre-NCE programme, credit in English was not compromised in our time. Permit me to recall an incident that occurred when I was in charge of the PRE-NCE programme. A ‘big’ person sent admission request to the Provost for a candidate with a Pass in English. The Provost sent for me and asked for my advice. I can still recollect my reply. ‘Sir, we should not compromise our admission requirements’. He said but some colleges are taking a ‘P’ in the North. I said if they are taking it for whatever reason, this college has enough qualified candidates to choose from without lowering our standard. Besides, this college is closer to the western part of the country whose standard is high and which we are drawing our students from. The person should go to where they take a ‘P’ in English. He agreed and that closed the chapter.
Such was the quality of our students. Most of them were matured, qualified Gd II teachers teaching in various schools and who wanted to improve their qualification in the profession they have invested their life in. That was our luck then, may be. They were ready to learn and improve their competence. I remember that the book I wrote here “A Guide to School Supervision” was initiated by my students then because of the dearth of textbooks on educational supervision, which was a compulsory course. I am not sure if such students exist nowadays, at least not in teacher education. When students read text books, from experience, their discussion and answers in class and in examinations are usually richer.
On the practical component, i.e. the Teaching Practice (TP), it was serious business and the students knew it. The supervision was carried out with all sense of responsibility and no lapses were tolerated. If supervisors came to a school and the student teacher was absent without permission from the Principal, or if he was reported for any offence by the school, or recycling notes of lesson, he knew that he has to face the disciplinary committee. The cooperating schools were good and held themselves accountable. Our products are now doing very well. Some are Professors, Lecturers, Permanent Secretaries, Education Administrators, Lawyers, Principals, School proprietors, etc.
In the case of funding, the college did not have enough facilities and it deserved right from inception, to have more beautiful structures than what was inherited from a secondary school. However, what it had was well managed such that it did not generate any crisis. Salary was not fantastic but met the standard of that time and was paid promptly. The issue of subvention, big or small, adequate or inadequate, was not an open issue. There was relative job satisfaction. What I can add is that the college did not have to do special admissions to make ends meet. When the Pre-NCE course was introduced, it was because the intakes from the Gd II teachers were dwindling fast and there was a need to initiate secondary school products into the teachers’ college before they enter the professional training. It was purely a professional move. And such candidates would already have the necessary admission requirements to be admitted into the NCE programme. They were those genuinely interested in the teaching profession, not as a last resort. Such was the environment in which some of us seated here today were trained. Such was the level of professionalism in all colleges of education in those days that produced valuable manpower for the educational system of today: Provosts, lecturers, school administrators, etc. That was 20th century. So what is the situation now in the 21st century?
Where the Colleges are now
Number of colleges - Change, as we know it, is the most constant phenomenon in this world. And colleges of education are not immured to changes. As against the few colleges of education in the eighties, there are as at 2012, 82 accredited colleges in Nigeria comprising of 44 State-owned, 22 private-owned and 14 belonging to the Federal Government. Kwara State has five: 3 State-owned and 2 private). Can the system accommodate all their products? Between the colleges and the Faculties of Education, thousands of teachers are being produced annually, have they been employed? This college alone graduated about 1,900 teachers last session. Are schools not short of teachers nationally and begging for more while many trained teachers, if not most, are still job-hunting? What is the essence of their training by 82 colleges? Over production of professionals more than the market can cope with can become counter-productive especially on quality. The case of Kaduna State sacked teachers is typical of other States. It has tainted the image of that noble profession among other factors. The good thing about the number is that they have helped to expand the much needed access to higher education which was a major concern of the international community in the last two decades. However, can we say the same thing of quality which is now the concern of the 21st century?
Some of the changes that have taken place apart from access which have bearing on colleges of education include:
Combine these factors: weak and uninterested intakes into teacher training, poor training and working environment, poor motivation of teachers, inadequate number of teachers in schools especially in critical subjects, among others, the reason for the dwindling quality of education is obvious.
Where teacher education ought to be in the 21st century
Isn’t it interesting that in this century we now talk of 21st century technology as if there was no technology before year 2000, 21st century teachers or learners or classroom or colleges as if there was no 18th or 15th century teachers or learners or classrooms or colleges. We even hear world class this and that. Of course, there had been revolutions in the past with profound effects on many parts of the world. But the development of ICT in this century is magical and beats them all in various ways. Unlike the others, it spreads information like bush fire, revolutionizes the means of communication, what is communicated, the timing, relationships (business, social, professional), and in particular brought education to the door step of anybody who cares. With one’s smart phone and a bit of language proficiency, one can reach many parts of the world from the corner of one’s home.It does not exclude the illiterates. How does a college of education or teacher training feature in this revolution?
