Meeting the Challenges to Sustainable Development in Education Through Research, Assessment And Evaluation in Nigeria

Meeting the Challenges to Sustainable Development in Education Through Research, Assessment And Evaluation in Nigeria

Abstract

Education is an important key of achieving a sustainable national development. For a state or society to achieve a sustainable national development, the quality of its education should be improved. This paper attempts to explain the concept of education, the concept of sustainable national development and relationship between education and sustainable national development. Sustainable development based research and education is the back bone of a nation. Moreover, sustainable development policies highlight the role of education which has become the need of the day to create the awareness among the students, researchers as well as teachers. This paper identifies and examines the importance of research, assessment and evaluation. Concept of sustainable development, education, research, assessment and evaluation were examined. The challenges militating against sustainable development in education through research, assessment and evaluation were highlighted.  Conclusion and recommendations were made in line with the discussion.

 Introduction

Education at all levels and in all its forms constitutes a vital tool for addressing virtually all global problems. Education is not only an end in itself. It is a key instrument for bringing about changes in knowledge, values and behaviours and life styles required to achieve sustainability and stability within and among countries (Bajaj and Chiv, 2009:9).

Education has been seen as the greatest force that can be used to bring about changes. Aminu (2006) observed that the greatest investment a nation can make for the development of its economic, sociological and human resources is that of education. Education according to him provides us with people possessing the necessary knowledge and skills to win a nation’s state and to even export brains. This also explains why the Federal Government of Nigeria geared a policy towards attaining national development. According to National Policy on Education (2004:8). Education shall continue to be highly rated in the national development plans because education is the most important instrument for change: any fundamental change in the intellectual and social outlook of any society has to be preceded by an education revolution.

Education for sustainable development requires teachers, researchers, pupils, school executives and staffs as well as community representative to work together in directing activities in education institutions. Davis (2009) recommends that early childhood professionals should play a leadership role to make a difference in education for sustainable development through catching up with community concerns about environmental issues. To strengthen the collaboration of Education for sustainable Development, policy makers and teachers need to demonstrate their responsibility.

The concept of Sustainable Development

Previously, the attention was basically on the concept “Development”. However, the Bruntland Commission shifted the attention by reshaping and modifying the concept to “Sustainable Development.”The most interesting aspect of sustainable development is the fact that it puts in to consideration the present conditions of people as well as not compromising those that come later. Therefore, the concept of sustainable national Development remains the modern parameter of measuring development. The Bruntland Commission, (1987) defined sustainable Development as “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.”

In another definition by Munasinghe (2004), sustainable national Development is a process of improving the range of opportunities that will enable individual humans and communities to achieve their aspirations and full potential over a sustained period of time while maintaining the resilience of economic, social and environmental systems.

Age (2005:85), identified some objectives which sustainable national development is expected to realize: increase capital income and employment, promoting human welfare satisfying basic needs; protecting the environment.

Considering the path of future generation, achieving equity between rich and poor and participation on a broad basis in development and decision making is important. From the above definitions, there are common phenomenon which they all shared; that is prioritizing the development of the present generation without compromising the future generation.

The Concept of Education

Education has been conceptualized in various ways by scholars. Education is seen as the light that derives away the darkness of ignorance and enables mankind to find its ways through the tortures and labyrinth of development and civilization (Ikechukwu, 2006).

According to UNESCO (2000), “education refers to the total process of developing human ability and behaviours”. It is an organized and sustained instruction designed to communicate a combination of knowledge, skills and understanding value for all activities of life. Education refers to what can be used by man to solve his problems to improve his life and make it comfortable. It is one of the several ways that man employs to bring change in to his all round development. Education demands efforts and discipline. It is also a formidable tool for man’s survival. Ayu (1991), conceived education as “what brings about the moral development and spiritual upliftment of the human personality and of the community as a whole”. He stressed further that education makes mankind more creative and enables him to live a more fulfilling life through interaction.

Peter (1966:6), identified three central criteria that are explicit to the concept of education which are:

  • That education implies the transmission of what is worthwhile to those who become committed to it;
  • That education at least rules out some procedures of transmission on the ground that they lack willingness and voluntariness on the part of the learner;
  • That education must involve knowledge and understanding and some kind of cognitive perspectives which are not inert.

Fafunwa (1994) however, defined education as “the aggregate of all the processes by which a child or young adult develops abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviours which are of positive value to the society in which he lives”. He stressed further that education is a process of transmitting culture in terms of continuity and growth and for disseminating knowledge to ensure social control or guarantee rational direction of society both.

Education has been defined as a systematic procedure for the transfer and transformation of culture through formal and informal training of people in a society; it deals with mental, physical, psychological and social development of citizens in a given society (Ebong in Eghure, 2007).

Holborn and Haralambos (2004), see education as an institution that enables individual to think freely and rationally which makes social progress and innovation possible. Social progress and innovation are the key elements of development, when a society progresses, its members are free; they think rationally, innovate certain social changes which will invariably enhance development.

From the foregoing, therefore, it can be perceived that education is an instrument or tool for achieving national development.

 Concept of Research

Research comprises “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.” It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories.

Concept of Assessment

In education, the term assessment refers to the wide variety of methods or tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.

While assessments are often equated with traditional tests—especially the standardized tests developed by testing companies and administered to large populations of students – educators use a diverse array of assessment tools and methods to measure everything from a four-year-old’s readiness for kindergarten to a twelfth-grade student’s comprehension of advanced physics. Just as academic lessons have different functions, assessments are typically designed to measure specific elements of learning—e.g., the level of knowledge a student already has about the concept or skill the teacher is planning to teach or the ability to comprehend and analyze different types of texts and readings. Assessments also are used to identify individual student weaknesses and strengths so that educators can provide specialized academic support, educational programming, or social services. In addition, assessments are developed by a wide array of groups and individuals, including teachers, district administrators, universities, private companies, state departments of education, and groups that include a combination of these individuals and institutions.

Concept of Evaluation

Evaluation is a methodological area that is closely related to, but distinguishable from more traditional social research. Evaluation utilizes many of the same methodologies used in traditional social research, but because evaluation takes place within a political and organizational context, it requires group skills, management ability, political dexterity, sensitivity to multiple stakeholders and other skills that social research in general does not rely on as much. Here we introduce the idea of evaluation and some of the major terms and issues in the field.

Probably the most frequently given definition is:  Evaluation is the systematic assessment of the worth or merit of some object. This definition is hardly perfect. There are many types of evaluations that do not necessarily result in an assessment of worth or merit — descriptive studies, implementation analyses, and formative evaluations, to name a few. Better perhaps is a definition that emphasizes the information-processing and feedback functions of evaluation. For instance, one might say: Evaluation is the systematic acquisition and assessment of information to provide useful feedback about some object.

Evaluation is a broader term than the Measurement. It is more comprehensive than mere in­clusive than the term Measurement. It goes ahead of measurement which simply indicates the numerical value. It gives the value judgement to the numerical value. It includes both tangible and intangible qualities. Evaluation is the assignment of sym­bols to phenomenon, in order to characterize the worth or value of a phenomenon, usually with reference to some cultural or scientific standards.

Both definitions agree that evaluation is a systematic endeavor and both use the deliberately ambiguous term ‘object’ which could refer to a program, policy, technology, person, need, activity, and so on. The latter definition emphasizes acquiring and assessing information rather than assessing worth or merit because all evaluation work involves collecting and sifting through data, making  judgements about the validity of the information and of inferences we derive from it, whether or not an assessment of worth or merit results.

The Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development

Having stated above, the various definitions of education and sustainable national development, it is imperative to examine the relationship between the two concepts. In all nations, Nigeria inclusive, education remains the instrument for effective national development. Development is championed through education, which is often assumed to have significant influence. Education entails the enlightenment of people in their ways of pursuit in life. Development is associated with a positive change in the condition of either individual groups, communities or even a country as a whole (Umoh, 2005:224).

Education and sustainable national development are interwoven, intertwined, and interconnected. While on the one hand, development is geared towards producing or creating something new or more advanced for the society and its members. On the other hand, education is a tool which can enhance the desired sustainable development. Umoh, 2005 therefore, refers education and sustainable development as two sides of the same coin.

