Challenges of Quality in Higher Education in Nigeria in the 21st Century
RominaIfeoma Asiyai, Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Faculty of Education, Delta State University, Abraka Nigeria
Higher education also referred to as postsecondary or tertiary education is the education given after secondary education in colleges of education, monotechnics, polytechnics and universities and those institutions offering correspondence courses (Federal Ministry of Education 2004:30). Higher education has been recognized as a fundamental instrument for the construction of a knowledge economy and the development of human capitals all over the world (World Bank, 1999). According to Peretomode (2007), higher education is the facilitator, the bed rock, the power
house and the driving force for the strong socio-economic, political, cultural, healthier and industrial development of a nation as higher education institutions are key mechanisms increasingly recognized as wealth and human capital producing industries. World Bank (2004) argued that higher education is fundamental to all developing countries if they are to prosper in a world economy where knowledge has become a vital area of advantage. Countries can achieve sustainable development by improving through training in higher level, the skills of their human capitals
The aims of higher education in Nigeria as outlined by the Federal Ministry of Education (2004) section 8 (59) are:
- Contribution to national development through high level manpower training.
- Development and inculcation of proper values for the survival of the individual and the society.
- Development of the intellectual capabilities of the individual to understand and appreciate their local and external environment.
Section 8 (60) of the federal ministry of education also state that higher education in Nigeria should vigorously pursue these goals through:
- Research and development
- Knowledge generation and dissemination and international cooperation
- Dedicated services to the communities through extra-mural and consultancy services
Nigeria has a teaming population of about 154 million people. A growing population necessitates some growth in higher education to accommodate the increasing number of students seeking a higher education degree, yet the potential of Nigerian higher education systems to fulfill this responsibility is frequently thwarted by problems of finance, efficiency, equity and quality.
Conceptual clarification Quality
According to DuBrin, (1997) quality is a desirable attribute of a product or service that distinguishes it for the person seeking the attribute. DuBrin maintained that good quality should posses the characteristics of conformance to expectation, conformance to requirement, excellence and value and loss of avoidance. Asiyai and Oghuvbu (2009) defined quality as a measure of how good or bad the products of higher education institutions in Nigeria are in terms of their academic performance and meeting established standards.
Article 11 of the World Declaration on Education, (2003) seesquality as a multi-dimensional concept which should encompass all the functions and activities in schools. Such activities of higher educational institutions has been highlighted as teaching, research and scholarship, community service, staffing, students, infrastructures and educational, equipment and the academic environment (World conference on higher education, 1998). When quality education is delivered high enough to meet set standards, the products of education should be able to perform well in the world of work in real life situation. When quality is low, performance cannot meet the set standards. Hence one can say that the quality of education has declined below set standard
Quality assurance is the process of maintaining standards in products and services through inspection or testing of samples (Ramson-Yusuf 2005). In line with this Ayodele, (2007) contend that quality assurance entails the quality of available instructional materials for teaching, equipment, facilities, school environment, pupils, curriculum, quality of instructional delivery and quality of teachers.
Quality assurance is designed to prove and improve the quality of an institutions methods, educational products and outcomes (Oyebode, Oladipo and Adetome; 2008). One of the key building blocks of quality assurance in education is the development of minimum standards as in qualification of teachers, the quality of teaching in institutions, expected educational achievement of students and the development of a more rigorous management process for education so that the entire sector develop stronger operating policies, procedures which are well documented and adhered to.
Quality Assurance Variables
Quality assurance in higher education in Nigeria include internal and external mechanisms put in place by institutions and accreditation agencies respectively, to ensure standard in all the functions of the institutions. Institutions of higher learning in Nigeria have employed various variables to determine the quality assurance of their programmes and institutions. They are:
- minimum academic standard
- carrying capacity and admission quota
- publications and research assessment
- Accreditation of programmes or institutions
- Monitoring, assessment and evaluation of existing staff strength, students and facilities
- Institutional ranking in terms of undergraduate and post graduate courses and programmes
Quality education is that education that is relevant and adapted to the needs of the society (Ndiomu, 1989). Quality in higher education refers to the worth of the inputs into higher education systems, lecturers, instructional facilities and evaluation procedures which translates to the outputs. Majasan, (1998) maintained that quality education is value-loaded arguing that quality education should produced disciplined behaviour, hard work, improved cultural heritage and mutual respect within and outside the school community. If a society expects quality manpower for rapid development and transformation, quality education is a must do affair (Majasan, 1998)
Quality higher education entails that the products of institutions of higher education should be able to perform according to expected standard and compete favourably with their peers in other countries of the world. Hence Akinpelu, (2000) argued that education without quality can even be more dangerous than no education, stressing that without quality, education has no value.
