Olaopa hails Fed Govt’s NCE-B.Ed certification model

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• Commission chairman decries education without skills

Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, Prof. Tunji Olaopa, has hailed the Federal Government’s approval of the NCE-B.Ed certificate model for colleges of education.

Olaopa, who was the chairman of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) 2024 National Conference on Digital Pedagogy and the Implications for Nigeria, held in Abuja, said that since his days as deputy director and head of policy division in the Federal Ministry of Education, the whole issue of the status of the teaching profession and teacher training pedagogy had been of keen policy interest to him.

He lauded what he described as giant strides in building significant layer on teaching professionalism with the extended retirement years for teachers in the classroom now put at 65/40 years.

But, he noted that this important policy gain was work still in progress.

“I have worried for instance on what has happened to the Nigeria’s end at implementing the global best practice regarding the modelling of tertiary education into three-concurrent significance around the universities, COE/monotechnic, and the polytechnics. What indeed should be a flexible relationship of responsibilities among the three within the framework of complementarity to jointly cater to the human capital requirements for national development has since been altered in favour of university education.

“Consequently, the reigning theory in Nigeria is that universities alone can produce the manpower that the country needs even if most of the products of the universities are white-collar jobbers. The result is the national skills disequilibrium that has made Nigeria to rely largely on her neighbours in the sub-region for basic and master artisans, vocational and technical education skills and expertise. This situation has in turn made a mess of the many governments’ job creation and poverty reduction programmes,” Olaopa said.

According to him, in the light of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Federal Government, it is important that the  nation should confront what he described as the “current national craze for certification that is devoid of skills content; one that is complicated by government discriminatory skills pricing, cadre classification and grading, as well as career progression parameters, which increasingly put more weight on the size of certificates rather than what the holders can offer as skill and acumen.”

It is against this background, he said, that he fully supports the imperative need to upgrade more COEs to degree-awarding institutions, one that enables a two-step NCE-B.Ed. certification model.

“This of course has strong implications that will demand that COEs reengineer their backend capability readiness through institutional reprofiling of curricula, pedagogy, as well as mobilise for greater investment in staffing, infrastructural development, faculty upgrade to build research-reinforced pedagogical capabilities of the COEs’ regular faculty members and the entire workforce,” he said.

Olaopa hopes  that in the long-run, the B.Ed. will not subsume and totally eliminate the NCE programme, noting that “hence the need for deep-rooted public education, values reorientation and cultural adjustment of university-craze mindset that has become dysfunctional and limiting for our nation’s economic and human capital development.”

According to Olaopa, in today’s world, students and the youth demographic are not only the largest consumer of ICT contents, they are also the leading creators of online contents, many of which are educational in nature.

This reality to him has raised questions on how fast and deeply the education system is leveraging digital technologies for expanding access to education and learning.

“In other words, to what extent has open and distance learning leveraged students’ use of expensive smart phones for learning? How fast are we teachers catching up with the opportunity afforded by social media technologies to connect with the new digital generation students as part of rejigging the learning and teaching processes?

“It is also relevant to ask the question on the extent that the tertiary education research programmes reflect and envision the technology innovation model of the Silicon Valley-higher education connects as found in the Boston axis of the USA, and Bangalore in India. And how much of these advances are we taking advantage of for more cost-effective education delivery with less of traditional brick-and-mortal mode, with regard to resolving the problem of the shortage of teachers, examination malpractices, cultism, exorbitant cost of printing and distribution of hard copy textbooks?”

He stressed that the traditional brick-and-mortar academic model cannot keep pace with the nation’s population growth rate and the quantum of candidates seeking admissions, the reason that digital-rooted open and distance learning and digital pedagogy is no more an alternative, but the way of the future.

“And kudos to the FGN digital economy policy drives, which has deepened the frontiers of ICT policy, national broadband plan, local content development in ICT, the national e-government initiatives and the enactment of the cyber-security law.

“Consequently, the ground has been created for expansion of open and distance learning, teaching, administration, research and development, and the resolution of the chronic issue of teachers’ shortage.

“It is my conviction that the increased penetration of low cost digital devices and falling internet access cost will make it easier to embed edutainment contents for the benefit of many more students. It also will widen opportunities to those employed to kook for educational opportunities that fit into their work schedule.

“Overall, the expansion of the digital era and digital generation education services will create tremendous business opportunities for forward-looking Nigerian ICT companies and tech-preneurs. This will in turn help government to achieve the broader goals of diversifying the national economy, thus creating jobs, fighting insecurity and corruption,” Olaopa said.

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