(Continued from last week)
How have we utilised education (through the National Policies on Education) for national development in Nigeria since independence? Again, this is the subject of another discourse. Suffice to state here that the structure, plans and designs of the policies, the educational system in Nigeria lacks policy coherence and ample implementation. Thus, its focus is on self-realisation, individual and national effectiveness, national unity and ‘the objective of achieving social, cultural, economic, political, scientific and technological development. All of these have not materialised into sustained and sustainable development of the nation. Reason? Incoherent policy implementation and other challenges such as incessant strikes, lock-outs in the tertiary institutions, unattractive and dis-incentive service conditions, leading to brain-drain – to pastures that are not so green nowadays – poor work environment in institutions leading to inadequate resource materials in libraries and laboratories; immoral and unethical practices in the institutions -financial mismanagement by administrators and misconduct by staff; poor management of crises in the institutions; inadequate funding of education by government, including lopsidedness in allocation with a disproportion in allocation in favour of recurrent expenditure over capital expenditure; delayed releases of appropriation; poor funding of the free education policy at the primary school level; mushrooming of private institutions and difficulty in regulation of standards (there are stories of private schools which decree the number of first class degrees that must emerge each academic year, and so on).
We have dwelt extensively on the issue of a knowledge society/economy in a recent convocation lecture and need not delay us here for long. Knowledge economy and knowledge society will, as a term and concept, be deployed quite fluidly and defined as ‘a knowledge driven economy’ (in which) the generation and exploitation of knowledge play the predominant part in the creation of wealth.’ The fact is that in the developing world nowadays, over 60 percent of workers are knowledge workers, who contribute remarkably to the GDP of their countries. While the case is not true with us in Nigeria today where the movement from an agrarian economy to the industrial civilisation is both slow and shy, there is an increasing need to translate, through frog-jumping from a slow industrialisation process to a knowledge-driven society.
The tertiary institutions as store-house of knowledge must position themselves by utilizing their research capabilities to support the socio-economic development of the Nigerian society by taking initiative, providing leadership and functioning as agent of national transformation in a knowledge society.
To do this, the state should be prepared to invest massively in a knowledge-based education system which builds on the wide influence of modern information and communication technologies and the other critical features of that economy.
What is of utmost import to this lecture is the recognition of the role of the business , technical and vocational education by providing high quality technical skills in high numbers from the sub-sector of technical and business education. This requires the expertise of engineers, technicians and artisans/craftsmen. It recognises the need of a large pool of artisans/craftsmen. What is most important is the deployment of the existing five technical colleges in the state to produce the skills and train the artisans/craftsmen needed. The focus is on innovation and producing small business owners from students of technical and business colleges who have acquired both technical and entrepreneurial skills and demonstrated the requisite potentials for further development through mentorship after graduation.
Thus, the colleges of technology, monotechnics and business schools are the spaces for the production of these high quality technical and business skills. Its students are the raw material. Industries at the economic nerve centre of the country are the partners who will support students’ internship and work related studies alongside vibrant and large informal sector that can be integrated into the science, technology and innovation and information technology schemes.
Yet there are challenges facing business education (and education generally in the age of IT and the Internet. One is the challenge of the age in which we are now -the age of information, communication and Internet. As we well know, the primary objective of business education is “to provide instruction for and about business.” Major courses taught on the business education curriculum, and which continue to be taught therein in some institutions include accounting, data processing, economics, shorthand, typing, basic business, business law, business math, office procedures, and business communication. But, as has been observed by researchers of business education, even though many of these courses continue to be taught, the ‘content and technology aspect has changed drastically. Business education courses now include computerised accounting, business management, business law, economics, entrepreneurship, international business, word processing, desktop publishing, multimedia computer programming, and web page design.’ Keyboarding has gone down considerably and out of fashion.
Institutions which do not review/revise their curricular to reflect consciousness on the competence of information technology may be taking considerable risk. Minimum standards will well be advised, if indeed it is not yet the case, to revise and incorporate into business education curriculum topical subject areas such as: ‘accounting, business law, career development, communications, computations, economics, personal finance, entrepreneurship, information systems, international business, management, marketing, and interrelationships of business’ if their programmes will be current and marketable, with apt career awareness.
Information technology is growing like wide fire in the knowledge society with its impact on growing shortage of business teachers and students. There is also the challenge of maintaining an up-to-date knowledge in information-processing technology of jobs which increases the popularity of technology courses, certainly to the detriment of business courses. In other words, there is increasing demand for technology courses and this leads to students’ engagement in personal tutoring in computers and telecommunication networks. Students thereby specialise too early before maturing in their business education training and obtaining certification in them. There is a growing interest in technical courses and this reduces interest in the general business courses. And the non-business education programmes.
Any cause for distress or alarm? Not at all, it just calls for alertness, drive toward currency in information – processing technology programmes. Business educators like you all should advocate for the institution and offering of programmes in business education institutions that are compliant with the demands of a knowledge economy. Shola Safo-Duodu, National President Institute of Marketing, Ghana admonished, in a similar context to the imperative for digitalisation by marketers (marketing is a discipline of business education) – “to adjust to modern trends in technology in order to ensure survival” of their businesses.