Felix Oladeji argues the need to make educational reform effective through effective planning and democratic approach in decision making

Throughout the world, education has been valued as a means of addressing socio-economic inequalities where they exist and for transforming societies and cultures. The general acceptability of education as the most desired instrument for political, economic, social and technological development and advancement globally is not debatable.

In spite of the pivotal role of education to the advancement of mankind, the opportunities for enrolment in tertiary education in Nigeria were grossly inadequate for the needs of the country. Access to higher education, gender parity and the lack of capacity of the system to absorb the numbers of candidates seeking admission to higher educational institutions among others, continue to pose serious problems to the attainments of education sector goals in the country. In any developing country like Nigeria, the significance of education and manpower development to the growth of the country is an issue that has engaged the attention of the government over the years. This has equally been very well articulated in government policies and pronouncements in the past decades. 

The belief in the efficacy of education as a powerful instrument of development has led many countries to devote their wealth to the development of educational institutions at various levels. In Nigeria, governments, organizations, communities and individuals have been involved in this effort. The adoption of the social demand approach in the provision of education to the citizenry in post-independent Nigeria has led to a significant expansion of the education system. Government believes that education would promote economic growth and provide the skilled manpower needed for development. 

The importance of education as a significant tool for sustainable national development is fully acknowledged in Nigeria ever since the pre- colonial era. This appreciation has come a long way. Indeed, founding fathers of Nigeria such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and a host of others, played very significant roles in ensuring the establishment and nurturing of a variety of educational institutions and reforms catering for a variety of national needs, particularly before and after independence in 1960. The Nigerian educational system has in recent times, experienced series of scientific, technological, economic, political and social upheavals such as the introduction of computer education, literacy education, family life education, the use of ICT in education and modern economic theories, ideas, techniques and methods into the school curriculum.

The rationale behind the involvement of Nigerian educational system in reform programmes is an indication of a major force in shaping the objectives and methods of the programme. 

However, reform and innovation are probably two major concepts that must be built into an organization or system that is aiming at standing the test of modern period when dynamism is vastly replacing conservatism. Change is, therefore inevitable and major challenge which modern organizations face is creating an atmosphere where rapid and meaningful improvement is possible. There is no doubt that for growth and development to be recorded, reform and innovation are pre-requisites. As a result of the increasing complexities in modern organizations and the need to optimize efficiency in the face of stiff competition from others, there is increasing advocacy that reform and innovation be injected into major facets of Nigerian educational system and more specifically in the areas of structure, curriculum content and context as well as the methods of imparting knowledge by the teachers in our schools and colleges. The need to bring about a revisit of the educational structure, curriculum and methods became necessary in view of the fact that it is extremely difficult to discuss educational development in isolation without mentioning reform and innovation. There is no doubt that the social context of education is ever-changing and at an increasing rate.

Educational change is a prerequisite for educational improvement and the planned change is likely to be more effective than unplanned change. When organizations are viewed over a long period of time, their outstanding characteristic appears to be stability rather than change. However, when one considers the rate at which reform and innovation take place in our educational system today, one tends to conclude that the rate is not commensurate with that of the society as a whole. For education to be more relevant and to ensure compliance with the societal needs, it must be planned for reform and innovation, especially in the areas of structure, curriculum and methods.

Moreover, for education to achieve its required purpose, it must be tailored towards the needs and aspirations of the community or environment. This is in agreement with the National Policy on Education (2004), which states inter- alia in section 1, sub-section 9[f]; ‘efforts shall be made to relate education to overall community needs’. By implication, therefore, embarking on education reform requires that such reform must be precipitated by the need to yield to the demand of the community or environment where such reform is taking place. This is to say in essence that the culture of the community will determine whatever form the reform should take. In other words, a community that is inherently conservative would make reform a difficult task to achieve compared to a dynamic community.

Educational reforms should also be well managed to ensure self- reliance. Many people would agree about the importance of self-reliance in education. Self-reliance has a very profound meaning. It is not merely that the child should be taught some handicraft or some manual skills by which he may be supported. There must, of course, be manual labour which assists everyone to learn how to use his hands and be self-sufficient. It implies that education must be of such a quality that it will train students in intellectual self-reliance and make them independent thinkers. If this is to become the chief aim of learning, the whole process of learning would be transformed. A student should be so taught that he is capable of acquiring knowledge for himself. There is an infinite sum of knowledge in the world, and each one needs some finite portion of it for the conduct of his affairs. But it will be a mistake to think that this life-knowledge can be acquired in any school. Life-knowledge can only be acquired from life. The task of the school, however, is to awaken in its students the power to learn from life. 

