Education is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character (moral) or physical ability of an individual, It is also a process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values (personal & cultural) from one generation to another.
To this end, education is a basic human right and considered by many as a key tool for national development. However, this tenet has been challenged by several economists, especially Pritchett (1996).
The economic growth of a country largely depends on technological improvements and on its scientific and technical manpower. Technical education, therefore, has a crucial role in speeding up the country's industrial development. It provides one of the most potent means for development of skilled manpower as required by various sectors in the country's economy. India possesses Asia's oldest, largest and most diverse infrastructure for scientific and technical training that has made important contributions to the country's scientific and industrial development.
Education is an essential tool to eradicate poverty, reduce child mortality, and curb population growth, therefore Curriculum modifications must be enhanced with modern teaching instrumentations. Gone are the days when chalk and blackboard were the principal teaching aids.
For decades now, it has been proved here and abroad that the use of modern training equipment and didactic materials enhances the delivery of quality education. Such teaching aids facilitate and maximize both the teaching and learning aspects of education through hands-on conduct of experiments and practical exercises. Good teaching instrumentations also account in part for the disparity in the quality of graduates produced by well-equipped and ill-equipped schools. Good curriculum/training module and teaching instrumentation, alone, cannot guarantee the delivery of quality education. Faculty staff development and periodic upgrading are as equally important and needed in ensuring good quality of graduates.
However, development refers to the process by which some system, place, object or person enhances its state of being. Development must be measurable in terms of physical growth, socio economic improvement and general enhancement in the quality of life. Hence a development plan must not only guarantee better today but also a much better tomorrow in specific and quantifiable terms.
Industrial revolution has led to the development of factories for large-scale production, with consequent changes in society. Originally the factories were steam-powered, but later transitioned to electricity once an electrical grid was developed. The mechanized assembly line was introduced to assemble parts in a repeatable fashion, with individual workers performing specific steps during the process. This led to significant increases in efficiency, lowering the cost of the end process. Later automation was increasingly used to replace human operators. This process has accelerated with the development of the computer and the robot.
The manufacturing industry plays a key, leading role in industrial development. This has been clearly demonstrated by the the so-called “tiger states” in Asia. These countries focused their effort and investment on the establishment of a strong industrial base (and an export-oriented economy) and can serve as an excellent model for policy development.
Manufacturing is the basic strength of any industrialized nation. Although more people may be employed in the service sector, much of a nation’s wealth is produced by the manufacturing industry.
The manufacturing industry is in constant change due to its normal progression, but the change was rather dramatic during the last few decades. It was even called the “second revolution”, in reference to Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line at the beginning of the last century.
THE ROLE OF EDUCATION ON INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
Technical and vocational education
Technical and vocational education (TVE) has been an integral part of national development strategies in many societies because of its impact on productivity and economic development. In spite of its contributions, Nigeria as a nation has not given this aspect of education the attention it deserves. Technical education is a planned program of courses and learning experiences that begins with exploration of career options, supports basic academic and life skills, and facilitates achievement of high academic standards, leadership, preparation for industry-defined work, and advanced continuing education.
While vocational education and training prepares learners for careers that are based in manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic and totally related specific trade, occupation or vocation. In other words, it is education designed to develop occupational skills.
Vocational/technical education gives individuals the skills to live, learn and work as a productive citizens in a global society. Technical & Vocational education has many prospects. It can be used as a catalyst for creating employment opportunities. Thus, it is a panacea for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In any developmental efforts, Technical Education has a major role to play by providing the much needed skilled manpower in various spheres of endeavour, without which the Engineers, Scientists, Inventors, Administrators and Managers of men and women will find it rather impossible to operate. Technical education is fundamentally basic and rudimentary to technology, which in turn is the tool of development.
PURPOSE OF TECHNICAL & VOCATIONAL EDUCATION (TVE)
Provision of trained manpower in engineering, applied science, technology and commerce at all professional grades; Provision of technical knowledge and vocational skills necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial and economic development; Provision of qualified and well-equipped personnel to apply scientific knowledge to the improvement and solution of environmental problems for use and convenience of man; Introduction of professional studies in engineering and other technologies;.
Provision of training to impart the necessary skills leading to the production of craftsmen, technicians, technologists and engineers and other skilled personnel who will be enterprising and self-reliant; and. To enable men and women to have intellectual understanding of the increasing complexity of technology and the role technology plays in the world around them.
