Sustaining Amaechi’s Initiatives In Education (2)

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Efforts must be intensified to upgrade the college to a university status. Since its inception in 1971 as the Advance Teacher Training College, the Rivers State College of Education has endeavoured to provide economic, social and educational support services to the region. It has offered diverse education programmes to many students of various backgrounds. The college has evolved from its once small upgrading programme of the Grade II Teacher’s certificates upon completion of a five-year post primary course – the minimum qualification for teaching in the primary school, to the Nigerian Certificate in Education-NCE certificate upon completion of a three-year post secondary course. At one time the NCE was planned to be the minimum qualification for teaching in the country. The college also offered a part-time one-year Associate Certificate in Education (ACE) course, in collaboration with the University of Ibadan. Today the College of Education has surpassed its goals by offering accredited post-secondary courses, awards of certificates, diplomas and degrees in such disciplines as: English Language, Biology, Physics, Integrated Science, Chemistry, Educational Psychology, Physical Education, Business Education, Counselling, Early Child Education, Adult Education, Home Science/Management, Political Science, Social Sciences, Social Studies, Public Administration, Economics, Geography and in many other areas. These are content and subject areas that will play important roles in the governor’s initiatives in education. The State College of Education operates satellite campuses at St. John’s College and Ndele, and presently educates over 10,000 students per year and employs over one thousand faculty and other staff. Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria in general need more people with degrees and more skilled workers with higher technical and associate professional qualifications in the years ahead. Over the next ten years most of the new jobs will need people who have the skills and education that higher education offers. In the sixties, only one in twenty post primary school leavers went to university, today it can be estimated that one in three attend university as more adults are taking a degree in their twenties. Getting a higher education degree will not only boost education and skills of a person, but it also improves the ability of the individual to earn a good living. When upgraded to a University status, the State College of Education will become a specialized university in the field of education. It will prepare dynamic leaders and practitioners in teaching, research and management having content excellence, pedagogical competence, commitment and integrity that would ensure quality and sustainable development at all tiers and sectors of education. It will offer nationally and internationally accepted academic programs to produce: (a) classroom teachers to the need of public and private schools of various levels – primary, secondary and higher secondary. (b) educationists/Researchers/Curriculum Developers, etc. (c) It will make the University a thriving hub of educational research and knowledge creation. (d) It will make the teaching profession attractive to the youth by providing quality programmes that is the hallmark of university education. (e) It will create an enabling environment to upgrading our human capital and enhance our competitiveness in a knowledge-based economy. Achieving University status for the State College of Education would be a great achievement towards the governor’s education initiatives of making Rivers State the nation’s premier education reformer, provider and a leader in teaching, research and development. One goal of this new initiative will be to eliminate examination leakages ­”expo.” Expo exists because students are not confident of taking and passing their exams, so they resort to the cheapest means of just getting a certificate. The governor’s effort should include an examination of the curriculum. It stands to reason that if what is taught is not closely aligned with what is assessed, students will not have been adequately prepared to enter an examination hall with confidence. A perfectly aligned instructional system would include a curriculum that addresses the syllabi standards, instruction that is based on the curriculum, and assessments that identify opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and can do on the state standards. This will create accountability where our teachers must be held responsible for moving their students to proficient – passing levels on their end of year examinations. Consequently, teachers must re-examine their instructional programme to ensure that classroom tasks and assignments are aligned to the syllabus they are expected to teach and that are assessed in JSS or SSS examinations. Through the Office of Educational Leadership in the State Ministry of Education, a number of strategies can be adopted and employed to ensure the taught curriculum is aligned with the state academic syllabus. The state should set an academic standard-a process of deciding what all students should learn from primary through secondary. The state should then develop tests that measure whether schools are teaching students what the state expects students to know. Standard and assessments that are aligned with those standards are the foundations of equity in education. Such standards ensure that schools are evaluated against a common benchmark, because our children deserve an education that helps them succeed in today’s technologically rich, global economy. If the governor’s initiatives will be sustained, then it is imperative to recognize that review of the curriculum and assessment tools are essential to the state’s education reform efforts. Teachers suffer from lack of appreciation for the hard work they render. Times were in the past when teachers were owed their monthly salaries and benefits that resulted to low motivation among them. Motivation is anything done to make teachers happy, satisfied, dedicated and committed in such a way that they bring out their best in their places of work so that students, parents and the society will greatly benefit from their services. Researches have pointed out, and educators are aware that reformers of education may establish new schools, effect changes in structure and curriculum, recommend and prescribe teaching methods and provide resources, ‘in the end, the teacher will be solely responsible for applying them to yield expected results. Teachers find it difficult to give their best in a situation where their efforts are not recognized or appreciated. This apathy has made it difficult for even the educational sector to attract and retain such top-quality personnel that are required to function in the school system, especially at the primary and secondary school levels. After all teachers are great role models, what they say and do, directly affect and influence students. An Education Transformation Trust Fund should be created to assist government’s efforts in education reforms. An Education Trust solicits for donations that will help in promoting high academic achievement for all students at all levels. While it is well acknowledged that our system could better serve their students, too often schools in the rural areas are left behind in the area of school supplies and good teachers, the education trust can focus on these schools and provide extra incentives for teachers that serve in the rural areas. The Education Trust Fund will work alongside policymakers, parents, business leaders, education professionals within the state trying to transform schools that genuinely serve all students. Learning will be enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a lone man’s race (only for the government). Sharing one’s own ideas and responding to other’s reactions sharpen thinking and deepen understanding of the mission at hand – building skills that build the future. As an independent agency, the education trust can track and compile information on schools and institutions, thereby build much needed data for policy makers and planners. They can identify smart and gifted children and recommend them for special scholarships so they can demonstrate their special skills and aptitudes. The prospect of the education sector remains bright with governor’s vision and efforts in reforming and increasing opportunities for education. At the end it will empower our students and learners with education and training relevant to regional and national industry needs so that they can contribute positively to the global community. Guided by the governor’s vision on education, we would arrive at the understanding of what it takes to build a sustainable educational system where our students will learn and build an awareness of the choices they make and determine whether or not their choices will support their future. They will develop the skills needed to engage successfully in a sustainable society. The essence of sustainable educational development the governor is initiating will be tested in sincere harmony of a sound, viable, responsible governance and social integration that will ensure that the success of the initiatives will be a life­enhancing process on the people of Rivers State. When sound policies are put in place, we will be building a lasting legacy in the development and improvement of education in the State that have eluded even the federal government. Dr. Wolugbom is a former school administrator in Rivers State and currently a staff of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.