By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA — Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has called for a prioritization of innovation in the development of Nigerian universities’ curricula to avail graduates opportunities to compete in the 21st century global economy. Obasanjo stated this during the second Quarterly Distinguished Lecture organized by the National Universities Commission, NUC, in Abuja.
Obasanjo who chaired the event said curriculum is essential to the attainment of the set objectives of any institution, adding that at any point in time, a nation must be able to justify the rationale underlying her educational aspirations.
“No matter at what level, no matter the magnitude, no matter the goals to be achieved, there must be curriculum which is the guide that leads to the attainment of the objective of the educational institution. Through the ages, the question has consistently been education for what? Education for knowledge, education for skill, education for freedom, education for self reliance, education for self sufficiency. You can go on. But whatever our education is for, I believe one important aspect in a dynamic society, in a dynamic situation is that the curriculum must be innovated, invigorated, re-engineered and be made dynamic,” he said.
Obasanjo noted that in most cases, university administrators are often ignorant of the gulf between the work place and the academic world even as he recalled the experience a former Egyptian Minister of Youth and Employment shared in a meeting he attended outside the shores of Nigeria many years ago. “A minister in charge of Youth and Employment in Egypt was at that meeting. He used to be a vice chancellor of a university and he said while he was a VC, he used to be proud of his products. It was when he became minister of youth and employment that he realized that he was out of touch. So, he was producing graduates that were not only unemployed but that were also unemployable. He told us how he solved the problem: a one year crash programme to make them employable.”
So he had to engineer a review of the curriculum and I couldn’t agree more,” added President Obasanjo.
He further urged Nigerian universities to embrace innovation, without which the much craved 21st century skills would be elusive. “We need innovation, innovation and innovation. I don’t know, but in almost every level of our life, we don’t have time to encourage innovation. We need innovation in the review of our university education curriculum, the local government and state government levels. Research and innovation may go together but they are two different things,” he stressed.
Speaking on the theme: “On the March to Re-invent the Curricula of Nigerian Universities for Improved Relevance and Global Competitiveness,” Guest Speaker and former Executive Secretary of the NUC, Professor Peter Okebukola said the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) of the NUC is aimed at designing standard curriculum complete with “What topics to be taught, minimum human and material resources for delivering the curriculum, how the topics should be taught and how the courses should be examined,” he stated.
Okebukola said a survey he conducted alongside 140 professors in the country recently, revealed that the current BMAS is fraught with some inadequacies ranging from outdated course content, inadequate internship periods to dearth of practical courses amongst others. He also maintained that in the next few years, no effort would be spared in ensuring that national minimum standards are met and all graduates regardless of the universities that produce them, have same exposure to knowledge and skills, required to fit in a knowledge-driven world.