BARRIERS TO TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN EDUCATION
There are many barriers to the development of TVE in Nigeria and these are summarized below:
Most elite parents think that their children would become laborers through TVE. Even if their children are less academically able, parents try to push them into higher education (social elites and political leaders in Nigeria send their children to study abroad. In such circumstances, poor parents become disappointed about their children’s education (Alam, 2003, 2007);
The quality of TVE is poor and cannot provide sufficient significant knowledge for jobs. Most of TVE schools are also located far from rural areas; meaning village students cannot have access to them (World Bank, 1991);
Gallart (1988) claims students of TVE suffer anxiety about the purpose of TVE, being only preparing laborers to get more profit from them, saying it is a moral obligation to eradicate such anxiousness and help them understand that TUE has two roles - preparing skilled manpower for the world of work, and opening the door for TVE students to pursue higher education with a solid foundation. Unfortunately, higher education is very limited for TVE school graduates in Nigeria.
Higher educated people in general discipline areas can work at any place but higher educated people from TVE can only work in TVE related placements, which is low in terms of social prestige. Providing good TVE needs more money for practical workshop facilities, and also demands industrial attachments for internships (World Bank, 1990). Lauglo and Lillis (1988) say that vocational and practical subjects ‘pedagogic systems have unusually multifarious expensive requirements (such as equipments materials, resources, curriculum, support system, personnel, managements requirements, etc.), which are not easily met.
It is also added that budget for TVE is very low in comparison with other sectors of education (BANBEIS, 2007). However, Nigeria is not a poor country. Therefore achieving a high budget for education should not pose a real challenge for Nigeria.
EDUCATION AS A TOOL FOR INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
The provision of vocational and technical schools has a long history. Before the Industrial Revolution (between 1750 and 1830) the home and the “apprenticeship system” were the principal sources of vocational education. But societies were later forced by the decline of handwork and specialization of occupational functions to develop institutions of vocational education (Dully, 1967).
Technical and vocational education (TVE) has been an integral part of national development strategies in many societies because of its impact on productivity and economic development. Despite its contributions the leaders of Nigeria have not given this aspect of education the attention it deserves. And that is one of the reasons for the nation’s underdevelopment. This article focuses on the dearth of skilled technical manpower in Nigeria and argues that technical education holds the key to national development.
While technical and vocational education has continued to thrive in many societies Nigeria has neglected this aspect of education. Consequently, the society lacks skilled technicians: bricklayers, carpenters, painters and auto mechanics; laboratory and pharmacy technicians, electrical/electronic technicians and skilled vocational nurses, etc). The hospitals are no longer a place where people go to get their ailments treated, but a place they go and die. Tales abound of how people die during surgeries and out of minor ailments. And the half-baked roadside mechanics in the society cause more harm to vehicles when contracted to service vehicles, and because of poor training some of the commercial drivers have sent many people to their early death. The shabby performance of Nigeria’s house builders (mason/bricklayers, etc) is no longer news. For that individuals with important projects now use competent technicians from neighboring countries. This is not to mention the havoc the poorly trained technicians have caused in the power sector. Nigeria’s spotty electricity supply is the greatest bottleneck to national development. And toiling all day in the field with knives, hoes, and shovels would not feed the nation’s 140 million people. Mechanized farming requires technical skills that could be obtained in technical and vocational schools.
Every facet of the economy has been affected by lack of skilled technicians. The financial sector lacks technicians to regulate the banks and to develop financial software to properly tackle the rising fraudulent activities in the banking sector. Without security development is impossible in a society; no nation can sustain its democracy if the citizens lack confidence in the police. The police violate the citizens’ human and civil rights and lack forensic laboratory and fingerprint technicians to conduct criminal investigations. And because of lack of tools to track down criminals there was a shameful episode recently in the society where the police paraded a goat/sheep as a thief. It is only in Nigeria that a human being could transform into an animal. And due to poor training military officers are known to beat up the citizens who challenge their powers; the case of Miss Uzoma Okere and some naval officers is a case in point The danger posed by environmental pollution and fake drugs is alarming; the less educated in the society lack the skill to manage AIDS, cancer and diabetes among other serious health problems. One wonders what the nation’s health minister and the 36 state health commissioners are doing to tackle these issues. Any person who still thinks that leadership is not a major cause of Nigeria’s under-developed status is on the wrong side of history.
