Repositioning Nigerian Education for Relevance in the 21st Century


Education remains one of the fundamental factors of development as it has the potential of enriching people’s understanding of themselves and the world. It has the capacity to improve the quality of human life and leads to broad social benefits for individuals and society. Education has the potential to raise people’s productivity and creativity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. In addition, it plays a very crucial role in securing economic and social progress and improving income distribution. It is evident that no nation or community can progress beyond the level of her human capital development. Generally, political stability is a function of the quality of human capital.

The underdevelopment of Nigeria, indeed the Third World is in fact usually adduced to the failure of successive governments to invest appropriately in human capacity development. Major challenges in Nigeria’s education evolution highlighted in this paper include lack of visionary leadership, poor funding of education, poor and inadequate infrastructure, dearth of qualified and motivated workforce, examination malpractices, non functional curricula and obsolete teaching methods and of course the corruption endemic which has eaten deep into the moral fabric of the Nigerian society.

After almost half a century of political independence, the Nigerian nation is yet to evolve a progressive pattern of growth. Human capital, Dependency and Modernisation theories of development are utilized to analyse the Nigerian situation and proffer suggestions as to the way forward. For any meaningful revival in the educational sector of the economy, it is expedient that a comprehensive revamping of the manpower must be carried out. In the first place, with a visionary leadership in place, Nigerians all need a cultural rebirth, whereby positive values would be restored and negative ones be excised from our lives. Added to this is the elimination of corruption from the body polity. Heavy funding of the all tiers of education and accountability for such funds are recommended. On-the-job training, retraining, tutoring on people skills, work ethics and patriotism must form the core of the manpower capital development programme, which must be a continuing process till the expected reforms are established. In order to facilitate programmed human capital development in the nation, guidance and counseling should be entrenched at every level of education, starting from basic education.


The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) document published in 2005 reported that the national literacy rate is currently 57 percent.  This is against Japan which has 100% literacy rate. It is also reported that 49 percent of the teaching force is unqualified.  There are acute shortages of infrastructure and facilities at all levels.  Added to this is the fact that access to basic education seems somewhat inhibited by socio-cultural beliefs and practices, gender issues and slack implementation of legislations on compulsory basic education among other factors. Most of the infrastructures in public schools are dysfunctional and dilapidated. It is saddening to note that poor maintenance culture perpetrated by selfish individualism have left most of our public school buildings in a state of disrepair.

            Following the return to civilian rule in 1999, the government made strong commitments to reverse the negative trends.  One of its first acts, in September 1999, was to announce the launching of Universe Basic Education (UBE) which would provide free and compulsory education at both primary and junior secondary levels to all children.  In August 2000, a National Stakeholder Consultation on Education was convened by the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja, with a view to identifying the underlying problems hindering optimal service delivery in the education system.  Attended by a wide range of stakeholders, the consultation made a searching diagnosis of the main challenges hindering optimal service delivery and listed such factors as:

            a.         Inadequate access at all levels.

            b.         Poor state of infrastructure and facilities

            c.         Lack of relevance, appropriateness and responsiveness in the curriculum.

            d.         An over-emphasis on rote learning.

            e.         Endemic strikes and work to rule action by lecturers, teachers, non-academics and students

            f.          Persistence of gender gap in enrolment, participation and achievement.

            g.         Problems of organization and management.

            h.         Inadequate funding and lack of reliable statistical data.

The Obasanjo administration (1999 to 2007) made some efforts at repositioning Nigerian education with a number of notable strides. First, the institution of the Universal Basic Education programme, systematic selective funding of tertiary insitutions optimizing the Education Tax Fund (ETF) and privatization of Federal Government Colleges, among others.

            With the installation of new government in 2007, President Musa Yar Adua declared his 7-Point Agenda, which is the platform through which his government intends to seek to deal with the multifarious challenges in the Nigerian society. It is about two years now since the present administration got into the saddle and there seems to have been so much advertisement of the 7-Point Agenda, but what direction is the leadership this time?

            The purpose of this paper therefore is to examine the present administration’s education programme. It will also endeavor to review some of the steps taken as far by government to strengthen the education sector for optimal service delivery. The paper will also highlight the structural defects in policy and implementation. Thereafter, suggestions will be proffered for the revival of education as catalyst for national development.

It is the conviction of this author that the social and economic development of Nigeria is fundamentally hinged on education, which is a process and not an end in itself. The premise is that education is a process in which people learn to create new institutions, use new technologies, cope with their environment, and alter their patterns of behavior. Education and schooling have the tendency to help improve the capabilities of individuals and the capacity of institutions, indeed it has become a catalyst for all the closely interrelated economic, social, cultural, and demographic changes that are defined as national development.

            However, if opportunities for schooling are unevenly distributed across population segments through inequitable selection practices, different classes of schools representing varying standards of education and poorly implemented policies, the formal education system may perpetuate and legitimize divisions based on gender, geopolitical zone or socioeconomic status.

Basic Education

It is a widely-held view that governments should prioritize basic education, and that all children, irrespective of whether they continue in school or enter the world of work, need literacy, numeracy, and citizenship skills. Decentralization affects basic education especially, since this subsector is most likely to come under the responsibility of the local governments. The uncertainty of the capability of local leadership, fragility of funding, funds’ misappropriation, search for cost-effective quality, changing managerial roles at all levels, and lack of reliable data for decisions, may combine to constrain basic education development.

Basic education, by definition, includes not only primary and lower secondary education, but also preschool and nonformal education (i.e., literacy, numeracy, and basic life skills training for adults and out-of-school youth). It also provides a critical programme that successfully demonstrates collaboration among parents, teachers, and local government in planning and improving education service delivery. Extending basuc education to nine (9) years is a landmark decision in the development of education system in Nigeria. It suggests an education commitment equivalent to that of many industrialized societies. The major challenges to planners and policymakers are to integrate junior secondary education as a contiguous stage within basic education; maintain its integration with upper levels of education; and provide options for the range of needs of a diverse student population. In

addition, the content of basic education must also be responsive to the context of local economic opportunities and realities so as to allow graduates to productively contribute to society. Given the cost implications for expanding secondary education (including the effects on other education levels competing for financial resources), it is critical that skills learned in junior secondary institutions are matched with productive opportunities upon students’ eventual entry into the workforce.

It seems most of the present government’s efforts are geared towards improving access to Basic Education. With so much national and international funding into Basic Education, Nigeria has legislations in place to give all school age children access to Basic Education. How much enforcement of the legislation is being achieved is being queried by critics in the sense that street-hawking is still commonplace in urban cities and towns. Apart from this, Jaiyeoba (2006) submitted that much of the funds being injected into Basic Education may be not be properly accounted for, thus the whole purpose of such funding may be defeated.

Senior Secondary Education

Following the nine (9)-year Basic Education programme is the Senior Secondary which prepares the individual for tertiary education. The senior secondary education remains quite significant in the entire pedagogical discourse. This is because it provides the link between basic education and tertiary education. It is thus imperative for provision to be made for high quality resources in terms of teaching and instructional materials. The suggested thrust is for government to increase funding, provide requisite infrastructure and motivate teachers and administrators with good remuneration packages.

The rationale of reversal of the previous government’s policy on privatization of Federal Unity schools is still being queried by this author. In the first instance, the unity schools have since gone elitist, outliving the origin purpose for establishment. Also, most of the schools have become a shadow of themselves, with delapidated infrastructure, poorly motivated teachers and of course, poor results in external examinations. Not much is being seen as being done by government in this area.

Technical-Vocational Education

A variety of studies indicate that publicly-provided technical/vocational education (TVE) systems generally have had a weak record in meeting employer demands. High unit costs, shortages in available skilled staff, and lack of flexibility in adapting to changing technologies have made technical/vocational education in public schools an unattractive investment option. The Nigerian experience is no better. With the dismal failure of the technical/vocational educational programme in Federal Government Colleges under the 6-3-3-4 system of education, this paper suggests that public-private partnerships (PPPs) be initiated by government to reengineer this component of the educational revival Nigeria is pursuing. Given the pragmatic operating styles of the private sector, the technical/vocational education programme could be revived with optimal benefit for the students, society and the entrepreneur.