Variables acting as challenges of quality in higher education in Nigeria
Inadequate funding is the most critical challenge that has threatened the attainment of good quality higher education in Nigeria. The problem of inadequate funding of education has been a bane to educational development in the country.Many institutions of higher learning in Nigeria were unable to build lecture halls, students’ hostels, equip laboratories and workshops and payment of staff salaries, research grants, allowances and medical bills (Ivara and Mbanefo cited in Asiyai 2005)
Inadequate teaching staff /poor quality of teaching staff
A big challenge to the attainment of quality higher education in Nigeria is the lack of academic staff. According to Coombs (1970), teachers are the hub of any educational system. Teachers determine the quality of education because they transmit educational policies into practice and action.As rightly pointed out by Ukeje, (1996) without adequate number of inspiring, well-informed teachers, fully prepared to meet their responsibilities in our schools, we cannot have good education and without good education, we cannot hope for long to meet successfully, the challenges of a changing world.
Despite the importance of teachers in the attainment of good education, institutions of higher learning in Nigeria are short of lecturers to adequately handle teaching and learning activities. Bamiro, (2012) attributed the problem of de-intellectualization of the academia to low quality of staff of some institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. Where there is inadequate teaching staff and poor quality of lecturers, the attainment of good quality in higher education will be difficult.
Poor policy implementation
Poor policy implementation is a challenge to quality delivery in education. The poor quality delivery is responsible for the abysmal low performance of graduates of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria in their world of work and the alarming incidence of examination malpractice. However, several factors could be adduced as inhibitors to smooth implementation of educational policies and thereby resulting to poor quality delivery. Such factors as government underfunding of education and injudicious utilization of available funds by implementation agencies-vice chancellors, rectors, provosts deans of faculties, heads of department etc.
Lack of resources
Quality higher education is dependent on the quality and quantity of human and material resources put in place in institutions of higher learning. The lack of infrastructures such as science laboratories, workshops, students’ hostels, libraries and electricity will affect the quality of education.
Besides, the libraries in most institutions of higher learning in the country are stocked with obsolete text books, with current journals and text books lacking. In the opinion of Kamm (1980;34), the library is at the heart of the academic effort in a college or university. For an institution to be strong academically, it must have a formidable library put in place. This explains why the top universities of the world (Harvard, Cambridge, Tokyo and University of California) are academically of high strength and quality. The acute shortage of educational facilities in institutions of higher learning in Nigeria has led to decline in the quality of higher education in the country.
Worried about the poor quality of graduates of higher education institutions in Nigeria, the national universities commission carried out a need assessment survey which was reported by Okebukola, (2005) and highlighted the following:
- only about 30% of Nigerian students’population has adequate access to classrooms, workshop, lecture halls, laboratories and libraries.
- Deficient libraries in terms of currency and number of books, journals, and electronic support facilities
Lack of information communication technology facilities
Another challenge to quality attainment in higher education in Nigeria is lack of information communication technology facilities in institutions of higher learning. As part of her education reform effort Nigerian government adopted information communication technologies in all levels of education since information communication technology integration in educational practices is meant to improve teaching and learning, enhance higher education research, enhance collaboration among peers and improve quality of education.
Curriculum content could be enriched through search from the internet by teachers. Through such internet search, information and relevant school practices which are unknown to teachers and students and which cannot be found in textbooks, can easily be downloaded for use. Information and communication technology in education has been continuously linked to higher efficiency, higher productivity and higher educational outcomes, including quality of cognitive, creative,and innovative thinking (Olatoye, 2011).
