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How to reform teacher education in Nigeria —Okebukola

A former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission, Professor Peter Okebukola, has faulted the curriculum currently in use in all teacher preparation institutions across the country, saying it produces “parboiled” teachers who have shallow knowledge of the subjects they were trained to teach.

Professor Okebukola made the remarks on Saturday in Ijagun, Ogun State, while delivering the 8th Convocation Lecture of the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), entitled ‘The Teacher We Have, the Teacher We Want: Bridging the Gap’.

According to him, studies have shown that graduates of teacher preparation institutions generally exhibit shallow knowledge of their teaching subjects, poor classroom management and control, as well as inability to communicate effectively in English Language, among other weaknesses.

He argued that the current curriculum overloads teacher trainees with too many education courses, with little attention paid to the subjects they are being trained to teach. This, he said, produces half-baked teachers in terms of content knowledge.

Another challenge he identified is the poor quality of teacher trainers themselves.

“Many education lecturers are far from being exemplars of good quality teaching and high morality,” he noted.

From casual surveys he said he had conducted, Okebukola said, “The preponderant view is that education lecturers are disappointingly poorer than lecturers outside education in terms of quality of their teaching, use of technology and conversance with the latest developments in their disciplines.”

He also identified weak implementation of teaching practice as one of the challenges besetting teacher education in Nigeria.

Over the past 15 years, he said, this all-important part of teacher training has been “wobbly implemented,” owing partly to interruptions in academic calendar due to strikes, delay in or non-payment of teaching practice allowance to lecturers or grossly inadequate time allotted for the exercise.

Okebukola also had very strong words against sandwich programmes for teacher trainees, which he said have been fraught with laxity and ‘underhand dealings’ in academic delivery.

To turn these around, however, he recommended, among others, that teacher training programme be made highly selective; and more importantly, that teachers be paid “good starting salaries.”

Citing the case of Finland, which ranks Number One in the world in teacher education system (followed by South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Ontario in that order), Okebukola said that teachers earn the highest salary, and that only the best are given admission to teacher training institutions.

In South Korea (which pays teachers the highest salary in the world relative to GDP), according to Okebukola, primary school teachers are recruited from the top 5% of the academic cohort by grades.

He noted: “As long as teaching is unattractive as a profession, only the weak candidates will continue to apply for admission to teacher training institutions.

“The lesson to learn from Finland and South Korea where it is a struggle even for bright students to gain admission to teacher training institutions is for the Nigerian government to significantly improve the welfare scheme of teachers.

“The present level of remuneration should be raised by a factor of 1.5. With a one-and-a-half-times rise in remuneration of teachers, there will be a rush to make education first choice or course and market forces will then kick in to raise cut-off points to a level at par with or higher than such choice courses as medicine and law.”

He also called for a drastic reduction in the load of education courses, more time for full contact teaching practice, periodic training in modern methods of teaching for teacher trainers as well as establishment of a renewable licensure system for teachers by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).

The convocation lecture was followed with the inauguration of the new University Senate Building by the executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Baffa.