(THIS ARTICLE HAS ALREADY BEEN PUBLISHED IN JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL STUDIES AND RESEARCH. VOL. 6 NO. 1 MARCH 2011)
TOWARDS QUALITY TEACHER EDUCATION IN NIGERIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY.
Eneasator, Geoffrey Okechukwu (Ph.D)
Department of Educational Foundations & Admin.
Nwafor Orizu College of Education,
Nsugbe, Anambra State
Eneasator, Uche Eva (M.Ed.)
Department Of Educational Psychology
Nwafor Orizu College of Education,
Nsugbe, Anambra State
Quality teacher education is fundamental to the attainment of the objectives of education of any nation. In Nigeria, research reports indicate that during the past 15 years, the quality of teachers produced from our various teacher education .institutions have dropped significantly. This paper therefore examined the various challenges to the current teacher education programme in Nigeria that have contributed to this decline in teacher quality. It was discovered that poor quality of candidates admitted, lack of genuine interest to take teaching as a career, poor funding, poor public image of the teacher, high incidence of examination malpractice among student-teachers and lack of motivation and good incentives among teacher-educators are some of the contributing factors. Government at all levels was therefore challenged to save the future of teacher education in Nigeria.
Education as an Instrument for National Development
Education is the greatest investment that any nation especially the developing countries can undertake. This is as a result of the high correlation between investment in human capital and economic growth and development. Ever since the publication of the Ashby Commission's report of 1959, the tempo of educational growth and development in Nigeria has been very unprecedented. The Federal Government of Nigeria has indeed adopted education as an instrument “par-excellence” for effecting national development. According to the National Policy on Education (2004:8), "education shall continue to be highly rated in the national development plans because education is the most important instrument- of change". Harbison and Mayer (1964) have also indicated that one of the best means of developing human resources and human capital is through education.
Education can be defined and explained from various perspectives. However within the context of this paper, it can be seen as a process of learning, through which knowledge is acquired and various skills, capacities and values developed for the survival of the individual and the society as a whole. According to Aghenta (1996:19), "education is the acquisition of knowledge, the aggregate of all the processes through which a person develops abilities, attributes and other forms of behavior with positive values in the society in which he lives". Education therefore goes beyond literacy and numeracy. It includes the acquisition of functional skills, moral identity, ambition to succeed in life, and improve the society. According to Eneasator (2006:4), “it is an essential instrument for equipping an individual to live a successful and fulfilled life in the society, thereby contributing positively towards the socio-economic, technological, scientific, cultural and political development of the nation”
It is through the avenue of education that various categories of manpower are produced. These experts with their various skills and abilities manipulate the resources that generate the wealth of a nation thereby bringing about economic growth and development. Harbison(1973:3) asserted that
...Human resources not capital nor income, nor material resources constitute the ultimate basis for the wealth of nations; capital and natural resources are passive factors of production; human beings are the active' agents -who accumulate capital, exploit natural resources; build social, economic and political organization and carry forward national development.
No nation can therefore afford to toy with any aspect or level of its educational system. Generally speaking, education can be provided in three main forms. They include, the formal education, the informal education and the non-formal education. Within the framework of the formal education system, teachers are the major agents through which the curriculum finds its fulfillment and actualization. For the aims and objectives of any system of formal education to be achieved, there must have to be a team of well trained, qualified and motivated teachers. This particular issue has been well appreciated by the Federal Government of Nigeria when it stated in the National Policy on Education (2004:39) that "teacher education shall continue to be given a major emphasis in all educational planning and development" since no educational system may rise above the quality of its teachers. Accordingly, the major focus of this paper is to examine the current status and challenges of teacher-education in Nigeria, and come up with some pragmatic ideas that could ensure greater relevance and enhanced quality of output for more effective and efficient service delivery.
The Concept of Teacher Education
Teacher education is always seen as a form of education which is specifically geared towards the production of people who will teach essentially in the primary and secondary schools (Eneasator, 1997). It is an educational process directed at preparing prospective teachers for the lower levels of the educational system by exposing them to:
However, Okafor (1988) has expanded the scope of teacher education to include the preparation of school administrators, school supervisors and school counselors.
Structure of Teacher-Education Programme in Nigeria
As a result of the current Federal Government policy of making the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) the minimum qualification for entry into the teaching profession, considerable efforts are being made to produce teachers to meet the demands of primary and secondary education. According to the National Policy on Education (2004:40), the following institutions have been charged with the responsibility of the professional training of teachers. They include:
These bodies have tried to carry out their statutory functions one of which is producing the teachers needed for the lower levels of the educational system. However, this is not without some fundamental problems that have challenged their roles in the society. Currently in Nigeria, as a result of the growing youth population, there has been a great social demand for tertiary education, and this has also been felt in the area of teacher education. For instance, in order to respond to this demand, Akinbote (1999) observed that the number of Colleges of Education has risen from only six in 1976 to about 72 presently and this has led to mass production of NCE teachers. Consequently, Akinbote (2007: 4) noted that we may have sacrificed quality for quantity in our bid to have NCE teacher for our school system. The observed poor quality of the present day teacher education programme in Nigeria could be attributed to a lot of challenges which are examined below,
Fundamental Challenges of Teacher Education in Nigeria in the 21st Century:
Quality of students admitted for the programme: One of the basic challenges of the present day teacher education in Nigeria is the gross inadequacy of the entry qualifications of the candidates admitted into the programme especially at the NCE levels. Ehusani (2002) noted that for the past 15 years in Nigeria, most of those who went in for the teaching profession especially at the foundational level were those who could not make five credits at their WASC examination and who could not get into the university or polytechnic to pursue better professions. In a study reported by Akinbote (2007), which investigated among other issues the entry qualifications of candidates admitted for the NCE programme in the nation's Colleges of Education, it was discovered that 75.6% of the total intakes possess just 3-4 credits at O' level, while the remaining 24.40% had 5 credits and above. According to the researcher, the lovering of the admission requirements, for whatever reasons, has not only affected the quality of the products of the colleges but also the image and prestige of the teaching profession. This observation is in line with Liberman (1956) that the quality of the entry qualification of recruits into a profession is bound to affect not only their efficiency and effectiveness but also the prestige of the profession. This decline in the entry qualifications of NCE candidates is not peculiar to the Colleges of Education. Ibiadapo-Obe (2006) also made it clear that "there has been a decline in the quality of candidates admitted into the universities as a result of the contribution of poor quality output from secondary level". The gradual and systematic reduction and watering down of the entry qualifications of candidates into the nation's teacher education programmes has resulted in the production of teachers who can hardly read, write or calculate well. This potends great danger to the whole business of education in the country especially at the primary and secondary levels.
Complete lack of genuine interest in teaching as a career:
Most of the entrants into teacher education programme in the country do not have any significant interest in the teaching profession. They just see it as a stepping stone to more lucrative professions or as a matter of last resort. This observation is in line with Akinbote (2007) who reported that 87.5% of all the students enrolled in Colleges of Education in Nigeria either use the college as a stepping stone or could not be offered admission by any institution. Only 12.50% came in as a result of their personal desire to become teachers. This, again is a serious danger signal to the future of teacher education in Nigeria. It means that "the majority of students in the colleges of education are the left over, the reluctant and good for nothing-young men and women who are only out to earn a living out of teaching" Akinbote, (2007:9). This is the group of teachers, (and they are in the majority) who do not show any commitment to the teaching job, and are there to commit all sort of evils and atrocities under the guise of teaching. Thus, further dragging the image of the already battered teaching profession to the mud.
Poor funding of education in Nigeria:
Education in general and teacher education in particular has not received the necessary attention it requires from the government as it affects funding. For instance UNESCO has recommended that 26% of the total budget of a nation should be allocated to education. But Longe Commission of 1991 observed that the percentage of recurrent budgetary allocation to education in Nigeria has never exceeded 10%. Lack of sufficient funds in our teacher education institutions has affected to a large extent the provision of infrastructural facilities like lecture halls, office accommodation, classroom blocks, well equipped library, modern teaching facilities and so on. This has resulted to among others over congested lecture and examination halls that encourage serious examination malpractice among student teachers. Also, as a result of insufficiency of funds, there is poor maintenance culture and the whole school plant often is in a state of total neglect and disrepair. According to Ehusani (2002:3) “the quality of life and work in our public schools and colleges, and the very environment in which teaching and learning take place, have become a thing of shame and a source of embarrassment”. This condition has impacted negatively on the quality of the products of these teacher education institutions. Odia and Omofonmwan (2007) seem to be supportive of this view when they observed that the infrastructural deterioration in many of these colleges has led to a complete decline in academic standards and quality of the graduates. However, one needs to appreciate the efforts of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) in addressing the problem of infrastructural decay and deterioration among others in the nation's educational system.
Poor public image of teachers:
The poor public perception of teachers and the teaching profession in this country is one of the greatest challenges of teacher -education in the 21st century. This poor public perception of the teaching profession is as a result of a combination of several factors including poor entry qualification, politicization of education, gross starvation of education with funds and the shabby treatment of teachers of all cadres. Consequently, no brilliant school certificate leaver with very good result will like to choose education as a proposed course of study in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Instead, they opt for more prestigious course like computer engineering, medicine, law and so on. The teaching profession has so much been destroyed in Nigeria that those who are still remaining are largely a bunch of disgruntled, disillusioned, frustrated, and depressed professionals (Ehusani 2002), who lack motivation. Their output in terms of teaching, research and publication can be described as very pitiable. This will definitely have serious negative effect on the quality of their various products. There is no doubt that the teaching profession in Nigeria has lost much of its status and honour, and has rather become a despised and derided profession, only good for the academically weak student without any sense, vision and purpose.
High Incidence of Examination Malpractice:
As a result of the academically weak students enrolled in most teacher education institutions, coupled with congested examination halls, low morale of teacher-educators and so on, there is an observed high incidence of examination malpractice among the student-teachers. They engage in various sharp practices to make sure that they succeed in the various courses examined. Eventually, they graduate with little or nothing to offer. According to Akinbote (2007), a Provost of one of the Colleges of Education was reported recently to have openly decried at a graduation ceremony the poor quality of students in his college who could neither read nor write well.
Recommendations/Responses to the Challenges: From the research that has been undertaken by the investigators, it is very obvious that quality teacher-education may not be likely attained, going by the current practices in our teacher-education institutions in particular, and the society at large. Therefore, the following recommendations are made, in an attempt to address the challenges so identified.
Teacher education is very crucial in the nation's educational system because it is through the instrumentality of the teachers that the curriculum finds its actualization. Teachers are the major agents through which knowledge is passed from one generation to another and therefore, they are very fundamental in any human resource development effort. However, it has been observed that the quality of the products of our current teacher education programmes is on a serious decline. Teachers who are academically weak and ill-motivated are being produced as a result of a combination of several factors including poor quality of candidates admitted, lack of genuine interests to take teaching as a career, poor funding of teacher education institutions, poor public perception of teachers and teaching as a profession, high incidence of examination malpractices among student-teachers and so on.
Considering the importance and the critical position of the teaching profession in national development, government at all levels, should as a matter of urgency take immediate steps to address some if not all the challenges identified to safeguard the future of teacher education in Nigeria.
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