I read online of how a delegation of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) led by their president, Otis Anyaeji, recently visited the minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, who is also the former governor of Lagos State.
I bet they never expected the storm that was unleashed by this visit. According to reports, the minister remarked during the call on him that the government awards contracts to foreign investors because Nigerian Engineers are simply not good enough.
It was stated that he said, “If there was no vacuum, there would not be foreign engineering consultants and contractors in Nigeria.”
Also, “Unless we honestly stand up and accept that there is a vacuum, we look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we honestly do not like what we see, it will not change”.
He went on, “I can tell you from experience that when I was a state governor, when I advertised for rail project, no Nigerian firm bidded for it,” Fashola revealed. Amazing!
He concluded his lecture by declaring, “Nigerian Engineers should accept their deficiencies”
Earlier on this year, I had read a report by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (affiliated with Stanford University, California). It found that around the world, nations seeking to improve their education systems invest in teacher learning as a major engine for academic success. Their research showed that professional learning has a powerful effect on the skills and knowledge of teachers, and on how well students learn.
In order to be effective though, professional learning for teachers needs to be conducted in the way that many high achieving countries have it set up as — continuously, collaboratively, and with a focus on teaching specific content to particular learners.
Enabling our teachers receive the kind of sustained, job-embedded professional development that research indicates can change teaching practice and improve student achievement, would make a world of difference. High-achieving countries organise professional learning for teachers, and draw a set of policy lessons for their educational systems around this.
Support for teaching takes the form of:
1) Universal high-quality teacher education — typically two to four years in duration — completely at government expense, featuring extensive clinical training, as well as coursework;
2) Mentoring for all beginners, coupled with a reduced teaching load and shared planning time;
3) Extensive opportunities for ongoing professional learning, embedded in substantial planning and collaboration time at school;
4) Teacher involvement in curriculum and assessment development and decision making.
Once teachers are hired, resources are targeted to schools to support mentoring for novices. Induction programmes are mandatory in these countries, including Australia, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
Generally, induction programmes in high-achieving nations include: (1) release time for new teachers and mentor teachers to participate in coaching and other induction activities, and (2) training for mentor teachers.
I am willing to go out on a limb that this same model holds sway for engineers and other professionals in these nations. Imagine if we ensured that our teachers who moulded the engineers in our polytechnics and universities had these extensive training, and our novice engineers also garnered support as they embarked upon their burgeoning careers.
All I can think about is the fact that excellence needs to be the hallmark we set for our students who will eventually go into various careers and contribute positively to our society. Continually denigrating them or leaving the status quo as it is wouldn’t make things any better for them and us ultimately. Everyone responds to praise and higher expectations being set for them.
Simply passing the blame on them isn’t enough when the right infrastructure and conducive environment isn’t being provided by our policy makers. We need policy makers who aren’t just interested in themselves alone but are visionaries like the ones in these high achieving nations.
Let’s start by demanding more support for our teachers, especially those in our STEM subjects who will mould our future engineers, scientists, innovators, and researchers, etc.
This is my mission and I hope that more of us will climb on board to support our teachers, which in turn is for the greater benefit of our students and ultimately all of us as our society progresses.
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Entrepreneur
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness.