Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stopping the educational decline

I am disheartened about the just released 2009 NECO results of Senior secondary students in Nigeria. According to sources (click here), only 1.8% [of 234,682 students ]made the requisite 5 credits subject pass (including in English and Mathematics) needed for higher degree study. In 2008, it was 27.64%.

That is a too wide chasm for students to have fallen through in one year. How could our secondary school education have declined so rapidly?

The Registrar of NECO, Prof. Promise Okpalla comment over this sad pass was that “Inasmuch as education remains a potent tool for attaining national goals, NECO will remain a veritable instrument for measuring educational attainment at the secondary school level, as standards will not be sacrificed for whatever reasons.”
He regretted the poor performance of the candidates in the examination and said that there was the need for stakeholders to intensify efforts in ensuring improvement in candidate's performance.

I totally agree with him on that but, who are the stakeholders if not him, his agency, directorates of education, principals, teachers, parents and the students themselves. Have they done their best by the students?
A day before I read this release, I was in a Government owned secondary school in Lekki, Lagos. An overcrowded school by all standards. The smallest JSS3 contained 150 students. The slightly bigger classes had over 200 students. The waves of heat emanating from those bodies squashed together had me running out of the class at 10 minute intervals to gasp for air. The Junior WAEC is barely a month away. Is this the condition in which we will get 99% pass rate?
What are the consequences of overcrowded classrooms? According to this source. Some of the impacts of school overcrowding are:

The students do not get individual attention,

Low reading scores,

The inability of students to concentrate or stay on task while in class,

Also students in overcrowded schools are more likely to experience violence. With so many students to look after, bullying and other violent acts may go unnoticed for longer periods of time.

Frustration and Early burnout by the teachers

Many new teachers at low income schools begin their careers with high hopes but soon find their enthusiasm crushed by obstacles to teaching excellence. Teachers in such schools complain about the lack of professional support, the inadequacy of necessities such as blackboards and chalks, working copy machines, and the use of greater amounts of non-instructional time spent in trying to maintain order in an overcrowded class. It is not surprising that, given a choice, exceptional teachers choose employment in wealthy/private schools where their talents can be put to optimum use. Moreover the salaries are subsistence and they do not come always.

Loss of vocational subjects:

And perhaps most seriously, electives such as art, music, and shop classes may have to be eliminated, because of the need to use all available space for educational "basics."

What can we do this stop this decline in our educational system?

Zero Tolerance for corruption in standardized exams. We have to stop dampening if not killing the spirit of the zealous students in our schools. Stop reinforcing the message that the best results can only be gotten by money not hard work.

Finding new space: either by building more classrooms, or relocating administrative space to another quarter can free up space.

Schools can also collaborate with local colleges and universities, businesses, and non-profit organizations to use their available spaces, allowing students to receive instructional or non-instructional services in settings outside of traditional school buildings.

Employ teachers who are qualified

Standardize school fees payment in all schools[both private and public schools]

Get the society involved:

Parents, in their role as taxpayers, have a large say in how much their government spends on schools. They should demand the best for their children. We too have a role to play.

Some of us were alumnus of these public schools albeit in their 'hey days'. Why don’t you take a day out and visit your old school today. Reach out to other alumnus. If your schedule is too busy for meetings, there is email, conference calls.

Organize scholarships, or best student/teachers awards. Projects that will promote excellence, mentoring classes.

Gary Burnett says in the students place "Bill of rights" and I quote: Providing adequate spaces for education is not simply a matter of ensuring a certain number of square feet of classroom space per student. For learning to truly take place, students must have access to spaces appropriate for the purposes to which they are being used. Schools should be able to provide quiet and safe places for individual testing and private counseling, as well as suitable common areas such as libraries, gyms, and playgrounds. School facilities should be properly maintained and functional, and all areas should be accessible to people with disabilities.

No comments: