Last Friday, I decided there was no better way to spend my weekend than taking a trip to my parent’s house and staying with them the entire weekend. So, yesterday, one of my friends that was starting his PhD application called to get some advice about the structure of his research proposal. I had to explain few things to him over the phone. The call lasted about 12 minutes. I didn’t know my step-mum was paying attention to my explanation and observing me. At the end of the call, she suggested I pick up a lecturing job, because I sounded like most of the lecturers that taught her in school. She commended my ability to explain things easily without making reference to any book just like some of the lecturers in her day.
Good as it sound, but it got me thinking about some of the things that are wrong with education in Nigeria. I connected with her point immediately because I also had those type of lecturers in school. The ones who will have all the lecture notes in their head. They enter the class with no note or lecture props. They have been teaching the same course for 20 years (if not more), so they have memorised their entire lecture notes, examples, cases etc. Interestingly, that is their glory. They pride themselves in being able to reproduce the same things they taught 20 years ago to a set of new students in 2017.
The question is, does the ability to regurgitate old notes make you a great teacher? Do this type of lecturers actually impart knowledge in its purest form?
This is 2017. Brexit has happened. A business tycoon with no political history now runs the most powerful office in the world. An app with no clear revenue path has been acquired for $19 Billion. A company with disappearing images and videos is now listed on New York Stock Exchange. Digital wars are being forth, with countries launching hacking efforts at themselves and large corporations daily. All of these imply increasing complexities and accelerated change. Things have changed. Power has changed hands. Consequently, knowledge frontiers have been radically pushed. The 20 year old example and notes, at their best, are mostly invalid in 2017 or can hardly drive home any point to the 2017 student.
We need lecturers who are trendy. The ones who use current issues to teach complex concepts in the classroom and inspire their students to engage with the new world order in and around their field of study. We need to inspire students to interpret these issues and their implications for them and the society they live in. This is the way to breed globally competitive students.
Truth is that, all of the memorized definitions of all lecturers combined is less potent than a smartphone (with 3G connectivity) in the hands of any student. In a world where any kind of information is only few touches away, attending a class cannot just be about jotting down definitions from a lecturer. If it becomes so, then we have made schooling a worthless activity any student can engage in.