3rd March, 2014
By Olalekan Olagunju
Education is the bedrock of social and economic development. Throughout history, philosophers like Aristotle and Plato recognised the importance of education. As a tool of national growth and development, education needs to be accorded priority attention by all stakeholders regardless of differences in policy trust or political inclinations. Undoubtedly, we now live in a technology driven world. Ernest H. M. Wright put this in the right perspective when he said: “now we are all speaking the same language in relation to the world economy, trade and commerce, technology, agriculture, education among others. We are all seeking recourse to ICT compliance (Information Communication Technology), knowledge and usage of modern instruments (equipment, material and services) of science and technology such as the computer, internet, world wide web (www), cell phone, telecommunication, satellite communications technology, etc; we therefore need to be knowledgeable in the language, fundamentals, principles, ethics, operation and application of the instruments of science and technology, and must operate (run) our system of education accordingly to produce trained minds (citizens) who can live and interact conveniently in the present globalised world of science and technology.”
These trained minds include teachers who themselves impart knowledge to students. It is rightly said that no nation can rise above the level of its teachers, as their professional competence determines educational standard in all ramifications. They must, therefore, be enhanced professionally at all levels through adequate provision, application and maintenance of instructional technology (devices/materials) in the education enterprise. In western education, technology has advanced rapidly over the last few years and there have been literally myriads of published studies investigating its educational effect. Research reports indicate a deeper understanding of how to maximise the benefit of technology to learner’s advantage through a variety of technology rich educational environment. These studies underscore the usefulness and relevance of technology in education, replete in current literature with powerful components in accomplishing educational visions. These visions include helping pupils/students develop a broad, deep, and creative/innovative understanding of the community, culture/tradition, economics, educational policies, democracy and international politics, and acquisition of social skills.
Awareness of Educational Technology in the country started as far back as 1953, when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London, transmitted the first Educational Programme in West Africa Overseas Service. In 1954, the Northern Nigeria Government established a School Broadcasting Unit in Kaduna, using the facilities of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service Station. The unit was managed by experts from Britain, under the leadership of Mr. Allistair Wilson. By 1960, the Kaduna Broadcasting Corporation Unit had a recording studio of its own. In the same year, a separate Educational Radio Service Unit was established through a special grant by the Ford Foundation.
In 1968, when the Northern Region had been divided into states, the Interim Administrative Council, as a result of the recommendation made by a special committee set up to examine the issue, handed over the School Broadcasting Unit to the Federal Military Government on 4 April, 1969, by promulgation of Decree No. 5. The unit was taken over as the Federal Schools Broadcast and the impact of its services led to its re-designation as Federal Schools Broadcast and Audio-Visual Aids Development Centre, under the leadership of Mr. F. Z. Gana. The Centre latter metamorphosed to the National Educational Technology Centre, due to the merger of the functions of the Federal Schools Broadcast Unit, Kaduna and those of the National Resource Centre, Lagos in 1977. The expanded National Educational Technology Centre, Kaduna, inherited not only the materials and equipment of the two units, but also their establishments.
As contained in the National Policy on Education, Educational Services is mandated to facilitate the implementation of educational policy, the attainment of policy and the promotion of effectiveness of educational system. The goals are the development, assessment and improvement of educational programmes; enhancing teaching and improvement, as well as the competence of teachers; making learning experience more meaningful to children; making education more cost-effective; promotion of in-service education and development/promotion of effective use of innovative materials in schools.
In order to achieve these lofty goals, the National Policy on Education prescribes that each state and local government authority shall establish Teachers’ Resource Centres where teachers will meet for discussion, investigation, study workshop, short courses and conferences. It will also be used for the development and testing of teaching materials. A Network of Educational Services Centres in Nigeria (NESCN) should be set up to provide a forum for exchange of ideas on the development and use of innovative materials for improvement of education. All state Teachers’ Resource Centres, University Institutes of Education, NETC; and other professional bodies are to belong to the network. State Ministries of Education and the NERDC are to ensure the operation of the network and encourage teachers to participate and develop innovative instructional materials. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) should coordinate the activities of NESCN and disseminate relevant information to its members and the public.
Teachers must be seen and respected not on the basis of their professional expertise, (as authorities); but as formidable and knowledgeable facilitators fully equipped with broad professional competence in scientific, technological and ICT devices. Professional capabilities of teachers must be enhanced, regular updating of teachers on ICT development through workshops, seminars, lectures and conferences must be continuous.
With commendable efforts the Lagos State Government is making in transformation of the education sector, it is hoped that the Lagos State Education Resource Centre (LASERC), will continue to receive a boost as the state’s education media think tank, while gains of EKO Project should be sustained through updating teachers’ professional capacity, constant acquisition, utilization and maintenance of ICT infrastructure/equipment etc. Without pejorative inclination, education standards in Nigeria will improve if the country’s education delivery system is ICT compliant on sound/dynamic ICT polices. Teachers will be more empowered as knowledgeable experts in educational matters and facilitators who nurture the future adults (children) into competent individuals in various callings.
In the words of the late legendary former South African President, Nelson Mandela, “the power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.” However, this can only be realisable if we begin to make conscious efforts to enhance the capacity of teachers to deliver quality education through technology.
•Olagunju is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.