Most parents are anxious for boys to complete the school course so that they can get a salaried job and live an easy life. This may, however, not be the best way of perceiving education. Learning has value in its own right. The purpose of learning is freedom, and freedom is another word for what we refer to as self-reliance. Self-reliance means freedom from dependence on others or any external support. A man who has true learning is truly free and independent. The first and least part of this self-sufficiency is that the person must be educated and made skilled in a craft. A second and very important part of this is ability to acquire new knowledge for oneself. There is a third essential element in freedom, and this also is a part of education. Freedom implies not only being independent of other people but also independent of one’s own moods and impulses. The man who is a slave to his senses and cannot keep his impulses under control is neither free nor self-sufficient. Temperament and service therefore, have their place in education, for it is by these means that this third aspect of freedom can be learned. 

Self- sufficiency then has three meanings. The first is that one should not depend upon others for one’s daily bread. The second is that one should have developed the power to acquire knowledge for oneself. The third is that a man should be able to rule himself, to control his senses and his thoughts. Slavery of the body is wrong. The body falls into slavery for the sake of the stomach, therefore, a free man must know how to earn his living through handcraft. Slavery of the mind is wrong. If a man cannot think and reach an independent judgment, his mind is enslaved; a free man must have acquired the power of independent thought. Slavery of the emotions and the sense is also wrong, and it is an essential part of education to overcome their tyranny. 

Whereas, evaluation is a systematic process for determining the extent to which instructional objectives are achieved by students. It is also the process of determining the extent to which actual experiences conform with objectives.  Evaluation is the process of delineating, obtaining and providing useful information for judging among decision alternatives. Some forms of evaluation are inevitable in teaching and learning process. Indeed, a major reform to be done in education sector must not underscore the issue of evaluation before, during and after such reform. This is inevitable because of what is being demanded by all stakeholders in education industry.

In education, the term evaluation often implies different things. Traditionally to a classroom teacher, it means testing, conducted at the end of the lesson or a programme. Evaluation here is often aimed at the outcome However, as it is widely known, testing is only an aspect of evaluation and does not represent the wide range of activities and roles played by evaluation. The concept is often used interchangeably with assessment because of a considerable overlap in their meaning.  Educational evaluation is used more in a general way and often when the subject is the success of a teaching or method of teaching or other than a person (or a group of persons).

Evaluation, simply put, appraises the quality of something. Systematic educational evaluation consists of a formal appraisal of the quality of education phenomena. The main purpose of evaluation is to assist decision makers at various stages, taking appropriate action to ensure programme efficiency. It is very important to evaluate the extent to which an educational activity (such as educational reform) achieves the purpose for which it was designed or the extent of the performance of an educational activity. The matter of performance evaluation concerns the measurement of progress towards objectives, which have been established through knowledge of the total performance required to maximize results. The important place of evaluation in educational reform and innovation cannot be underscored. Indeed, it plays a major role on the scaling up process of reform and innovation.

Evaluation, as far as educational reform is concerned, can appropriately be carried out at three levels, viz;

 before the reform i.e. pre-reform evaluation; during the reform i.e., diagnostic evaluation / on-going and after the reform i.e., post-reform evaluation.

Before the process of bringing about major reform into the system, there is the need for evaluation to assess the situation on ground so as to determine what must be put in place before the reform is carried out. Similarly, evaluation can be done during the course of reform. This is to take a diagnostic view of the reform. It can also be carried out at the end of the reform which is to determine the extent to which the outcomes agree with what was originally planned for before the commencement of the reform.

Often times, policies are changed by the Nigerian government. These are consequent of the fast-changing socio- economic and political factors but these affect the planning of education. Many plans have been jettisoned before they were ready for implementation because of government directives and counter directives. Besides, there is always a wide gap between policy formulation and execution which might have rendered the educational reformation almost irrelevant.

Hence, there is the need to make educational reform effective and sustainable through effective planning and democratic approach to decision making. The importance of effective planning in educational reform and innovation cannot be over-emphasized. Educational reform and innovation are crucial for consideration in order to meet the millennium development goals as well as the stated vision of education. There is need to base educational reform policy on attainable objectives, as it expected to conform with ethical standards. 

Oladeji writes from Lagos 

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