Preparing Students for the Work Environment

Ajobiewe Tolulope Odigwe
Does the Nigerian education system prepare students for the work environment?

The status quo of the nation’s educational system has been a major discourse which has consistently made headlines in the global news community over the past decades. This is evident by the multiplicity of essays penned by renowned essayists describing how ill and ailing the country’s educational system is, and how the education system has lost its intrinsic worth and virtues. It is no longer news that the standard of education available and obtainable in Nigeria has declined and is very much below the average expected by Nigerians. Nelson Mandela once thundered that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’’. As such, the plea and demand for quality education in Nigeria is justified and has to be emphasized at all levels of government.

With thousands of graduates pouring out from various higher institutions in the country every year, it has been observed that a great percentage of these graduates are either unemployed or unemployable. The question is, what exactly could be the cause of this awful phenomenon? In answering the aforementioned question, it is necessary to state that the issue of the increasing unemployment rate in the country has its root in the rot ravaging the education sector. In my humble opinion the Nigeria education system does little or nothing in the bid to preparing students for the work environment, judging from different perspectives and standpoints.

It is pertinent to note that right from the very beginning some students are not even allowed to pursue and venture into their fields of interest  and professions. There is no flexibility in admission seeking and selection process unlike what is obtainable in the developed world. One might conclude that perhaps this is due to the huge number of admission seekers. For instance, a student who has spent a year or two after secondary education considering the hurdles involved in gaining admission into any tertiary institution, such a student will accept any admission offered to him or her regardless of  the choice of course of study. As a result students who are proficient in sciences are compelled to switch their interest to some other fields of knowledge or discipline and vice versa.

Furthermore, after an austere foundation of this set of students, these same students are fed and nursed with theories and less of practicals. They do not understand, have the knowledge of and are not made to imbibe the core ethics of creativity in the invention of new technologies. I wonder how a purported mechanical engineer would understand how automated machines function and correctly detect when such machines are faulty with mere engineering drawings, engineering mathematics, and courses they are being taught in their classrooms. The list is endless as this piece will not permit a thorough and extensive examination of similar case scenarios.

Despite the number of technical colleges in the country, students are still being starved and deprived of acquisition of critical life skills as a result of the prolonged drought of practical illustrations. Nigeria Universities are so messed up that they lack equipped laboratories, state- of- the- art lecture theatres and equipment’s to carry out indispensable and obligatory practical works for their students. In addition, the curriculum operated by tertiary institutions has become so obsolete that it cannot address the dynamism of real-life challenges and problems. Without a doubt, the Federal Government of Nigeria is doing the needful through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to revamp the state of infrastructures in Tertiary institutions, yet more needs to be done.

Preparing students for the work environment is a multi-dimensional task that the education system has continually ignored and failed to expressly address in tertiary institutions of learning. In the same vein the society attributes an overwhelming substance on certificates rather than conferring more value on the level of knowledge and creative skill endowments of an individual. This syndrome is termed the “paper craze malady”; an issue that has repeatedly misinformed students on the precedence of good grades over a better understanding and applicability of what they are being taught in their respective lecture rooms.

Snippets of information gathered to chart the course of this piece shows that a large percentage of Nigerian students only study to pass their examinations. Students chant the la cram- la pour- la format slang when they sit for semester and sessional examinations; the aforementioned slang simply means that students study only to pass and get excellent grades. But do you blame such students when the society has gone bizarre, clamouring for distinctions in their class of degrees upon graduation? For clarity, this writer is on the same page with bagging an excellent class of degree's, but only  suggests that employers in some cases need to relax the issue of grade or class of degree, but hold dearly the ability and skills inherent and possessed by the job seekers.

Conclusively, after having articulated the rot in the education system, the solutions to the problems of increased unemployment in Nigeria has to be pursued vigorously by the government. As such, I recommend that tertiary institutions should look into reviewing course curricula to include entrepreneurial courses, skill acquisition programmes, internships and student exchange programmes, and field trips, and also build  a cohesive relationship with industries and corporations in order to properly monitor students on industrial work experience programmes to ensure that such students acquire practical skills on the course of their industrial training programmes. Also there is the need for government to place on their "must do" list and prioritize the development of the nation’s education sector by properly funding all tertiary institutions in the country.

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