Tertiary Education

The government has sustained the previous government’s policy of liberalization of tertiary education. It is suggested that the direction of policies in tertiary education should be toward the development of more competitive and productive institutions supported by one or more public or private sources, with increasing autonomy in determining the composition of the student body and curriculum. This direction of policy does encourage the imperative of an appropriate government regulatory framework, accreditation requirements and public subsidies’ intervention.

To attain increased flexibility and efficiency in meeting the social demands and manpower needs of the economy, policymakers in tertiary education should seek to

(i) make available requisite infrastructure and remunerate staff appropriately;

(ii) revive moribund loans’ and scholarship boards at Federal and State government levels and sustain them with required funding to cater for tuition and books;

(iii) increase school fees in all public institutions;

(iv) link public support to measures of productivity; and

(v) encourage direct profit-making activities by universities and higher technical institutions, often in collaboration with private industry.

However, Nigeria might benefit from the current practices in the China, Japan and Korea with firm government control on standards, admission rates and tuition in both public and private universities.


Nigerian education is plagued with multidimensional problems, ranging from poor funding, misappropriation of allocated funds, dilapidated and inadequate infrastructure, non functional curricula and obsolete instructional methods,  It is noteworthy that President Musa Yar Adua at his inauguration in 2007 promised to invest heavily into education, even though the promise is yet to be substantiated with the 2009 Budgetary allocation to Education still standing at less than 7% of the annual budget. It must noted here that the Western Regional Government of Nigeria under Chief Obafemi Awolowo invested over 50% of its annual budget on Education. This definitely explains the developmental edge the south western region in Nigeria has had over the other regions to date. Nations such as Japan, Korea and China all have histories of heavy investment into Education.

Noble as government efforts have been, little has been realized in ensuring that Nigerian education is placed on sound footing to effectively compare with educational service delivery in other parts of the world. It can be argued that the present administration may not be sincere in its promise of ‘heavy” investment into education on two levels. First, it has consistently earmarked only a paltry percentage of the annual budget to education. Secondly, education is literally placed last on the listing of the seven points on the 7-Point Agenda. Realistically, given the present state of education in Nigeria, government would do well to declare a state of Emergency in the Education Sector.

There is the challenge of incessant strikes by teaching and non teaching personnel in all the three tiers of education. This may perhaps not be unconnected with generalized poor working conditions and the ongoing brain drain of our best human resources since the 1980s to date. Main issues in President Yar Adua’s 7 Point Agenda, power and energy; food security and agriculture; wealth creation and employment, mass transportation, land reforms; security; pursuance of the rule of law and qualitative and functional education remain fundamental issues for concern in this nation. The individualism of the average Nigerian agrees only to the “winner takes all” syndrome.  On election into office, the average Nigerian political leader seem to be too preoccupied with himself and his immediate family and well-wishers to the detriment of the larger society who voted him into power. Perhaps the issue of non-accountability in the home, community and larger society may continue to be the albatross for Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

Apart from poor policy implementation culture which pervades virtually all aspects of our national life, basic infrastructure in educational institutions are either dilapidated or not in place at all. Also, most curricula are usually outdated since the instructors’ knowledge base is not being updated through in-service training programmes. Textbooks and other instructional materials are often in short supply and the student/teacher ratios are well above desired levels and student retention rates are low. With the brain drain of the 1980s and 1990s culminating in dearth of experienced experts in various fields of human endeavour, falling standards in virtually all tiers of education became the major challenge of succeeding governments.

It is this author’s perception that investment in human capital may not be as productive except it is functional and relevant. It is expedient that the gown must become more relevant to the town’s needs more than ever before. A 1984 survey of growth accounting studies covering 29 developing countries found estimates of education’s contribution to economic growth ranging from less than 1 percent in Mexico to as high as 23 percent in Ghana (Psacharopoulos, 1984).