The fact that education and sustainable development shows glaring connectivity probably explained why scholars emphasized the need for education for the purpose of achieving the desired sustainable development.

Ebong (1996:), sees education as a systematic procedure for the transfer and transformation of culture through formal and informal training of people in the society. He stated that education deals with mental, physical, psychological and social development of the citizens in a given society. He further stated that “the goal of education in man power development is aimed at national growth and development” (Ebong 1996:6). For any country therefore, to attain sustainable national development, he concluded that “there is need for skilled man power and those skills required are basic ingredients for national development and can only be acquired through education” (Ebong 1996:6).

Education provides consciousness, awareness and enlightenment to individuals in order to properly pursue their aspirations and yearnings. It is also mentioned by Olubadewo (2006:9) that it is only educated population that can command skills necessary for sustainable economic growth and a better quality of life. Sustainable national development may therefore be seen as the target goal since it is meant for the society and its members; education however remains the instrument for achieving and attaining the target goal.

From the above, education seems to directly determine whether sustainable national development is going to be achieved or not and therefore, the need for a well structured educational system that will enhance the achievement of the aforementioned development.

What are the major Sustainable Development issues for Education?

From an education perspective, developing sustainable development can be viewed as (Ospina, 2000):

  • placing a system of values and ethics at the centre of society’s concerns;
  • encouraging a meeting of disciplines, a linking of knowledge and of expertise, and to render our understanding more integrated and contextualised and so, in turn, to open up new horizons for justice and equality (equity);
  • encouraging lifelong learning, starting at the beginning of life and grounded in life – one based on a passion for a radical transformation of society and a change in the moral character of society;
  • advancing new conceptions rooted both in traditional scientific rationality and in popular beliefs and consciousness, drawing on these as a source of human understanding and a pointer to collective wisdom;
  • encouraging the refinements of locally based processes of change and of integral community advancement, one not marked by a passive receptivity to or a mindless repetition of homogeneous development models;
  • ensuring priority is given to fundamental critical questions, to the method as a means of approaching tangible realities, by promoting dialogue among the sectors of society and a real interdisciplinary approach;.
  • elevating the importance of social subjectivity and of the qualitative dimension of social life;
  • encouraging new alliances between the State and civil society in promoting citizens’ emancipation mediated by the practice of democratic principles while fully acknowledging the complexities inherent to every human reality.

For the above to be put into place, it is suggested that education needs to be viewed as a means to (Opsina, 2000):

  • promote a culture of citizenship and give value to social actors (such as non-governmental organizations and other sub-groups);
  • mobilise society in a concerted effort so as to eliminate poverty and all forms of violence and injustice that jeopardize the future and the maintenance of a good quality of life;
  • valorise aesthetics, the creative use of the imagination, an openness to risk and flexibility and a willingness to explore new options;
  • assert the importance of local communities and their ties to the entire Earth and indeed with the universal;
  • identify and pursue new human projects in the context of a planetary consciousness and a personal and communal awareness of global responsibility;
  • engender new hopes and ways of channeling the valuable energies and resources of entire nations;
  • seek understanding, to anticipate, to imagine and to contextualise;
  • reach a stage in which the possibility of change and the real desire for change are accompanied by a concerted, active participation in change, at the appropriate time, in favour of a sustainable future for all;
  • instill in the minds of all people a conviction of the values of peace in such a way as to promote the creation of new lifestyles and living patterns;
  • develop to the maximum, the potential of all, throughout their lives, so that they can achieve self-fulfillment and full self-expression with the collective achievement of a viable future; effect change in value systems, behaviour patterns and lifestyles necessary to achieve sustainable development, and ultimately democracy, security and peace;
  • disseminate the knowledge and skills necessary to foster sustainable production and consumption patterns and to improve the management of natural resources, agriculture, energy and industrial production;
  • ensure an informed populace, prepared to support changes in other sectors conducive to sustainability.

 Importance of Research, Assessment and Development

Importance of Research

Finding reasons why research is important seems like a no-brainer, but many people avoid getting involved in research. The lazy, if not mentally drained, student could say, “Not again.” And a disinterested academic could just be doing it for promotion purposes. Yet, for those who like to learn – whether or not they are members of a learning institution – doing research is not just an imperative, but a need.