Frequent labour disputes and closures of universities
A big challenge to quality higher education in Nigeria is the incessant staff union disputes and subsequent closures of the institutions. Asiyai (2005) provided a catalogue of strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) within fourteen years. She revealed that they were too many strikes, some of which lasted up to six months. Asiyai (2006) identified the variables inducing the frequent trade union disputes as poor conditions of service ofstaff, non-implementation of ASUU/FGN or SSANU/FGN agreements, lack of autonomy and academic freedom and poor funding.
The disruption of academic programmes of institutions of higher learning affects students learning outcomes, since lecturers find it difficult to complete the course work. In most cases a semester’s course work is sandwiched to few weeks during which lectures are rushed to accommodate the time lost to strike. This type of academic rush is a big threat to attainment of quality in higher education in Nigeria
Lack of vibrant staff development programmes
Most institutions of higher learning in Nigeria lack staff development programme for training and re-training of staff. Vibrant staff development programme on a continuous basis will help academics and non-academics to clarify and modify their behaviour, attitude, value, skills and competencies. In this way, they grow and develop in their knowledge and thus become more effective and efficient in the performance of tasks. In addition, AsiyaiandOghuvbu (2009) reported that lack of staff development programmes accounted for the decline in quality of tertiary education in Nigeria. Similarly, Adeogun, (2006) noted that an employee who is not trained and exposed to continuous retraining in the modern methods and new discoveries in his or her field will soon become irrelevant to the organization
A big challenge to the quality of higher education in Nigeria is the problem of brain drain. Over the past decades, there has been mass exodus of brilliant and most talented lecturers to other sectors of the economy. Some of the lecturers left Nigerian universities to join the business world, some joined politics while others left Nigeria for better services. Brain drain has led to decline in research outputs from institutions of higher learning in Nigeria vis-à-vis the disappearance of research centers in Nigerian universities.
Poor leadership both at the government level and at the institution level have been a big challenge to quality in higher education in Nigeria. Since the nineties, the government of the country has not shown enough commitment to higher education development in Nigeria. One of the several indices for properly evaluating government commitment to educational development in any country is budgetary allocation and disbursement to education.
UNESCO had recommended 26% budgetary allocation to education based on GNP but the amount allocated to education by Nigerian government has continued to be smaller when compared to other African countries.For example, budgetary allocation to education as percentage of GNP was 0.7%, South Africa was 7.9%, Ghana was 4.2%, Kenya was 6.5% and Sub-Sahara 4.2% in 2005 (Uhunmwuangbo, 2005). A World Bank Report cited by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU, 2013) noted that in 2012 Nigeria’s GDP was 262.2 billion USD while allocation to education was 1.96 billion USD
Additionally, poor leadership of some Nigerian university administrators has been a bane to the attainment of quality in higher education in Nigeria. Institutions of higher learning in Nigeria exist because they are goals to be attained. These goals can be effectively attained when the human resources within the institutions are properly managed for their positive impacts on productivity. This is the place of leadership in the institutions of higher learning. The duty of leadership is to reduce problems within the system in order to enhance efficiency.
AccordinglyOsiebe (1995) argued that poor leadership of some university administrators by not involving staff union members in decision making while Iyayi, (2002) argued that dismissal of some academics without following due process were indication of poor governance which made many academic staff de-motivated to serious academic pursuit.AdditionallyBamiro, (2012) maintained that the unfavourable governance which lead to series of strikes resulting to closure of some institutions for up to 177days since 1993 to the present day accounted for low quality in higher education in Nigeria. This unhealthy situation could lead to strained relations between university staff unions and management, increased hostility and aggression and increased mutual suspicion which are all threats to mutual co-existence for the attainment of good quality in institutions of higher learning.
To address the challenges of quality in higher education in Nigeria, the following are recommended: for higher education policy makers
- Government of Nigeria should place high premium on education by meeting up the recommended 26% educational spending prescribed by UNESCO, to help revitalize the higher education system,
- Enabling environment should be created for staff through improved conditions of service, provision of basic infrastructures, virtual libraries and information communication technologies and internet connectivity.
- Institutions of higher learning in Nigeria should set up internal quality assurance and monitoring of lecture units to enhance good quality delivery.
- To improve quality, lecturers and non-lecturers should be motivated to make them more dedicated, devoted and committed and effective in their jobs.
Institutions of higher learning in Nigeria should employ more lecturers to match the students’ population
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