            It is to be noted here that one basic problem educational planners in Nigeria have to deal with almost all the time is the very poor data base. It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria does not accurate statistics on the number of schools, school enrolment and number of school age children. Sometimes the forecasts may be far from reality, thus making it difficult to do thorough planning. Some of the worst affected areas are the cities, with their dense population of children resulting in high classroom/teachers ratios. Recently, some of my students on teaching practice were teaching in a public secondary school where some students actually received lessons under trees! This sounds incredible but it is nevertheless true. Thus, poor school environmental conditions could be a key factor in diminishing the motivation of children for school attendance. Added to this is the suggestion that there is a wide gap between the number of schools and classrooms and the school-age population at all levels of the education system.  It is estimated that only about two thirds of the required number of primary schools are currently in place to support the full enrolment of primary school-age children (NPCE; E-1998). 

            Of all the inputs that go into educational provision for optimal service delivery, none is probably more important than the teacher.  There is a plethora of evidence (UNESCO, E-1998b) suggesting that the number quality and motivation of teachers have major consequences both for school enrolment, attendance and for the achievement of pupils.  With 426,794 primary school teachers and approximately 15 million pupils enrolled in primary schools, according to data for 1998 from the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC), there was a national pupil-teacher ratio of 35 to 1 at the primary level.  This is below the maximum pupil-teacher ratio of 40:1 prescribed by the federal government for both primary and post-primary schools.  However, if all the 6-11 year old children (estimated to total 19.9 million in 1998) had been in school, the national pupil-teacher ratio would have been as high as 47:1.  This indicates that it would have been necessary to recruit 70,000 additional teachers.  Moreover, noted the report, the national average masks significant geographical variations. In some states, mainly in the North, the actual ratio is well above the prescribed limit, the data for 1996 showing 73 pupils per teacher in Yobe, 56 in Borno, 46 in Benue and 44 in Jigawa (FGN/UNICEF/UNESCO/UNDP, E-2000).

            The inadequate number of qualified teachers is thus one of the likely causes of low educational standards in some states, and more generally, acts as a constraint on the rapid enrolment of all primary school-age children currently out of school.  The quantity issue is aggravated by the declining quality of teachers.  In 1997 for instance, less than 70 percent of primary schools teachers in the country had the Grade 11 Teachers certificate.   Today the Nigeria certificate in Education is the minimum required but even then less than 40 percent of primary school teachers had the NCE by 1999.  In terms of quality teachers status is hardly enhanced by the quality of preparation given to teacher trainees.  Training institution now shun out teachers that are deficient in content and methodology.  The monthly assortment of outreach and sandwich centers for teacher education has weak pedagogical bases and frameworks.  At the secondary and high levels, teacher quality cannot be rated above the average mark.  The toll exerted by the brain drain phenomenon and the low and motivation.  Many highly qualified teachers migrated to Europe, Asia and North America, leaving behind number of inexperienced lecturers in universities and colleges of education – a situation that rubbed off on the quality of graduate, some of whom one way or the other managed to come back into  the system as lecturers – creating thereby a vicious cycle of mediocrity. It is therefore appropriate to state that optimal service delivery will be a mirage in public educational institutions if the problems of teacher quality, teacher quantity in terms of the pupil-teacher ratio, teacher motivation in terms of reward structure, salaries and befits are not immediately attended to.

             Curriculum analysis shows that, on paper, the learning experiences that are provided the Nigerian child from basic through higher education are rich and varied and capable of meeting the immediate and future needs of children.  Primary, secondary and higher education curricular are generally regarded as superior to those in most sub-saharan African and by and large comparable with those in developed world.

