The quest by Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in Nigeria to be converted to Universities has been described as the hardiness of hearts and the inability of a society to get its act right in the education system.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had signed into law the bill on conversion of some colleges of education such as Adeyemi College of Education (ACE) Ondo and Federal College of Education, Zaria, Kaduna State into universities and also the conversion of some polytechnics into degree awarding institutions.
To kick-start the new policy, the nation’s two most prominent polytechnics – Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic will henceforth be known as City University of Technology, Yaba and City University of Technology, Kaduna.
Speaking on the topic, “Teacher Education in a Knowledge Economy and Quest for University Status for Colleges of Education in Nigeria,” the Dean School of Transportation, Lagos State University (LASU) Ojo, Lagos, Prof S.G Odewunmi, said the term college and university is a function of the country and context.
Odewunmi, who was delivering the 36th, 37th and 38th joint convocation lecture of Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED) Otto, Ijanikin, Lagos, stressed that in the United States of America, the word ‘School’ describes any place where people learn.
“You can call a College a School, you can call a university a school and you can even use the word school for any English language institute, undergraduate or graduate programme. We have School of Transport in LASU and we have College of Medicine which is a common template in Nigeria University system”, he said.
According to him, deriving from the affinity of college and university, it is expected that there should be no need for any clamour for crossover but within Nigeria context there is a glass ceiling both in real and social terms.
“The fact is AOCOED can award degrees up to Doctoral level, the name college is not a limitation of mandate, a deep manifestation of a society that is yet to get its act right in curriculum formatting”, he said.
The Don noted that if it were not for the hardiness of hearts and inability to get acts right in the education system, it would not have been necessary for AOCOED or any college of education for that matter to embark on the long voyage for change in status.
He described such quest as “Confused People, Confused Education System: Fuji House of Commotion”.
The convocation lecturer stressed further that education system is a very large articulated structure that should not be tampered with at the whims and caprices of any minister of education at the federal level or any commissioner of education at the state level.
“Painfully this is a common occurrence. Every new minister or commissioner wants to leave a footprint on the sands of our education system. All sorts of experiments and changes are foisted by individuals who have only beer parlour ideas on how the delicate and articulated system works”, he said.
He recommended that there should be specific intervals at which knowledgeable experts will be assembled to review the curriculum to address issues that will normally be arising due to the dynamic nature of knowledge.
He warned that this should not be left to the fancy of any bird of passage such as a political appointee.
The university Don decried the removal of programmes like Teacher Grade II, and the Higher School Certificate (HSC), saying Grade II teachers for instance are designed to be trained as class teachers at the primary level, saying their training makes them teacher of all subjects at that level, parents and general administrators.
He said the removal of HSC from educational structure has done a lot more harm than good, saying one major achievement of HSC is that it provides a stop gap layer for any child that cannot for whatever reason gain admission into the tertiary education.
The second advantage, according to him, is that it provides for age maturation as many precocious children ate finishing secondary school under the age of 16 which is the minimum entry age for most of public universities in Nigeria and many parts of the world.
He suggested immediate restoration of the programme and licencing of capable secondary schools to run HSC as it was in the past.
“The third in our Fuji House of Commotion is the total neglect of technical colleges. This is the tier that should produce the bulk of the technical skill necessary to build and maintain our infrastructures, the situation is now so dire that most builders rely on labour from West African countries like Togo, Ghana for plumbing, brick/tile laying , electricians and carpentry/wood works”, he said.
This is the tier that should produce the bulk of the technical skill necessary to build and maintain our infrastructures, the situation is now so dire that most builders rely on labour from West African countries like Togo, Ghana for plumbing, brick/tile laying , electricians and carpentry/wood works”, he said.
He also bemoaned the mode of implementation of the 6-3-3-4 system, saying the vision is to make this layer the incubator for the separation of academically and technically oriented children.
He, however, lamented that teachers who teach the skills were themselves not trained and the equipment bought were mostly not used.
“This aspect is to prepare the technically inclined pupils for better advancement in technical colleges and polytechnics. I suggest here that we get serious as a nation to address this lacuna that is dragging us down in our development”, he said.
Odewunmi also spoke about the mandate mix ups of the various tiers of educational structure, stressing that the strange reality is that the colleges of education and polytechnics that are designed to award certificates and Diplomas respectively desire to and indeed are awarding degrees.
On the other hand, the universities that are designed to award degrees desire to and indeed are awarding certificates and Diplomas including ‘A’ level and ‘O’ level GCE.
“Since everybody desires to be in the university, it does not matter what they are reading, students will go to the university to pay through their nose, the universities are using them for IGR to collect O level certificate and Diplomas rather than take the same from the colleges of education and polytechnics that is best suited to award such”, he said.
He said the resultant effect is that the colleges of education are empty while the universities are busting in the seams with junk load that is not meant for them.
The guest lecturer however justified AOCOED quest for change in status, saying the College has evolved from several changes like the growth of a beautiful butterfly.
Such changes include from a Grade III Teachers Training College in 1958 to Grade II Teachers Training College to NCE awarding College in the 1970s and a Degree awarding in 1999 in collaboration with the University of Ado-Ekiti (now Ekiti State University, EKSU) and by 2009 consequent upon the approval of the National Universities Commission (NUC) full time degree programmes commenced.
“Any institution with such a rich pedigree has no doubt paid its dues and it should therefore be allowed to complete its full metamorphosis,” he said.