To appreciate where a COE should be in the 21st century, we need to understand what should be the quality of a 21st century student. When teacher educators know what their students should be or know, it helps to direct their teaching strategies.
Based on the rapidity of change and widespread nature of the ICT revolution, today’s students should possess certain qualities. They should:
How then should today’s student teachers be trained or what should the 21st century colleges of education do to meet the challenges thrown on them by the knowledge revolution? Palmer (nd) provided some characteristics that a 21st century teacher and by extension teacher educator should possess:
However, the dilemma that the colleges face are many, First, how do teacher educators trained in the analogue fashion produce digital teachers? Second, how do student teachers trained by digital immigrants who were trained with analogue methods teach ‘digital natives’ to meet the challenges of the demand of the 21st century and beyond? Already there is a generation gap. You would have seen it in your class. Students of today especially student teachers:
These are some of today’s HEI students we have to deal with and prepare for the 21st century tasks. They cannot be classified as ‘digital’ yet.
With this scenario, the 21st century task looks insurmountable for teacher educators who are already operating in a difficult terrain (Ijaiya, 2013; Ijaiya and Alabi, 2013) but it is not an impossible task. But to overcome the challenges lecturers would need:
But again, there are challenges which are perhaps based on the lackluster attitude to the enormity of the tasks ahead of the future generation in this century and beyond because there is no end to technology. What we see now in technology is telling us there is more coming, possibly much bigger. One can reasonably say that technology is unpredictable in context, content and application. The message is ‘be prepared’. Even if the Government and its agencies are aware of this challenge, underfunding of education is a major drawback.
CONCLUSION AND GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
The demand on Colleges of Education for quality teachers has not changed in any century. What is changing is the standard of education over the centuries. That of the 21st century happens to be spectacular driven by ICT. Its veracity is making a huge demand on the next generation of youngsters and the teachers whose task it is to guide them. The dilemma is that the task to do that now fell on the analogue Colleges and Faculties of Education. While the Government is changing policies in schools, they perhaps inadvertently left out teacher educators who must go digital. One cannot give what he doesn’t have. Students may have access to the internet, but without proper guide and control by teachers and parents, it could be anything but academic excellence. The internet is full of the good, the bad and the ugly without any system of control. Many countries are adjusting by pumping funds into ICT. So, whither Nigeria’s Colleges of Education?
To make Nigeria’s Colleges of Education 21st century colleges and satisfy the aspirations of the young generation, the following recommendations may be necessary:
Ahmed Rufai, R. (4 – Year Strategic Plan for the Development sector of 2011 – 2015. Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja
Dublin, M. (nd). Characteristics of 21 century learners. https://blog.kamihq.com Retrieved 30/01/19
Federal Republic of Nigeria (2013). National Policy on Education https://www.marsrtanslation,com>blog (2017). 6 major characteristics of the 21st century learner, Retrieved 28/01/19
Ijaiya, N.Y.S. (2012). Management that matters: Key to sustainable education. 113th Inaugural lecture, University of Ilorin, Ilorin. Nigeria
Ijaiya, N.Y.S. (2013). Nigerian teacher education in a difficult terrain: The way Forward. International journal of Education Management (IJEM), 11(1) Department of Educational Management, University of Ilorin, Ilorin. Nigeria
Ijaiya,N.Y.S. and Alabi, A.T. (2013). Higher education and the challenges of Teacher education in Nigeria: A management perspective. African Journal of Educational Research 17, pp71 – 78. Department of Teacher Education, University of Ibadan, Ibadan. Nigeria
Mandela, N. (1995). Long walk to freedom. An autobiography of Nelson Mandela. New York: Little, Brown and Company pp. 166
Palmer, T. (nd). 15 Characteristics of a 21st century teacher. https://amp.edutopia.org Retrieved 01/02/19
The World Bank (2003). Lifelong learning in the global knowledge economy. Challenges for developing countries. Washington D.C.: The World Bank
Watanabe – Crocket, (nd). L. 9 Characteristics of 21st century learning. https://globaldigitalcitizen.org Retrieved 29/01/19