Why and how we should invest in education

By Kingsley Moghalu

Some facts from the United States that put our need to invest in education in Nigeria in perspective: Harvard University’s endowment, at $40 billion and managed by Harvard Management Company Inc. is larger than Nigeria’s entire foreign reserves. University of Texas (public university) $30 billion. Yale: $29 billion. Stanford: $$26 billion. Princeton: $25. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):$16 billion. University of Pennsylvania (Penn): $15. University of Michigan (public uni): $12 billion. Notre Dame: $$11. Columbia: $10 billion. Tufts: $1.9 billion. Rice: $1.3 billion.

These endowments come from gifts from wealthy donors, contributions from alumni of these institutions, profits from tuition and other fees etc. In the case of state-owned universities, grants from the government also contribute to the financial positions of such institutions. Beyond university-wide endowments, there are numerous specific endowments for professorial chairs and for scholarships.

What’s the point? In countries that are making progress and are globally competitive, education is an industry in which huge public and private investments are made. Wealthy Nigerians and alumni of Nigerian universities should look more seriously at this model of funding education. In Nigeria, Oba Sikiru Adetona provided over N1 billion for an endowed professorial chair in governance and for an annual lecture on the subject at Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ijebu Ode.

(I was the Joan Gillespie Fellow at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston during my master’s degree program 30 years ago. That endowed fellowship was dedicated by a donor, in memory of his daughter, to finance students from developing countries assessed to have future leadership potential.)

But governments still have a primary role in education. So federal and state governments must invest massively in education reform, as follows:

1. Invest in massive teacher training and Re-training programs to make those who teach our kids fit for purpose.

2. Reform the curriculum towards skills acquisition for job creation, rebalancing tertiary education curricula to 60:40 in favor of science, technology, skills and entrepreneurship versus arts and social sciences.

3. Create a clear “vocational track” and “professional track” in secondary education and establish more tertiary vocational institutions.

4. Invest in pedagogy (how we learn) reform, away from rote learning (“cram and pour”) to self-discovery and creative learning methods that embed what is learnt because students participate more in the learning process. In my class as a professor at Tufts University, the student’s original research essay carried 60% of total marks, participation in class discussion and group exercises carried 20%, and attendance was the remaining 20%. The aim was a well rounded student after taking my class.

5. Invest in education infrastructure. Every child in any Nigerian secondary school should have a laptop. High quality school buildings, learning environment and other learning aids are critical for superior education.

6. Invest in higher pay for teachers, and restore the teaching profession to the pride of place it once had in Nigeria, and as it has in countries like South Korea and Finland where teaching is one of the most respected and prestigious professions.

Finally, we need a public-private venture capital fund of at least N1 trillion to invest in new ventures that graduates of our educational institutions with technical, artistic or entrepreneurship skills wish to set up. This will close the circle, from education to jobs. #Ends