Wednesday, June 20, 2018 11:54 am
By Ayobami Salami
The rising concerns among stakeholders on the quality of graduates being churned out by Nigeria’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) makes inevitable the need for a paradigm shift in our current teaching and learning model. The subsisting approach is certainly too weak, uninspiring and theory-suffused; this is why one should look no further for why we are ostensibly perpetuating the regime of ‘educated illiterates’ – lacking in functional skills for impact and societal development.
Now is the time to think and act differently.
Ideally, serious efforts in this regard should now be devoted to the making of youths armed with critical thinking skills, developmental and solution-focused orientation. The goal of this will be to equip them with requisite competencies to clinically interrogate the myriad of problems bedeviling the nation and provide disruptive but creative, and cutting-edge solutions. Achieving this requires a sharper focus of efforts on developing capacities in technical and vocational educational training (TVET) and by extension, the STEM paradigm.
To join the nations that will attain the global resolution as enshrined in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, Nigeria must focus on developing essential skills for work and life among its teeming youth population. This, perhaps, is the only way that the nation can salvage itself from the looming explosion arising from consistently escalating acute youth unemployment. There is, therefore, a national imperative to articulate policies and programmes specifically designed for the skilling of our young people at all levels of education – including both formal and informal educational settings.
Beyond paying lip service to the review of our curriculum, Government must do the needful by ensuring that courses undertaken in our institutions of higher learning conform to a set of measurable developmental goals. It is not just enough to establish Universities and Faculties for courses that are neither filling a knowledge gap nor tailored to developing specific critical human resource capacities that will propel the nation towards economic prosperity and independence.
As the pioneer Vice Chancellor of Nigeria’s first technical University, The Technical University, Ibadan, it is gratifying to champion the evolution of a TVET-based template that is poised to becoming a national standard ultimately. Whereas the Technical University, only made its foray into the nation’s burgeoning tertiary education space one year ago, it has nonetheless created a niche for itself to say the least.
The Technical University, Ibadan, occupies a unique place in the historical narratives of our nation, being the foremost technical university in Nigeria. Though established at a time the Nigerian economy is at its lowest ebb, our job at the Tech-U is clearly cut-out, having set out to address the daunting challenges of disturbing youth unemployment and skills gap. Tech-U seeks to produce a new generation of innovative graduates who are fully equipped with technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills.
As elaborated in the UNESCO Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) (2016-2021) (UNESCO, 2016), TVET encapsulates such education, training and skills development relating to a wide range of occupational fields, production, services and livelihoods. It provides the kind of education that helps youths and adults develop the technical and vocational skills they need for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
It is particularly sad that in Nigeria, TVET has been largely restricted to the informal sector and lower educational levels. The direct consequence of this is that, it is unable to keep up with rapid global technological growth, and has consequently resulted into sheer irrelevance of the curricula taught. Added to this, is the challenge of a negative perception of TVET as education of the last resort. This principally accounts for the reason TVET has remained unattractive in our tertiary institutions. Rather than benefit from the well-rounded education the adoption of TVET brings in promoting entrepreneurship, self-employment and creation and growth of new businesses, students have been limited as half-baked intellectuals, deficient in critical thinking and innovation skills.
At the Tech-U, we are already moving towards this direction, deploying TVET and STEM paradigms in developing the minds and training the hands of our students. Just recently, the University brought together a host of key industry regulators and employers to contribute to the review of curriculum and to give informed feedbacks on its relevance to industry needs and trends. The reason for this is clear enough. Since the Tech-U has been established with the bold and daring ambition of changing the narrative about employability and entrepreneurial deficiencies skills among our youths; the least that could be done as a serious institution is to ensure that such an exercise was done in tandem with the expectations of the market.
Tech-U intends to advocate the mainstreaming of TVET into University curricula as a means of nurturing self-reliant graduates. Recognizing that regular weekly scheduled practical classes will be inadequate for the acquisition of the required skills, the University established a Centre for Entrepreneurship and Vocational Studies to offer all students a range of skills development opportunities attuned to national and local contexts. This will give students complimentary exposure to different forms of work-based learning like attachments, apprenticeship and internships.
The incorporation of entrepreneurial skills into the curricula is intended to strategically prepare our graduates for the transition from education to the world of work in a seamless manner – more like in a ‘plug and play manner’. This is one cardinal mission we are committed to. We are not just interested in imparting our students with theoretical knowledge only, but also in motivating and supporting them to acquire skills and competences that deepen their understanding of scientific and technological basis of issues.
We are convinced that to achieve our vision, we need close collaboration between the academia and labour market stakeholders as well as strong linkages with employment agencies and employers. This is the reason for locating the University on a 200 ha expanse of land along the Lagos/Ibadan expressway, in the Free Trade Zone Area designated as the Industrial hub of the State and in which about 175 manufacturing companies under the Pacesetter/Polaris (Chinese) Consortium will establish full presence and carry out their operations.
For us, the future is here!
• Professor Salami is the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of The Technical University, Ibadan.