By Amidu Arije
The Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU), Prof Olanrewaju Fagbohun has called for a thorough review of higher education curriculum in the country to align with the realities of the future which is technologically driven.
The University don lamented the technological backwardness confronting education in Nigeria. He said; “our education curriculum, content delivery and learning tools must be realigned to drive us through that future and beyond bearing in mind that knowledge and education are the foundation and drivers of development”.
Prof Fagbohun who made the keynote address at a webinar on future of Higher education in Nigeria organised by M-Solution Consulting in Lagos said Nigeria learning system is still far away from technological advancement, these, he said would not make the varsities attain their place in the global space.
“Unfortunately, remote, virtual, open, distance and other learning methods are still at its infancy in Nigeria. Consequently, while learning is ongoing in some parts of the world, several higher institutions in Nigeria are on lockdown and learning is grounded,” he said.
Speaking on the background of the bitter realities the coronavirus pandemic has brought to education in the world, Prof Fagbohun said over 1 billion learners are currently being affected by this infectious disease.
“Higher Education in Nigeria, just like other levels of education became grounded. According to UNESCO, 192 countries had closed all schools and universities by mid-April, affecting more than 90 percent of world’s learners. An estimated 1,725 billion learners are currently affected by the school closure worldwide resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Prof Fagbohun in his keynote address at the webinar said:
“Clearly, Covid-19 has birthed a learning crisis in Nigeria. At some point, the tertiary institutions in Lagos State (Lagos State University where I hold forth as the Vice-Chancellor inclusive) had to rethink teaching and learning modes. Currently, administration, teaching, public lectures and staff training via remote automation became the order of the day.
For me, a discussion centered on what lies ahead in terms of Higher education in Nigeria beyond the Covid-19 era is a welcome development. I must say that there will be greater emphasis on flexible mode of teaching and learning and even assessment.
In terms of learning, students will have (if they are given) more freedom in how, what, when and where they learn. The combination of face-to-face and online learning will not only give students the freedom to choose, it would reduce, if not eliminate, a lot of barriers to learning such as distance, physical structures, cost amongst others.
With a growing global population imbued with a keen thirst of knowledge driven by competition, and a technological savvy labour market, immersive learning and teaching experience will become indispensable to higher education in Nigeria post Covid-19. To put it plainly, digital campuses, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies will become big-players in the higher education space and Nigeria cannot be left behind. In this light, our education curriculum, content delivery and learning tools must be realigned to drive us through that future and beyond bearing in mind that knowledge and education are the foundation and drivers of development. We must be equipped to adapt or transform to new methods of learning. We must also address the issue of accessibility to digital learning tools.
As a country, there is need for a paradigm shift in our education policy in such a way that innovation is embraced while creating a veritable environment for technology to drive teaching, learning and research. Government at various levels will have to effectively address issues relating to internet accessibility, poor connectivity, high costs of data subscription and unstable power supply.
Most tertiary institutions are currently faced with dearth of funding. Proprietors, particularly, government can invest in technology in order to put these institutions in good stead for global competition. University administrators should also look more to technology to reduce their cost in the face of dwindling funding as a result of competing priorities of government.
An increase in the adoption of technology for learning, research and administration, has a potential to bring in more students (from within and outside the shores of our nation) to satisfy their higher education needs in Nigeria thereby reducing cost while increasing the revenue profile and global ranking of tertiary institutions in the country. If Harvard University could post a $298 million surplus in the 2019 fiscal year then tertiary institutions in Nigeria should, as a matter of necessity, develop and adopt sustainable operating models to compete favourably on a global scale. Technology can make this possible.
In terms of continued relevance, our tertiary institutions will have to walk the talk. They need to be the bedrock of industrial growth through top-notch research and developmental efforts. Industry is already poised for a more digital and competent workforce. Thus, higher education in Nigeria should brace up and be open to endless innovation and changes in the post Covid-19 era.
Going by McKinsey Global prediction, almost half of all workplace activities could be automated in the future. It is therefore apt that tertiary institutions in Nigeria ensure that staff and students are imbued with appropriate orientation and mindset. This will boost the confidence of our human resource to adapt to the technology revolution by welcoming same rather than exhibiting fears and becoming skeptics of change.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has added a new layer of complexity to running of the affairs of higher education in the country. On a positive note, the threats posed by the pandemic may turn out to be the springboard our higher education requires to look inwards for a sustainable reform that is long overdue.
I must add, on a final note, that the future came quicker than anticipated in Nigeria. How to keep up with the global digital revolution going on in the higher education space is now, more than ever a matter of serious concern to government, higher education administrators and other stakeholders. As is the case in other countries, tertiary institutions in Nigeria should embrace and adopt Distruptive Technologies and E-Learning as the new normal in educational delivery. This include Internet of things, Block chain, Cloud-based computing essentials, 3-D enhanced learning, Artificial intelligence and Big data analytics. Where necessary, our institutions should partner with vendors who are able to supply configured laptops to students at discounted rates”.