opinionBy Victor C. Ariole
Lagos — Global ranking of universities and the measurement tools used should not be the right way of assessing the progress of education in Nigeria or even in Africa at large. There are certain theories in marketing that apply to the current global educational system that need to be appreciated. Educational process is like a marketing process, it has to be conceptualized, produced, packaged, priced, publicized, made available to the end user as the marketer returns to the drawing board carrying out further research activities on future rebranding, repositioning, value-re-engineering, so much so an endless activity geared towards keeping the product alive.
Hence for Nigeria or Africa, it was wrong joining or being used as subjects of the ranking business. For now, we are just aping in our education endeavours.
Again, in marketing, there could be a market leader and many challengers or followers who aim at benchmarking the leader or the challengers and, others who must strive, first, at carving a niche for themselves before even identifying themselves as followers. It is, indeed, in the category of niche carvers that African or Nigerian universities must search for space. It will be suicidal for them to aim at competing with those who run education like a "do-or-die" affair in their place, the way politicians plan for elections in Nigeria. How one would have wished that education was seen that way in Africa.
Joining in the global ranking of educational institutions will presuppose that there is an extent global policy on education or global vision for education which all educational institutions pursue. Or, like one of the measures used, the performances of the products of an institution in the global market, which is faulty. Now think of those who went to Marxist institutions in USSR and how they are perceived in the global market of employment dominated by employers who believe in the rule of "market forces".
One is not condoning mediocrity nor laxity here, however, in education, assessment of a student can only be carried out after exposing him or her to a given content of knowledge and providing what it takes to imbibe such knowledge- conducive learning atmosphere.
Assessing a Nigerian or African university, where the government in power prefers to hire products of American or European universities so as to curry the favour of those that matter in world politics and world financial institutions and where the elite prefer to go abroad for as little an ailment as catarrh, is baseless. Such acts by the government alone prove that there is no confidence in our institutions; hence why assess them in the first place?
Former Minister of Education, Dr. (Mrs) Oby Ezekwesili said that she had her first degree at the University of Nigeria and a second degree at the University of Lagos and that she only got recognition after her subsequent and successful academic pursuit in Harvard. Harvard remained in touch with her wherever she was and even offered her a job in Boston and from where she was fished out by the former Nigerian president.
In effect, her Nigerian university lacked in research sustenance as they were not able to monitor their product, reposition it, rebrand it and get it to be alive all the time.
Education, for both the state, education and the product, is an endless activity. It starts from the cradle and has no end as long as the state lives on.
However, every state must define her position in the global educational scale from where its institutions could be adequately assessed, and from where a right policy will be formulated.
Let's assume that the global vision for education is formulated by USA and that other states provide raw materials, qualitative ones, like the Oby Ezekwesilis to Harvard University and so, their policies must be to have an educational process that must dovetail into the global vision provided by the USA. That, definitely, will make such educational process a feeder process and never the main; just as Nigerian Oil is a feeder raw material to space technology in USA while some Nigerians die of pipeline explosions trying to get some litres to sell and feed on, out of poverty. That is, indeed, a neo-colonial policy of education.
However, if Nigeria or Africa wants to carve a niche for themselves in education, it ought to have a vision of education based on self-realization or as Jeffrey O. Sachs puts it, visioning education for enthroning a government that must always see defence, justice, infrastructure and education as areas in which collective action is required to complement or substitute for private-market forces. Hence education for social reconstruction. So, while government swallows hook, line and sinker free economy or market economy, it must still provide education.
Thus to carve a niche for themselves, African Universities must come together and search deeply on how to sustain themselves and the African States by defining and redefining the educational process in Africa. With such, Nigeria could claim leadership, in line with the NEEDS 2020 vision.
If need be, let the Millennium Development Goals define, for now, education polices in Africa. In Sachs (2005) they are stated as follows:
- To help foster political systems that promote human well-being, based on the consent of the governed. (Civic education for all)
- To help foster economic systems that spread the benefits of science, technology and the division of labour to all parts of the world. (Specialised education for global labour market).
- To help foster international cooperation in order to secure a perpetual peace. (Language, cultural and international studies)
- To help promote science and technology, grounded in human rationality, to fuel the continued prospects for improving the human condition. (Nature, psychology, social, medical and environmental studies)
Just like the marketing process where market volume and share are in contention for action, the most juicy products are not allowed to be fabricated in Africa or in the third world, it must always be imported, though fabricated by raw materials from the third world. It is 'embarking on' a wild goose chase aiming at education process that can challenge the USA type or even be its follower when such process is still at a gropping stage. Let's start by carving an educational niche for ourselves and see if a benchmarkable institution can emerge in Africa.
Ariole, Ph.D, is a Lecturer at UNILAG.