“Dr. Cyrinus Essen is an expert consultant in educational research, statistics, measurement and evaluation. In this interview with PAULINUS NTA, he bears his mind on the dwindling standard of education in Akwa Ibom, in spite of twelve un-interrupted years of free and compulsory education policy”.
In spite of the long standing free and compulsory education policy in your state, the standard of education seems to be still very low, as an education expert, what do you think is responsible for this?
The answer is very simple. The state government has not set priorities to measure the standard. I appreciate the policy but they are not determined about what they want. If you compare the standard to what was obtainable in the 7o's and the 80s, you will agree with me that we are not on the right path. We are only concerned about the certificates, not performance. That's why the sector is bedeviled by the culture of malpractice.
What efforts have you made to pass this knowledge to your state government?
You know as a private individual, the only way I can do this is through the mass media and the government has the right to heed or discard any suggestion, especially if it does not come from the government team. The government does not measure itself with international skills and standard. We do not need these certificates, what we need is the skills. The government, especially at the state level, seems to be ignorant of what is going on internationally, or maybe they are not bothered. The government is playing with education. We are in jeopardy. We do not measure the outcome of the so called free and compulsory education; we do not have a culture of measuring our investments. They did not research into the project before embarking on it. They lack accurate, dependable information. When you admit more students into the Schools, what is the outcome? Is it better than before? Is the standard greater or dwindling? My state government has tried, it is a laudable project, but there is no feedback mechanism to measure the outcome.
But the government recently recruited five hundred teachers to boost productivity in this sector, what is your reaction to that?
That's even a more significant segment of the education crisis. The employment of teachers should be taken more seriously than a political strategy of gaining public support. You will agree with me that the state government functionaries had slots and many of the slots they supplied are not professionally trained teachers. Most of the beneficiaries have nothing to do with education. Education is a profession, but here, the government does not accord it the real status it should be given. The government should stop sending the wrong people to teach and the qualified ones should be encouraged and given a pride of identity. A teacher should be made to be proud to be a teacher. They should be rated among the elite class in our society; else the dream of our educational advancement will remain a mirage.
There are thousands of private schools who are established to complement the state government's effort in boosting the sector; is it not a welcome development?
As far as I am concerned, private schools are enterprises, except a few ones. You will agree with me that every proprietor wants profit and good grades for his students so that he will have more candidates and students the next session. They are not concerned about standards. Most of them do not even know anything about educational standards and values. I don't blame them because the state government has not practically and sincerely prioritized education. The state government has bastardized education. The schools do not give parents the accurate information about their children's performance, but results and certificates. You will agree with me too that most of the flying results we record are from private Schools and they are products and functions of examination malpractices. In my days, I taught in the secondary school with school certificate. In my days, the value system was commendable. The government and especially the missionaries were sincere and passionate about quality education. We did not know how to pay money to teachers and proprietors to pass examination. We used to write and read letters for the illiterates in the society. There was no telephone so the only means of communication was letters. The society expected much from us then and we tried to live up to that expectation. I recalled a research I carried out in 2014 and I realized that 43 out of 50 questions in WAEC were poor questions.
Questions are measurements, so they should not be set by those who are not trained in educational measurement. This is why most of our Certificates are not recognized outside Nigeria. The private Schools are not the Solution.
What is the way forward?
One, professional teachers should be given a place of pride in our society by the state government. Two, the state government should prioritize education. The teachers themselves should be tested and proved. They should be trained and re-trained to cope with modern teaching standards and most especially, they should be exposed to international standards of teaching.
You will agree with me that many of our teachers do not understand the principles of measurement and assessment. Questions should be set to measure the following; Understanding, Comprehension, Application and at the higher level, it should be set to measure, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.
Most teachers in the state do not have education as their background.
Again let me state here that it appears to me that the state government does not know what they want. Corruption should be tackled frontally especially in our educational institutions. Most of those who have colourful certificates cannot defend them, while many intelligent students are deprived by corruption and bureaucratic bottle neck in admissions and certifications. The government should use experts, not politicians, to supervise teachings at our public Schools. They should stop sending the wrong people to teach.
A couple of months ago, members of the National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC), revolted in Uyo that they did not study Education in the Universities and therefore cannot cope with teaching. That was an eloquent testimony that square pegs are forced into round holes by the government.
If all these are heeded, I am convinced before the expiration of this present administration, the state will record significant progress in the standard of education.