Educators need to be consumers (and producers) of research. Creswell (2002) notes the following reasons, describing the various purposes of educational research:

  • Improve Practice: Research can suggest ways of improving practice that have been verified with many applications and by many different types of people, which is difficult for practitioners.
  • Add to Knowledge: Research can add to what we know about how people learn and what we can do help facilitate the learning process.
  • Address Gaps in Knowledge: Research can address areas in which little is known, like perhaps the effects of online versus traditional classroom learning.
  • Expand Knowledge: Research can allow us to extend what we know in ways we never conceived.
  • Replicate Knowledge: Research can act as a test to verify previous findings.
  • Add Voices of Individuals to Knowledge: Research can add an important perspective for different learning types. Much of the educational research prior to the Eighties is based on able, white, middle-to-upper class males. This is certainly not reflective of our increasingly heterogeneous students, and research helps revise theory and practice to reflect different student needs.

These are only a few of the many reasons research is important, particularly to educators. In an increasingly data-driven society, it is vital that educators know how to locate, find, and interpret research on their own. Further, educators need to be able to conduct quality research to examine issues within their own contexts.

Importance of Assessment

  • Student Learning: Assessment is a key component of learning because it helps students learn. When students are able to see how they are doing in a class, they are able to determine whether or not they understand course material. Assessment can also help motivate students. If students know they are doing poorly, they may begin to work harder.
  • Teaching: Just as assessment helps students, assessment helps teachers. Frequent assessment allows teachers to see if their teaching has been effective. Assessment also allows teachers to ensure students learn what they need to know in order to meet the course’s learning objectives.

Importance of Evaluation

  • Teaching: Evaluation is concerned with assessing the effectiveness of teaching, teaching strategies, methods and techniques. It provides feedback to the teachers about their teaching and the learners about their learning.
  • Curriculum: The improvement in courses/curricula, texts and teaching materials is brought about with the help of evaluation.
  • Society: Evaluation provides accountability to society in terms of the demands and requirements of the employment market.
  • Parents: Evaluation mainly manifests itself in a perceived need for regular reporting to parents. In brief, evaluation is a very important requirement for the education system. It fulfills various purposes in systems of education like quality control in education, selection/entrance to a higher grade or tertiary level.

It also helps one to take decisions about success in specific future activities and provides guidance to further studies and occupation. Some of the educationists view evaluation virtually synonymous with that of learner appraisal, but evaluation has an expanded role. It plays an effective role in questioning or challenging the objectives. (Thomson, G. & Hoffman, J. 2003).

Challenges Militating Against Sustainable Development in Education through Research, Assessment and Evaluation

The fact is education constitutes the major instrument for sustainable human development and fulcrum around which every other activity revolves (Tahir, 2006:21) Nation which has recorded tremendous feats in the world heavily relied on the instrumentality of education. However, in Nigeria there seems to be a daily decline of educational standards. Although according to the former president Olusegun Obasanjo in his Presidential Speech on April, 24, 2000 in Dakar Senegal, he attributed the educational falling standard to bad governance. In his speech; he stated that: Nigerian educational system as it stands is a living proof of the damages that bad governance can do to our society and social structure.

Human beings are the architects and engineers of progressive change and development and they constitute the most important resource we can have internally.

However, Tahir (2001), identified a number of daunting challenges which Nigerian education is confronted with.

They are as follows:

  • Gender equity in education: Gender disparity is a well known feature of Nigerian educational landscape. Educational policies and practices in Nigeria are to say the least gender insensitive and thus not fashioned to achieve gender balance in schools.

Gender Equity. Nigeria – Regional and Gender Differences in Literacy Rates in 2010

Zone Women Men
South East 65% 75%
South West 55% 80%
North West 30% 40%
North East 25% 41%

Source: Unicef 2010

The table above shows the Nigeria- Regional and Gender differences in literacy rates in 2010. The table also shows that there is a disparity in literacy rates between men and women in some parts of the geo-political zones of Nigeria.

