ICT And Education Transformation In Nigeria

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NIGERIA @ 55

Barineme Beke Fakae

When Nigeria celebrated independence in 1960, she celebrated independence from everything negative such as poverty, ignorance, poor infrastructure, illiteracy etc. to gain everything positive which included education, improved security, good governance and world class industries.  Fifty five years down the line, we are to reflect what have been the gains of independence, especially in the education subsector.

It is said that, “knowledge is power”!  Knowledge comes by the way of education but with very poor educational group performance as seen in our schools in the immediate past years, one doubts whether Nigeria have acquired the power needed to thrive in this modern time.  With increasing low passes at the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE), which is a reliable measure, we may not say that Nigeria has performed credibly by gaining appreciable “power” that comes through education since independence.  The question then is, “How can Nigeria improve?”

Nigeria has great assets which include great teachers, great environment, great resources and great global positioning in many respects, but what is wrong with our education?

There has been outcry of deplorable academic standards in developing countries including Nigeria. The falling academic standards have been linked with poor funding and organizational inefficiencies due to corruption.

Our present value system unfortunately seems to condone false claims of educational attainment, without a problem-solving content.  In the primary and secondary schools, children are being passed to the next grade when they should be held back, and as a result they are unable to complete grade-level work and keep up with their classmates.  About 35 percent, on the average, are able obtain five credits (with English and Mathematics) in WASCE, yet less than half of these are able to proficiently read or complete mathematics problems.  It has been observed that instead of proper education there has been mass certification of illiterates through examination malpractices.

Within this “jet age”, surprisingly, inefficient and obsolete (manual) management of data, records and information in the universities has remained endemic. With most universities over-subscribed and their facilities over-stretched, the present manual management systems used in most educational institutions have proved inadequate, ineffective and cannot sustain effective planning and management of the institutions.  The processes and methods are handicapped with regards to the volume of data processed within the system daily.  This situation has led to fraud and other related corrupt practices and gradual disintegration of the sector.

Lecturers cannot be properly appraised to know the level of knowledge transfer they deliver to their students.  While students on the other hand engage in all kinds of malpractice and frauds just to ensure they beat the porous system.

Students and lecturers hide under the cloak of the disarray in the sector to perpetuate all acts that have undermined the progress of the sector.  With students data/ records not properly tracked, results and scores not efficiently managed, courses not tracked effectively, students even evade the payment of fees due to lack of proper crosschecking and validating systems.

With matriculation numbers all muddled up, grades inconsistent, conflicting course codes etc., learning and assessment is rather an uphill task for most of the universities.

The story in the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) (Nigeria’s premier university of science and technology) was not any different seven (7) years ago when a new management team assumed office.

In a project to revamp academic processes and orderliness in RSUST, Port Harcourt, a vigorous Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Master Plan was implemented in 2008.  RSUST to date, has become the foremost e-varsity in the country, having been able to provide 15-year result online with all key processes for students’ admission and course registration done electronically.  Good quality graduates have started emerging as qualifying examinations are now done online with instant release of the students’ results and transcripts on graduation.

The adoption of ICT tools within the past seven (7) years has transformed the university into the country’s foremost e-varsity status and has strategically put it on the path to effective delivery of quality education service and sustainable growth.

The vision and foresight to embrace change and modern learning technologies can make a world of difference in the education sector in Nigeria.  Indeed, the use of ICT will allow for strategic reforms for effective and quality education by overriding all areas of human ineptitude, putting away manual manipulation of the key processes of teaching, learning, testing and monitoring.  The role of ICT is to police the key processes and make them transparent.  Our failures in the key processes of student training (outlined in Fig 1) have stood in the way of our becoming globally competitive in the quality of graduates that are turned out of present the Nigeria’s education system.

We accept that in our educational system, there are those who are technophobic but the truth is that nobody will be able to stand in the way of technological development in the spheres of life. It is better to face reality, especially as scholars in the education sphere who ought to learn every day. The Bible has predicted that in the last days knowledge shall increase and we are currently experiencing breath-taking technological breakthroughs.  The electronic purchases which are a common place today had been predicted; where the Bible says we shall buy without money.  Just in the recent past, automated teller machines (ATM) sounded like a fairy tale but today ATM cards are commonly used and banking transactions are even done with the use of mobile phones. Electronic access to places was also predicted in the Bible that at a time only those who bear a special number (666) will have access to specified places and conduct businesses. Biometric is used today through fingerprints to give access into restricted places or obtain a whole range of data about a person. All these advances are coming to better our lives and educational pursuit cannot be excluded.

In recent times there has been impressive human technological evolution. The global communication and information infrastructure has been built and the devices that we use to access it are becoming more and more sophisticated.  Analog experiences are been converted  to digital ones and with that every process we ever thought we understood is beginning to change. “As we digitize greater slots of our lives, it changes everything about it,” said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research at the Consumer Electronics Association.

Imagine conducting an admission exercise into an educational institution through blind testing, online, based on approved curriculum and candidates are taken on merit within the carrying capacity of the institution – based on advertised scores. While in the academic programme, attendances at classes and seminars for both teachers and learners are clocked electronically to show percentage compliance to attendance, with course content delivery and feedback monitored remotely. Plagiarism is checked through online submission of assignments to allow for originality and protection of intellectual property.

The scenario painted above is not a dream world but what is obtainable in other advanced economies in the world.  The outcome of such an educational system will of course announce itself.  This is attainable as shown in the fast advances in the Rivers State University of Science and Technology where it was possible to rise from a cult-laden institution, trailing at the bottom of national webometric ranking table, to becoming a trailblazer as one of the top-ranking Universities in the Nigeria within five years!