The neglect of technical education is socially and economically injurious because it is robbing the nation the contributions the graduates would make on national development. For that Nigeria is today wearing the toga of a poor state. Although technical and vocational education seem deficient in ‘citizenship or leadership training’ (Friedman 1982)7 it provides students with “life skills” (Alwasilah, February 11, 2002)8 to become productive entrepreneurs as it engenders creative and innovative ideas, enlarge the economic pie, and increase personal freedom. Most of the so-called “expatriate engineers” who are being paid millions of dollars to build Nigeria’s roads and bridges are graduates of technical and vocational colleges. Yet the leaders do not take technical institutions seriously.
Nigeria’s current preoccupation with university education reduces economic opportunities of those who are more oriented toward work than academe. Not everyone needs a university education. Awarding licenses to greedy organizations and individuals to establish private universities that are not even as equipped as some of the technical and vocational schools in the United States and other advanced nations cannot develop the society. Because of the sorry state of the nation’s tertiary institutions many of the graduates lack “employability” skills, which would easily be acquired from technical and vocational colleges. But who would employ them if everyone is a university graduate?
It is no longer news that the nation’s youth unemployment rate has been shooting up the sky. The federal government recently acknowledged that about 80 per cent of Nigeria’s youths are unemployed and 10 per cent underemployed. And the Minister of Education, Sam Egwu, recently noted that the poor quality of graduates is worrisome.9But what is he doing to arrest the situation? Others have urged the youths to become entrepreneurs and good citizens. But it is not enough to ask the youths to become “entrepreneurs” and reject “social vices” or to be “patriotic” without providing them with skills and financial resources for self-employment or for the public servants to lead by good examples. As the Roman Historian, Plutarch (AD 46-120?) had noted “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” Given their corrupt and greedy lifestyles Nigeria’s leaders do not seem to care about integrity or moral values. They are good at predicting the future without creating it. As Peter Drucker has observed “If you want to predict the future, create it.”
Like unemployment, poverty is ravaging the society. It has vastly been documented that more than 80 per cent of Nigerians live on less than one dollar per day. There should be some form of school-work-based learning incorporated in schools in Nigeria as integral part of national development strategy (Dike, July-September 2006).10Empowering the people with technical skills would enhance their productivity and national development. Nigeria’s poverty alleviation programs have been ineffective because of lack of skills training facilities and social services. Giving money to the poor who cannot manage their own lives to set up small business is like pouring water in a bucket with holes.
To improve workers welfare the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and other affiliated unions should establish technical and vocational training centers in the local government areas where the workers could acquire some employability skills. In today’s knowledge-derived and crisis-ridden global economy one of the ways to spur the economy is to empower the people to tackle the developmental challenges facing the nation. The unions, including the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), should push for increased funding for technical education as part of the current economic reform programs. Calling out the workers for industrial actions is not the only way to fight for their welfare.
The design of Nigeria’s educational system is flawed. The neglect of technical education is an obstacle to national development. Not every one needs a university education. In Nigeria technical degrees are regarded as inferior to regular academic degrees. But in advanced nations those with technical degrees are highly regarded. Individuals with years of field experience work in tandem with those with academic degrees. In fact, the worth of every worker depends on the person’s skills and knowledge, and not on the stack of academic degrees one has. Nigeria must learn to blend theory and practice in its education because theories alone cannot serve any useful purpose. The nation’s technical schools should be brought to international standard by employing teachers with field experience in the subject areas and experienced and professional administrators to run technical institutions. As obtained in the developed nations the technical graduates should be thoroughly certified before they could work as technicians.
Nigeria is terribly lagging behind in preparing its labor force for the 21st century economy. Adult education is also imperative as it would assist those who could not complete their primary and secondary education to acquire basic skills, and for the retired, who constitute greater part of the unemployed group in the society, to retrain for a second career. No nation would make any meaningful socioeconomic stride without well-equipped technical and vocational institutions. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have noted that revitalizing this important sector is among the ways to improve economic opportunities for the youths. The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and teachers in this area should take up the campaign for more funds for technical and vocational education and to launder its image.
