The type of education system Nigeria needs

I have to say that Bunmi Lawson is someone I like among the young generation of Nigerian women who are doing a lot in their different spaces. Bunmi led the FATE Foundation and later led ACCION Microfinance Bank through which she has achieved a lot in financial inclusion and now she is the pioneer in the field of education finance and every time i see people like you, I like to celebrate.

I was excited to watch the sign. I listened to Bolaji totally redheaded. She was an incredible member of my education reform team at that time and all that we did, building the solution when it came to innovative corporate institutions and professional corporate institutions. She led this aspect of the work. We have done so much to link the work of education to the economy; ensure that the private sector is verifiable of everything we have taught about education as they are ultimately the recipients of our products.

How about Folashade, it was amazing to listen to you; still angry at things that aren’t done yet and advocating for public education. It is a country rich in intelligence. Anyone who sees a country that has cumulative intelligence like we’ve seen in this panel should know that we have no reason to struggle. What is unfortunate with us is that the ability to connect our solutions has eluded us, but hopefully the products of a better managed education system will arrive at the dispersion of adaptive leaders. When people become adaptive leaders, they change the world. We need these kinds of leaders in our country and the only way to produce them is through education. An education, not of the ordinary type or the haphazard type. An education that focuses on two main pillars; relevance and quality. These are so important for the transformation of nations. Folashade said education was the way to eradicate poverty, but that is not true; It’s always like that. There is no place in the world where empirical evidence does not show us how getting out of poverty is not linked to education. If you want to improve the economic and social mobility of your people, you do it through education.

Second, we now know what works best in education. A major issue that we still struggle with is the quality of teachers. As soon as education collapsed in our country, the poorest became the first to choose to go to education. Why should this be so? And qualified teachers are held back by a broken system. No society per se is racing to the bottom, we must constantly be a society that is racing to the top. What does EdFin’s entry into this space help us achieve? It helps us realize the transition that many countries are struggling with, which is that there is a cost to education no matter how you want it. What is happening in the economics of education is an understanding that the most important basic level of education; child care services which we know are absolutely important. At the World Bank, we have found from studies that children who have pre-school education, what we call nursery, kindergarten. Children who get the chance end up giving a 20-year income gap to those who don’t get it. So it gives kids a head start in life. Often it is the middle class that is able to provide pre-school education to its children. Those who need a head start, even more, are the children of the poorer segment of society. Unfortunately, we do not have publicly funded childcare systems. Interestingly, there have been innovations in this space such as this shared approach where community and government partnerships have enabled certain levels of child care solutions that meet the needs of the poorer segment of society; an indication that through social enterprise we can solve this particular problem of many children excluded from pre-school education.

Pre-school education, primary education and secondary education are linked to the issue of inclusion in society and every society must work towards inclusion and equal opportunities for people. If we want to achieve equality of opportunity, the cost of education with regard to pre-school education, primary education and secondary education; the main funder is the government. We cannot, just because we believe in the market, say that education will be privately funded. However, in the provision of basic and secondary education, there is a place for the market. This place for the market must be better regulated and opportunities must be available for families who choose to pay for the services of this segment. What you are doing is not only funding this segment of the market, it is also championing the conversation on how to regulate and ensure that quality in terms of price and production meets global standards .

My third point is that higher education is closer to the market than any other level of education. Once you get a higher education, you are already preparing for the market. With basic education and secondary education, society benefits more from the level of knowledge you have acquired and therefore making society pay for it is not a bad idea at all. As far as higher education is concerned, the person who acquires this higher education is the one who will gain further benefit from this type of education. Therefore, there is a question of how to share the cost of obtaining higher education. Unfortunately, our own society has not realized that even this type of funding for higher education should not be a problem. Just because people can’t find money doesn’t mean they can’t go to college.

You must have a solution so that education pricing is not lowered to a level where it cannot maintain quality. This is happening now.

We are reducing tertiary education to a level where a person is comfortable paying close to N500,000 for children in a top secondary school, but once the children enter university their parents are ready to join them in protesting against the price of university education. By doing so, you compromise quality and relevance.

So what else are you doing to realign the situation? What you’re doing is getting those who have the ability to pay to pay the right price for higher education and for those who don’t have the ability to pay, edu-finance and a government grant well designed will ensure that they are not excluded from education. This way you ensure that everyone has the opportunity for a quality education.

My final point is that we are no longer talking about brick-and-dough education in the world. Some of you who set up schools to teach children, it would be a shame if you taught children who went into the warehouse and did not come out. The children who come through your school system are like a product. When a product is produced, it is put on the market. When a product is produced and sits in the warehouse for a long time, it will expire.

Today’s world is a world where people will easily give you a review of your school. Your sustainability strategy should therefore be to bring your school up to speed with the kind of skills and knowledge that the world is looking for today. Do you know that regardless of the age category of your school, the people they are competing against are not their peers in Nigeria or West Africa? They compete with the rest of the world, so it’s a world level competition. The quality of what you teach should reflect this because ultimately these products of your school contribute to the sustainability of your school.

One of the things we’re seeing now is that the virtual economy has completely taken off. Do you know that there are many Nigerian children living in this country and their work is somewhere in the cloud? Depending on the type of education they have acquired, they are part of global project teams and earn a lot of money while sitting somewhere in Akure or Nnewi. There is a need to realign the content of education and public policy.

I remember the great support DFID gave my team when we were in government. They made it possible to have people sit down with me to design the kind of education reforms we need. It’s easy for development partners to find a new fad that they follow, but the way DFID has persisted in supporting education is wonderful. The Education Information Management System that took off when I was Minister of Education to anchor everything we do on data is the result of partnership. Support around education needs to be in a way that we can achieve scale in particular by ensuring that those who demand quality and relevant education do not sleep; hoping for a messiah to come. Parents, teachers and people interested in educational matters constitute the largest part of the population of this country. If you act together, education will change. We need to build a massive base for education reforms.

Our country is in trouble because education is in crisis. More than ten years ago, I told the mission that if we didn’t tackle the education crisis, it would only take a few years. In fact, my prognosis at the time was that by 2020 we will produce the toughest criminals. It was during a public presentation.

There are people who called me to say ‘you said 2020, it happened earlier than that’.

We can’t sleep on education and those of you sitting here don’t swallow your voice. Your voices must demand better performance from the education system. People think it’s about throwing money at the problem. As Minister of Education, I said that the problem of education was not a question of funding. If you fund a malfunction well, you’ll get a well-funded malfunction.

We have to fix the structural problems and then we get a system. When you get a good system and invest some money in it, you will get spectacular learning results.

Thank you, Bunmi and your colleagues, for giving me the opportunity to be here and discuss education with all of you. We must remember that we owe our children a better quality of life than we can currently provide and the way to achieve this is to ensure that no child is left behind in our country, no child . Every child should have the opportunity to be the best they can be. Our innovators are in the poorest parts of this country, but we haven’t given them the attention they deserve. It is up to you and me to be outside of ourselves. What good is a man or a woman to conquer the whole world and then lose their soul. We lose our souls every day in this country when we watch children who, simply because of their bad situation, do not have an opportunity. Let’s stop the nonsense and get out there as a people to ensure that the poorest segment of our society can quickly have the opportunity to be the best they can be, thank you very much.

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