            However, the curriculum of Nigerian schools has also been criticized for being over ambitious resulting in “overload” and insufficiently attuned to the needs of the labor market particularly in pre-vocational and vocation/technical courses.  A related problem is the huge gulf of a difference between the intended curriculum and what is actually implemented by teachers and what is achieved by students both of which are respectively called the implemented and achieved curriculum.  It may be important also to highlight the failing in pedagogical methods, which in turn reflect the poor training received by most teachers.  With a heavy focus on teacher-pupil interaction at the expense of pupil-pupil and pupil material, what predominates in most Nigerian classroom form primary through to postgraduate level is the unidirectional lecture mode, with the minimal use of materials.

               Okunola et al (2008) submit that examinational malpractice remains a bane of Nigeria’s education. They opine that overcrowding of classes, high teacher-pupil ratios, unqualified teachers and the brain drain of the late 1980s are major inducers of the culture of malpractice during examinations. It is really unfortunate that corruption in has eaten so deep into the average Nigerian’s psyche so much that even parents are reported to abet their children’s cheating spree in public examinations!

                 In spite of the relative political stability of Nigeria over the past decade, the challenge of nepotism and corruption remains the major challenge to every sphere of our national life. This is because it seems the cankerworm has eaten deep into the moral fabric of the entire society. From the highest leadership to the lowest paid civil servant, even to young persons in elementary and secondary schools, corruption has remained unabated. Corruption has become so brazen that anyone who refuses to conform may be tagged deviant.

            The perennial experience of diversion of public funds into private coffers must be curtailed if not outrightly eliminated. It is expedient that leaders at every tier of our socioeconomic lives must be seen to be leading and serving. The earlier all and sundry in the Nigerian nation realized the fact that leadership is all about service and service is simply sacrifice, the better for our beloved nation. Leadership by example must be the watchword of leaders at all tiers of our society. Leaders must be seen to be leading, not using leadership for personal gains and aggrandizement. The matter of Due Process needs to be upheld at the highest levels of government. Also, government apparatus such as Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be revived and effectively legislated if the nation were to be delivered from the slavemarket of neocolonialism.

Again, it is imperative that political leaders and government agencies to stop paying lip service to effectively educational service delivery. It is often opined that the quality of lives of the people is a function of the quality of education and it is true. The United Nations charter of commitment to education must be adhered to without compromises. Nigeria still remains grossly underdeveloped and most of the population is living in poverty because we have failed to take public education seriously. A situation where the national government is investing only a paltry less than 7% of its annual budget on education is simply unacceptable. Government must begin to set priorities right and education remains top priority for any government with a vision to evolving amongst the top 20 economies in the world by 2020! Funding must be provided for new infrastructures and teaching professionals should be duly remunerated and compensated for work done.

In the opinion of the author, the psyche of the typical Nigerian public servant (including teachers!) has become warped and distorted. Most public servants, indeed many Nigerians, believe that they must all benefit from the “National Cake.” This implies that even if an enabling environment is provided for optimal service delivery in education, little or nothing may be achieved if serving personnel are not retrained and reoriented. If the workforce does not demonstrate passion for the job for which they are employed, little can be achieved. The system of incessant strikes and industrial unrests has made the public servant a shadow of himself. The truth is, over the past ten years or so, most teaching professionals in public schools have become accustomed to holidays, work to rule and strikes than teaching for which they are paid.

Theoretical Perspectives on Development

Among the many perspectives on development, the modernization, human capital and dependency theories supply an ample framework for educational objectives in developing countries, and are utilized for this paper.

Modernization Theory

Modernization theory originated in the early 1960’s mainly from the work of David McClelland (1961), a social psychologist who attempts to explain the differences between societies in social and technological advancement. McClelland asserts that some societies are more advanced than others because of differences in cultural and personality styles.  According to McClelland, advancement is caused by the need for achievement. He claims that children can develop the need for achievement through literature that stresses the significance of self-help, competition and general extroverted behavior. Therefore, societies that wish to encourage their young to become entrepreneurs can impart them with the values of the need for achievement at the right age. So, for McClelland, modernization is closely linked with the acquisition of modern values.