It cannot be overemphasized that technical education is the engine for economic growth. No nation can fight a war without an army. In the same token Nigeria cannot develop without well-equipped technical and vocational institutions. In fact, it is the missing link in Nigeria’s development policy (Dike, March 2, 2005).11Because of poor training and ineffective institutions Nigeria suffers from low productivity. But the progress of any society lies in the productivity of its citizens. Higher productivity gives a nation advantage of economies of scale and lowers the costs of production and prices of goods and services. Nigeria should begin now to take very seriously investment in education and skill training as no nation can compete effectively in the emerging global market place with poorly educated and unskilled workers. The leading factors of production in the emerging global economy are said to be technology, knowledge, creativity and innovation.
Nigeria can become an economic power-house (and realize its visions) only if proper attention is given to education and technological development and promotes and rewards creativity, and channel its material and human resources to productive use. The leaders must recognize the relevance of technical and vocational education in national development and adopt and adapt what works in developed nations. The resources being wasted in the on-going false re-branding campaign should have been used to re-brand the nation’s education sector.
Improved industrial efficiency and productivity are important topics of a country’s development strategy. To achieve these, the government, industry, and education sector must work together and develop an industrial system with a modern technological base and a world class workforce.
Bilateral and regional trade agreements may eventually be rendered pointless, with protective trade barriers eroded by unlimited and unregulated global competition. In a situation like that, a less developed country like the Philippines will encounter great difficulties competing against highly industrialized countries.
For the Philippines to have more than even chances of flourishing in the global market place, it must dramatically improve its industrial performance and quality of technical education.
The promotion of technical and vocational education and training for industrialisation, economic development, wealth creation and poverty eradication demands policies and strategies that address the cross-cutting issues of quality and relevance of training, employability, collaboration between training institutions and employers, accreditation of training providers (in the formal, non-formal and informal sectors), assessment, certification, internal and external quality assurance of training programmes, funding, and instructor training. This calls for a TVET system that is competency-based and employment led, with proficiency testing of learners and trainees as proof of competence. TVET should also be seen and acknowledged by all stakeholders as a valid passport to a well-paid job or self-employment or higher education and not as an alternative educational opportunity fit only for early school leavers, the less academically endowed or the poor.
Finally, the point has to be made that technical and vocational education and training alone by itself does not lead to rapid industrialisation, or provision of jobs or eradication of poverty. Good government policies do all three. National governments therefore, need to create an economic environment that promotes the growth of enterprises and generally stimulates the economy. When businesses develop and expand, additional labour-market demands for technical and vocational training emerge, and new job and further training opportunities are created to trace and light the path of industrialisation. For this to happen on a sustainable basis, however, the TVET system must be labour-market relevant, equitable, efficient, and of high quality. This is the challenge that African governments and training institutions must rise up to.
In the same token, Nigeria cannot develop without well-equipped technical and vocational institutions, In fact, it is the missing link in Nigeria’s development policy (Dike, 2005). Because of poor training and ineffective institutions, Nigeria suffers from low productivity.
However, the progress of any society lies in the productivity of its citizens. Higher productivity gives a nation advantage of economies of scale and lowers the costs of production and prices of goods and services.
Nigeria should begin now to take very seriously investment in technical and vocational education and skill training as no nation can compete effectively in the emerging global market place with poorly educated and unskilled workers. The leading factors of production in the emerging global economy are said to be technology, knowledge, creativity and innovation.
Victor E. Dike: “Vocational Education: Missing link in Nigeria’s
Development Policy;” online:
Bart van Ark: “Vocational education and productivity in the Netherlands and
Britain;” National Institute Economic Review, January 5, 1992.
Milton Friedman: Capitalism and Freedom; University of Chicago Press,
2nd edition, 1982.
Chaedar A. Alwasilah: “Vocational education must provide students with life
skills, The Jakarta Post, Feb 11, 2002.
Victor E. Dike: “Youth Unemployment in Nigeria: The Relevance of
Vocational and Technical Education;” in NESG Economic Indicators, July-September 2006, Volume 12, No 3, pp.25-29; 5. Vanguard: “Neglect of technical, vocational education increases youth unemployment-DON,” December 23, 2004; Vanguard: "UNESCO tackles decline in technical, vocational education,” November 25, 2004.