  • Shortage of teachers: It is a well known fact that no educational system in a nation can rise above the quality of its teachers. In other words, the success of the system rests on the availability of good and qualified teachers who are internally motivated. Wasagu, (2006) stated that “Teachers are the way to improvement since they are the final brokers when it comes to educational policy”. Former minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai (2010) stated that “lack of qualified teachers was responsible for the dismal performance of students especially in mathematics and English language”. That poor performance turned out to be a child’s play when NECO released its own SSCE results which showed that only 126,500 of the 1,260,765 candidates, just 10 percent of those who registered for the body’s exams passed five subjects including English and mathematics. The statistics also showed that only about 234,682 out of the 1,260,765 candidates who sat for the exams made five credits in five core subjects the minimum requirements for the university admission in Nigeria. That means only two percent passed the exams with five credits including English and mathematics. Therefore where there are competent, capable and well motivated personnel among other things, the educational system of a country can surely succeed.
  • Overcrowded classrooms: The introduction of UPE brought with a sudden population explosion in schools and its resultant effects on teacher-pupil or student ratio. Overcrowding in the classroom is now the order of the day from Primary to university level. Because of the overcrowded classrooms, there are usually not enough places for the number of students in class/lecture rooms. This type of atmosphere is not conducive for effective teaching/learning process. Effective teacher/student relationship may not be possible in an overcrowded classroom. This probably explains why teachers in higher institutions of learning resort to the use of handouts (Akande, 2004:63).
  • Inadequate infrastructures: This refers to the physical and spatial enablers of teaching/ learning. They include classrooms, libraries, laboratories, workshops, play fields, school farms and gardens as well as provision of water and sanitation. These have to be of the appropriate quantity, size and quality to meet the minimum standards for promoting any meaningful teaching and learning condition.
  • Funding of Education: The managers of primary secondary and higher institutions in Nigeria are in consensus that these institutions are grossly underfunded. This menace could be seen in the degree of dilapidation that characterizes the primary and secondary buildings in parts of the country. The non-payment of teachers’ salaries and allowances which most times result in strikes. There is lack of necessary teaching and learning material at all levels of the educational system. Finally, the mismanagement and diverting of substantial resources from the educational system to other ends. The underfunding has been criticized and attributed to several factors ranging from military rule, diversion and mismanagement of funds and lack of focus (Victor, 2002, Dike 1999, Bolag 2002).

 Meeting the Challenges

 The following are some of the suggestions:

  • There are needs for allocation of enough funds to various educational institutions;
  • There are need for a committee managing and supervising projects to ensure implementation of project design for a particular developmental programme in schools;
  • For the purpose of achieving sustainable national development, there are needs for learning under a conducive environment. As such, the dilapidated infrastructural facilities in schools and colleges must be improved;
  • Teachers who are to disseminate knowledge must be properly motivated to give and put in their best. As such the need for salary increment and better working conditions;
  • Government at all levels Federal, state and local must contribute their respective quota to the development of education. This will ensure a speedy achievement of sustainable national development.
  • Gender disparity and boys and girls drop out should be discouraged by a particular enlightenment programme using media (such as radio, television, etc.)

Conclusion

It is widely agreed that education is the most effective means that society possesses for confronting the challenges of the future. Indeed, education will shape the world of tomorrow. Progress increasingly depends upon the products of educated minds: upon research, invention, innovation and adaptation. Of course, educated minds and instincts are needed not only in laboratories and research institutes, but in every walk of life. Indeed, access to education is the sine qua non for effective participation in the life of the modern world at all levels. Education, to be certain, is not the whole answer to every problem. But education, in its broadest sense, must be a vital part of all efforts to imagine and create new relations among people and to foster greater respect for the needs of the environment.

Education is the cornerstone of achieving a sustainable national development. There are no doubts achieving sustainable national development is the goal of all developing nations, Nigeria inclusive. As such there are the needs to invest, encourage and enlighten people on education. The roles of government at all levels are to facilitate the achievement of any development. Government should continue the contribution towards achieving this sustainable development. However, the need for monitoring, supervising and ensuring that all the financial and other investment on education for the purpose of achieving sustainable development are not diverted for other purposes.

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