The necessity of career colleges is crucial to development of the socio-economy of any country, especially the developing ones, like ours, because career colleges provide students with options based on not only “what they learn” but “how they learn”. In my opinion, one of the sectors of millennium development is to refocus and re channel resources back to energising and supporting educational forums and effort that will dramatically and successfully increase students’ interest in education, which will in turn increase enrollments and academic achievements.
In my opinion, to begin tackling the problem of retaining students in both traditional schools and career colleges, we need to review, ask and proceed to answer two simple questions…. “Why are they not coming?” and when they come “Why don’t they stay?” why is there a high dropout rate before completing school. There are numerous reasons, including the difficulty of getting to school, the cost of schooling, class room engagement, keeping students interested, some kind of hope for future utilisation of knowledge acquired, etc. Even when tuition is free, there are often other expenses necessary for general welfare, such as lunch, projects, uniforms, examination fees, etc. And because the quality of education in developing areas, like ours is often poor, parents are forced to pay for additional tutoring to enable their children to pass tests (that is if they can afford it). Opportunity costs may be even larger – while they are in school, children forego opportunities to produce income working on the family farm or selling in the marketplace. It is not surprising that when education investments do not result in adequate learning, or even basic literacy and numeracy or even any future hope of doing something tangible with the proposed knowledge, parents do not keep their children in school.
Even when learning outcomes are adequate, very few students continue on to secondary school, not to talk of pursuing higher education. Job prospects for most people in the developing world are poor, and staying in school past grade 5, or even through grade 10, does not improve them significantly. In impoverished regions, the vast majority will not secure formal employment and will be supported primarily through subsistence level agriculture and trading.
Educational programmes typically adopt traditional Western models of education, with an emphasis on maths, science, language, and social studies. These programmes allocate scarce resources to topics like Greek mythology, prime numbers, or tectonic plate movement – topics that may provide intellectual stimulation, but have little relevance in the lives of impoverished children. High performing students in less developed regions face a much different future from their counterparts’ in wealthier areas. There are no higher levels of schooling or professional job opportunities awaiting most of these children; they will likely end up working on family or neighborhood farms or start their own small enterprises, with little room to grow or sustain their businesses.
Schooling provides neither the financial literacy students will need to manage the meager resources under their control, nor the guidance needed to create opportunities for securing a livelihood or building wealth. In addition, schooling provides little assistance to promote the physical health needed for economic stability and quality of life. The truth is that life expectancy is low in impoverished regions, and not just because of lack of quality medical care.
I fervently believe that what students need in all regions are not necessarily, lengthened educational programmes or more academic skills, but rather life skills that enable them to improve their financial prospects and well-being. These include: financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills; health maintenance and management skills; and administrative capabilities, such as teamwork, problem solving, and project management.
As an educationalist, my focus for the past six years has been to help refocus the attention of the government, non-government, private schools, teachers, parents and children back to education versus the prominent entertainment world and aspirations. Based on the state of education in developing countries like ours, there is an unquestionable need for scholars and educationalists to rise and form an alliance that will provoke our children to yearning for more knowledge, acquire skills, and with the end goal of serving their communities with the skills acquired. It is also important that we implement training for illiterate adults in developing countries, like ours, this will help balance the front and back end of our most invaluable resource, which is “Our People”, leveraging the utilisation of skilled human capital, with the anticipated outcome of positively impacting our socio economic status and our growing relevance in the global market. My experiences in western educational operation and the current educational thirst and dryness, have convinced me that the time is right to redefine quality education in Nigeria.
In Volume III, I will introduce you to an effective educational model called: “Living Education.”
By Laide R. Alexander (Houston, Texas, United States of America)