At present, inspection and monitoring are absent in a large number of Government institutions.  This is one area where virtual learning environments (VLE) reveal what cannot be monitored manually by the school authorities.  Some teachers in the tertiary institutions may select to teach just few topics in a whole curriculum and examine students on just those topics.  A student may score “A” in a course but may know next to nothing in the course just because the curriculum delivery was not monitored.

Even with overpopulation in Universities in a bid to “open access” for education, within a VLE, more students can be reached with recorded lecture/practical sessions and can review/replayed at a more importuned time outside the classroom.  Virtual laboratories also allow students to participate in practical classes within little spaces.

An effective feedback system shapes learning.  It is now common that teachers, especially in the tertiary institutions, do not return graded continuous assessments scripts to students anymore.  This was the old way of obtaining feedback because the student is able to see his/her performance and note the teachers comments on the answer scripts so as to prepare for the main examination. With an effective VLE, it will be possible for the teacher and the learner to obtain feedback, irrespective of class size.

Being ICT-rich gives an educational institution a competitive advantage in recruiting quality students. In Nigeria, demand for higher education far outstrips supply; therefore Governments and institutions must turn more to the use of ICTs to bridge the access gap.  Online administration policies are unlikely to be influenced by politics.  When clear cut cut-off marks are determined online, merit is not sacrificed on the altar of politics, corruption, mediocrity or ethnicity.

New times demand new ways of learning.  The world is becoming more and more complex; forcing people to realize the inadequacy of manually operated information systems and hence become more dependent on computer technology.

We must appreciate the dynamic change that is occurring with the human race right now, rather than playing the ostrich. A super computer (smartphone) is fast becoming a common place in everybody’s pocket and it is changing everything. Human behaviour is undergoing change, whether we realize it or not.  So is every human industry, including education (learning and teaching processes).  ICT is no more just in the form of Management Information Systems but it is moving beyond personal computers to mobile technology and Cloud Computing.  Any sector that is expecting growth ought to integrate these emerging technologies into its ICT policies and programmes.  The earlier we realise this and adapt, the better for the purpose of our survival in a competitive global climate.

In addition to introduction of ICT, there is need for continuous professional development (CPD) through training to equip teachers with cutting-edge pedagogical skills. According to a group study presented at the Commonwealth of Learning for the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education, in Paris, 2009, today’s students (digital natives) have a different way of approaching and using technologies like cell phones and computers that their teachers (digital immigrants) still need to come to terms with.  Training of educators is therefore necessary to gain an understanding of the virtual worlds that their learners move in so that they can better understand how to interact with them in ways that make sense to the digital natives. For us to benefit from the emerging trends in learning, it is required that teachers and students are educated on various computer platforms and software environments. CPD should not be made optional but should be demanded by the employers because, “he who pays the piper dictates the tune.”

The traditional learning model may not be relevant to real student needs. Today’s workplaces and communities have tougher requirements than ever before. They need citizens who can think critically, innovatively and strategically to solve problems.  These individuals must learn in a rapid changing environment, and build on knowledge taken from numerous sources and different perspectives. They must understand systems in diverse contexts, and collaborate locally and globally.  This is only possible through internet based networks which allow for real time collaboration. Our students therefore ought to be engaged in authentic and multidisciplinary tasks and assessments based on students’ performance of real tasks.

There is no doubt that technology creates powerful learning designs which allow students and teachers to work on meaningful and challenging problems. The integration of ICTs in education is inevitable.  The wide adoption of ICTs calls for mind sets and skill sets that are adaptive to change.   An attitude of resistance to change is often caused by the lack of appreciation of the benefits brought by ICTs and the fears about the displacement of people by technology. Nigeria needs deliberate and purposeful adaptation of ICTs in its educational sector to override corruption in order to obtain the desired transformation and repositioning in the comity of nations.

 

Professor Barineme Beke Fakae

DVM, MSc (Nigeria), CertRP, PhD (Edinburgh), MNSAP, MCVSN, MNYAS, MAAAS

Professor Barineme Beke Fakae qualified as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) with distinction in Veterinary Parasitology and Entomology and distinction in Veterinary Public Health and Jurisprudence. He obtained PhD in Tropical Animal Health from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

He joined the services of the University of Nigeria Nsukka in 1983 and rose to rank of Professor of Veterinary Parasitology in October 2004.  He headed the Department of Veterinary Parasitology and Entomology and is a Consultant Parasitologist in University of Nigeria Veterinary Teaching Hospital Nsukka.  He was one term Rector of the Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori and a two term Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science & Technology, Nigeria. During his tenures these institutions experienced vigorous implementation of an ICT master plans coupled with massive infrastructural development and academic orderliness.

Prof Fakae has earned several international fellowships and research awards such as Wellcome Nigeria Fund Research Award, Sir Halley Steward Trust Awards, The Royal society Third World Visiting Scientist Award and Wellcome Trust Traveling Fellowship. He is a member of several learned societies and professional bodies and a foundation member of College of Veterinary Surgeons, Nigeria (MCVSN).  He has presented over 30 (thirty) papers at National and International Conferences and has to his credit over forty (40) publications in peer-reviewed and impact-factored Journals. 

Prof BB Fakae is a resource person to various fora on sustainable vocational and technical education in Nigeria with emphasis on the use of modern information and communication technologies for education management and effective curriculum delivery.