From their study of individual modernity in six developing countries, Inkeles and Smith (1974) provide a rationale for the modernization theory. They stated that because people become modern through their daily experiences and bureaucratic organizations, it is important to modify places of employment to allow people to “move from the more traditional to the more modern pole in their attitudes, values and behavior” (p. 6). Modernists believe that to modernize is to develop, and that society cannot develop until the bulk of its population absorbs modern values. In an attempt to define modernization, Inkeles and Smith write:

The socio-psychological approach to modernization treats it mainly as a process of change in ways of perceiving, expressing, and valuing. The modern is defined as a mode of individual functioning, a set of dispositions to act in certain ways. It is in other words an ‘ethos’ in the sense in which Max Weber spoke of ‘the spirit of capitalism’ (p. 16).

Inkeles and Smith assert that societies can create modern values through certain social institutions such as family, school, and factory. For them, modernization is closely tied with industrialization and the personal qualities that are likely to result from working in factories, and “perhaps more critical, which may be required of the workers and the staff if the factory is to operate efficiently and effectively” (p. 19). Therefore, the basic assumption underlying the modernization theory is that there is a direct causal link between five sets of variables in the process of modernization, namely, modernizing institutions, modern values, modern behaviour, modern society, and economic development (Fagerlind and Saha, 1989).

In The Stages of Economic Growth – A Non-Communist Manifesto, Rostow (1990) identifies five stages of economic growth that lead to development; they are: (1) the traditional society; (2) the preconditions of take-off; (3) the take-off; (4) the drive to maturity; and (5) the age of high mass consumption.

(1) Rostow describes a traditional society as an agrarian-dependent society with limited access to science and technology. In traditional society, religion and natural laws dictate the mode of production. There is virtually lack of diversification in the economy. A social hierarchy controls the means of production with family and clan affiliations playing a greater role in society. In traditional societies, political power is usually vested in landowners who maintain considerable influence on society members.

(2) The preconditions for take-off stage is a transitional period to modernity, a period when developing society becomes aware of the need for advancement. The society at this period introduces innovations in education, develops infrastructure such as banks and other economic establishments for capital mobilization, encourages investment, broadens the scope of commerce internally and externally and finally, encourages the establishment of modern manufacturing industries.

(3) The take-off is the most critical period of the development process. This is the period of rapid industrial and technological growth.

(4) The drive to maturity stage, is a period of long sustained growth. It is a period when society modernizes all economic activities through technology.

(5) The age of high mass consumption, is characterized by a period of economic growth when society moves toward demanding durable consumer goods and services. Accordingly, for Rostow, development is unilinear and in order for traditional societies to develop, they have to change their economies, values and social structures.            

This model suggests that the development process is sequential and that in order for Nigeria to develop, she will have to alter her current economic policies, values and social organization to meet the challenges of development and modernization. It is noteworthy that in the past two decades or so Nigeria has had to be complying with the conditionalities of monitoring agencies such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) but such policies and programmes such as Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) has not worked in our own circumstances. Perhaps failure of such interventions in Nigeria could be attributed to the perennial problem of poor implementation.

Human Capital Theory

It is the contention of human capital theorists that improved technology would normally lead to greater production and employees acquire the skills for the use of technology through formal education. In other words, when a government invests in education, it is doing so to increase the productivity of the population, and a priori, improve the chances for development. This theory reaffirms that the most productive course to national development of any society lies in the advancement of its population that is its human capital (Schultz, 1961; Denison, 1962; Becker, 1964). It contends that because an educated population is a productive population, education contributes directly to the growth of the national income of societies by enhancing the skills and productive abilities of employees. Thus, when societies invest in education, they invest to increase the productivity of the population. One of the leading lights of Human Capital Theory, Schultz (1961) maintains that apart from improving individual choices available to people, education provides the category of labor force required for industrial development and economic growth. In his book, Investing in People – The Economics of Population Quality, Schultz (1981) identifies the acquired abilities of people as the most important economic resource available to societies. He maintains that human capital is decisive in improving the welfare of poor people throughout the world. He opines that education is an investment that produces the quality of the population that can propel economic development and welfare of a nation.

