It was recently gathered that the Federal Ministry of Education has plans to include Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the post-basic and secondary education curricula in Nigeria.
According to the plan, this is aimed at bringing students up to par with 21st century technology and education standards. This is expected to begin with the 104 federal unity colleges spread across the country’s six geo-political zones.
It is expected that this move will broaden the horizon of pupils in public schools and prepare them for the knowledge-driven global economy. The government says collaborations and partnerships with the public, private, and non-profit sectors will make this possible.
Success would see an average secondary school student exposed to the opportunities enjoyed by counterparts in private schools, thus gaining skills relevant for life in an ever-improving digital world. But then, there’s the challenge of academic corruption and other bureaucratic discrepancies resulting in underfunding in schools solely catered for by the government.
Apparently, access to digitally-focused subjects is mostly experienced by students in expensive private schools — located in urban areas — that use a foreign curriculum. Unlike privately-owned post-basic education institutions, most of these public schools are overpopulated. Consequently, the standard national student-teacher ratio of 1:40 is usually exceeded. And at the same time, competition for inadequate study infrastructure affects the quality of learning.
Notwithstanding, a good question to ask is how prepared are Nigerian students for the 21st century education system?
The 21st century education system
It is general knowledge that the world is tending towards becoming completely digital. And even developing nations are not left out of this. By explanation, the 21st century education system involves equipping students with the skills they need to succeed in the digital society and also get the confidence they need to practice the skills.
However, there are a number of components that make a 21st century education system workable, all of which are hinged on continuous innovation, such that there are not many restrictions based on prescribed contents that were chosen for past relevance. Instead, students will have to keep up with the rapidly changing world and also be able to transfer the skills they acquire.
Similarly, teachers in this educational system will only have to act as mentors or guides. Simply put, they do not necessarily have to know more than their students. After all, students have become users of technology since they were kids, and due to their curiosity, they are exposed to vast amounts of knowledge.
This explains the tendency to know more than their teachers on many topics. Apparently, teachers may cease to be the custodians of information they were thought to be. If current practices actually influence future outcomes, it is hard not to think that the Nigerian education system is a long way from what is expected.
How possible is this transition?
At the secondary level, the current Nigerian computer science curriculum is replete with what can still be termed redundant. Given that the curriculum has been in use for many years with only minor reviews, there is a likelihood that subjects like robotics and AI may take longer to be incorporated. But the vice principal academics of a federal unity school in Southwest Nigeria believes otherwise.
To him, there seems to already be a system capable of absorbing this intended inclusion. Pleading anonymity, he says there are some existing collaborations between some global and local tech companies already operating in these colleges.
“I know of the presence of CISCO, Skool Media and Krystal Digital and others in most federal secondary schools. In fact, apart from the general computer labs, they also have their designated buildings and equipment,” he says. He claims that occasionally, they organise digital training for both students and teachers. “For students, they have assigned periods on the time table for their classes aside from the computer science subject,” he adds.
Making a case for how soon this can be done, he submits that all that would be necessary is for a solid partnership to be established at the government level, then schools will not hold back. “Since these Tech firms already have a stake in the schools, by the time the new curriculum is included, they just have to present it in a PTA meeting and get the parents to agree, even if other costs are included,” he concludes. Techpoint spoke with some college principals who are yet to get a whiff of this but think it would be a welcome idea.
Asides the likely bureaucracy and corruption limitations, let’s assume all it takes is only a few partnerships.