by Solomon Osadolo
I saw an intriguing and inspiring video last week put up by the guys over at code.org, extolling the values associated with learning how and being able to program a computer. They had pioneers like Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, along with other lesser known IT behemoths, tell their story on how they began, in a bid to help demystify the art of coding and inspire people to learn it regardless of the nature of their work. Every child should be given the opportunity to learn coding – a skill that will prove invaluable in the future, they insist.
The video, apart from inspiring me, also made me sigh a bit at the realities regarding the nature of education this side of the Atlantic. The myriad of inconveniences associated with the system are far too notorious already. Our school curriculums have been the subject of discussions for decades and the discourse is ongoing still. Our curricula has, over the years, managed to not really change (or when it did, not fast or drastic enough to really matter).
Apart from math and English language, most of the subjects our school kids learn could use a much needed tinkering or total overhauling so as to get with the times. The ministry of education has to adopt a curriculum for our schools that imparts the necessary knowledge that is in sync with the present world realities while helping to raise a generation of people who can drive us to where we need to be as a nation.
Of course one has to ask pertinent questions like, do our leaders truly grasp the world trends that are shaping world economies? Does Nigeria have a goal, an actionable plan to take a place of pride in the League of Nations? I’m not talking about such vain platitudes as Vision 20 somethings.
The government of late President Yaradua, which President Jonathan inherited, touted a much publicized Vision 20:2020 that set forth to put Nigeria in the top 20 world economies by the year 2020. We’re seven years away from the deadline and, at the risk of sounding critically pessimistic, one cannot say there’s sufficient machinery in place to make one overly excited at the prospects of reaching that goal. Visions, no matter how grandiose or beautifully articulated, do not fulfil themselves.
As the tussle increases between China and the United States for the coveted seat at the top of the economic food chain, other nations are aligning and grabbing their spots. Global trends are continuously shifting and shaping the positions of nations. Regardless of the move we make (or don’t make), we’re affected anyway. The game is on and we’re in play. We might as well make a move to improve our odds.
Education is the key. We have to move beyond the Universal Basic Education project and incorporate other aspects like the content and quality of the curricula applicable across the various levels of our school system. We’re going to need a large influx of well trained engineers, physical, biological and social scientists to build the country we dream. This phenomenon won’t occur just because we talk about it or because we hope it will. There has to be an actionable process in play.
I believe that the nature of our goals per time as a nation should be reflected in the way every fabric of our national life operates. We have to commit to training our own people in every major sector as we’re not going to build a world class economy on the shoulders of expatriates. We have to adapt our curricula to that of the leading economies whose club we’re striving to break into. Besides focusing on math, physics, chemistry, engineering and the social sciences, we are going to need to focus on computer science and incorporating computer programming into our school program early on.
It goes without saying that technology is the bedrock upon which economic advancement is anchored and we cannot afford to pay little mind to that anymore. Our schools need to be able to equip our people with the necessary skills to actualize our national goals. We can’t blithely hope and just leave things to chance anymore, for as John C. Maxwell rightly pointed out, hope is not a strategy. If one wants good result, one has to make good plans.