Improving the Nigerian Education Sector: How to Bridge the Gap Between Literacy and Science-Based Subjects
It is a fact that there are many problems plaguing the Nigerian education sector: unqualified teachers, language barrier, poor funding, lack of infrastructure, stringent curricula etc.
There is really no need to go over these challenges again because they have become as familiar as saliva in our mouths.
However, there is another growing cause for concern and it has to do with literacy.
In light of the International Literacy Day which was celebrated recently on September 8th, we understand that being able to read and write is not all that literacy entails.
As UNESCO defines literacy, it is “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written (and visual) materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential and to participate fully in the wider society.”
What this definition tells us is that there ought to be a huge emphasis on using one’s literacy skills to achieve personal goals, develop knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in wider society.
This speaks of application.
Therefore, being a student or passing through formal education does not automatically mean that one is fully literate because literacy in truth, speaks of functionality in society in a way that can be directly linked to one’s ability to read and write.
A vivid example of this would be something that most Art students could relate to while in secondary school. A lot of the things we learnt in Math then, such as Trigonometry made very little sense.
Even those who were Science students can attest to the fact that till date, many of them don’t understand what the gibberish called ‘Almighty Formula’ was really about.
They were learning but they could not apply what they were learning. This is the same phenomenon that occurs where a graduate of Mechanical Engineering is unable to fix a problem in his or her own car. In the end, he/she has to visit a roadside auto-mechanic (who is not remotely literate) to fix the car. Then what is the point of being literate if the skills do not improve one’s functionality? Get the drift?
Thus, the point is that there is a huge gap between education and literacy in Nigeria. This is extremely worrisome, especially when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education.
The 21st century is an era when considerable strides have been made in technology thereby making STEM education indispensable. Artificial Intelligence is taking the lead and boundaries are being broken. However, Nigeria is still lagging behind and trying to catch up with ‘basics’ such as HTML coding. Most STEM graduates in our dear country are not equipped to function in the fast-paced world or even contribute to the development of technology and related fields for the betterment of wider society.
They were taught (and are still being taught) evergreen laws that do not reflect the evolution of society. To ensure the applicability of literacy, soft skills are needed to support hard skills. Ethics of STEM education are being questioned but how does Nigeria fit into this conversation? Are we even aware of the conversation?
This is not to belittle where we are but to show that there exists a chasm that must be bridged.
There needs to be an overhaul of the school curriculum from primary education all the way to tertiary education.
In addition, soft skill training has become more imperative than ever. With soft skills, students will be able to understand the world around them better, relate with it, understand the issues and seek ways of providing solutions. They in turn, can impart what they have learnt in classroom on others. Before long, we will have a continuous cycle of impactful STEM graduates. Then, we will be able to say that we are making headway.
Do you agree with our analysis?