Several studies (Michaelowa, 2000; Psacharopoulos and Woodhall, 1985; Saha, 1991; Fagerlind and Saha, 1989; Schultz, 1961, 1980, and 1981) have demonstrated the relationships between education and economic levels of development among societies. For example, Becker (1964) found the return of investment in college education in the U.S. higher than the rate of return on alternative investments. Griliches (1988) asserts that increased educational achievement accounted for one-third of an unexplained increase in the output of the U.S. economy. Denison (1979) observes that education accounted for 0.5 percent of the 2.4 percent of the growth in national income per worker in the nonresidential business sector in the U.S. Schultz (1980) reinforces his original thesis by arguing that the modernization of the economies of both advanced and less developed countries was due to the decrease in farmland and an increase in the mobilization of human resources.

With improved funding in education, it should be expected that educational institutions would perform better, thus improving the overall education service delivery. With qualitative education, it is only to be expected that even the local farmer (with high quality basic education) would be able to adapt cutting edge scientific innovations into his work, thus enhancing overall national productivity.

Dependency Theory

Researchers trace the origins of dependency theory from Marx and Lenin. Marx’s idea of the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeois class and Lenin’s concept of imperialism are used by dependency theorists to describe the process whereby capitalism dominates and exploits the poor countries Dependency theory has its origins in the 1960s through the writings of scholars who were particularly concerned over the persistent economic crisis of Latin America countries. They reject the idea of modernization theory that development would occur by exposing the modern values of the advanced industrialized countries to the Third World. Instead they argue that the persistent poverty in the Third World countries is caused by exposure to the economic, political and social influences to the advanced industrialized countries. Dependency theorists also assert that the growth of the advanced industrialized countries in the world today means the concurrent underdevelopment of those countries whose economic surplus the rich countries exploit (Head, 1991). Therefore, given time, poor countries would develop, but as long as they are subjected to the exploitation of the rich countries, their poverty would persist.

Therefore, dependency theory assumes that the world is divided into a core and peripheral countries dominated by a capitalist economic network, whereby the rich core countries exploit the poor peripheral ones. In other words, the theory assumes that the rich countries of the North dominate and exploit the poor countries of the South (Head, 1991), a situation in which the rich countries transfer resources from the poor countries to their countries through colonial or neo-colonial relationships, plunder, or the operations of multinational corporations.

Perhaps Nigeria needs to take cue from Tanzania which recently directed donor agencies stay off her shores, till a later date. It may be expedient for Nigeria to begin to look inwards for solutions to the myriad of her problems rather than seeking palliative measures from institutions such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.). If the dependency theory were to be applied to Nigeria’s circumstance, it stands to reason therefore that Nigeria’s underdevelopment is inextricably linked to the development of the West. It is noteworthy that despite being one the world’s leading producers of crude oil, Nigeria is still importing petroleum products and things just do not seem to be working right. Also, recent historical records have it that it was during the dark days of General Sani Abacha, when Nigeria was “forsaken” by the West that the Nigerian currency stabilized against foreign currencies.


The 7-Point Agenda of the present administration is a worthy cause which should be implemented for the benefit of all the citizenry. However, it must not be business as usual. Power and Energy should be available and endless running of fuel generators should stop. Instead of parochial and shortsighted solutions to national problems such as sinking boreholes and wasting taxpayers money on Rolls Royce generators for government officials, Nigeria’s leaders should begin to fashion out long-term fulfillment to our national aspirations. The political leadership must begin to lead and be seen to be leading with transparency, enforcement of Dual Process, submission to the rule of law and equity at all times.

Government should begin to partner with private industrial concerns in developing the technical/vocational education subsector. In addition to making infrastructure available and the need for making the curricula relevant and functional, there is need for training and retraining of qualified instructors for vocational/technical education. Also, public private partnerships should be encouraged in the provision of infrastructure for the tertiary institutions.

There is need for government to make education accessible to all Nigerians. While Basic Education should be free and compulsory, other tiers of education should both be accessible and affordable. Government should return subsidies into tertiary education, thus making acquisition of further education attractive and lucrative.

In optimizing human capacity building, it is suggested that educational support services such as guidance and counseling should be entrenched at all tiers of education. Quality control agencies should ensure full compliance of all school administrators and proprietors to the provision of school counselors to help individual pupils and students in taking vocational and interpersonal decisions, which should have some multiplier effects on Nigeria’s developmental future.

Effectively, what is required in the Nigerian situation is the integration of an eclectic theory of development, incorporating the three theories utilized in this study. Human Capital, Modernization and Dependency theories can be accessed and used on their individual merit for the overall emancipation of the Nigerian nation. However, we as a people must arise from slumber, repent of our self-centredness and embrace a cultural rebirth. Our land requires a deep spiritual cleansing. This is in terms of reorganizing individual priorities with a firm resolve to return to our time tested values and norms of integrity, honesty and trust.

In terms of cultural rebirth, government should partner with individual families through schools and religious agencies in instituting an annual National Repentance Week, wherein every Nigerian would begin to fast and pray for forgiveness of our sins as a people. It is expected that this may bring the requisite sobriety into us as a people. We also need a redefinition of our values and norms as a people. It is important that Nigerians begin to say “NO” to corruption and nepotism. To this end, the political leadership, indeed all tiers of leadership must begin to lead by example.

The debate on Nigeria’s socio-economic development has for too long centered on a stale ideological debate between the competing virtues of Western strategies and traditional forms. While critics do not question the contribution of education to development, they question whether our educational system, in its present form, can contribute to socioeconomic development and advancement of our nation? It is high time that we started to have home-grown mechanism for development of education. For any education to be functional, it must be relevant. Education must be seen to be impacting lives of the people and it must be an agent of socio-economic transformation, otherwise, it is all effort in futility.

For education to act as a propeller of socio-economic growth, there is the need for adequate links between universities and the job market. Tertiary institutions should be well positioned to offer appropriate training for skills needed in the labor market. Also, requisite regulatory agencies should ensure balance between enrolments in disciplines that would act as the engine of growth. Legislation on girl-child education should be enforced to facilitate the eradication of gender inequalities thus encouraging the enrolment of women in higher education. The Federal Government should invest heavily on higher education and ensure that university education is affordable; 5) promotion of linkages and international cooperation with other institutions; 6) evolution of pragmatic programmes that will continually link the gown with the town and 7) emphasis on the institutional management that would lead the nation on the path to development.

If the Nigerian leadership can borrow a leaf from the Western Nigeria Regional Government and Southwestern states in Nigeria (1979 to 1983) in facilitating free and compulsory education for all and at all levels, though highly cost-intensive, the nation may as well be on path to socioeconomic revival and economic transformation. If the Asian Miracle could work, there is no reason why it cannot happen in Nigeria. However, all stakeholders must put their hands on the deck, ensuring that Nigeria is corruption free. Nigeria has never been lacking of great ideas and policies; the major challenge has always been the will to implement!

Nigeria, being the most populous black nation in the world, needs to provide the enabling environment to checkmate the on-going brain drain, especially the migration of Nigerian professionals to the West in the name of visa lottery and skilled manpower migrant programmes. Political leadership need to become proactive and pragmatic in its efforts to reposition Nigeria’s education for relevance in the 21st century. The best direction to look if we are considering technology transfer option is the Asian Miracle as this is the information technology age.

It is expected that the Nigerian political elite would rise up to the situation by providing the requisite visionary leadership that would able to put in place a reengineering to that would put in place requisite infrastructure such as security, good roads, public transportation, power, energy and water among others.

Conclusively, the thesis of this paper is that education is indispensable to economic development. It is rather difficult for Nigeria to make any progress socioeconomically without qualitative education. Where and when balanced education system is provided, not only is economic development promoted, but better individual income per capita would be generated. The influence of education is usually quite noticeable at the micro level of an individual family.

About the Author: Donald Abidemi Odeleye, PhD Ife, can be reach at: (email:

Source: Research Gate

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