Do you realize that there is an ongoing great debate on education? It is beyond the familiar turf. Yet, it touches all of us one way or the other.

The debate is not limited to any country or continent. Its variant whirls and spins in Africa creating uneasiness. The Internet also gives it a twist. Education debate today is like a million voices at what looks like a chariot of colors and many are shouting a stop to its furious gallop. Some do not only aspire to what is perceived as the best, they propose universal forms in strange and diverse educational ‘ecosystems’. Great ideas they are but others think it is shallow. Arguments go on differently, in quality and spread. In this terrain of experts and perfect guides in a cacophony, don’t you think there should be some caution? On education, some have been taken off path by every word that resembles the Oracle of Delphi, sown in ambivalence, reaped in ambivalence. To be sure they do not lead to a clearly defined outcome.

Who are really at the center of this debate? They are youths- Millennials. They are the soul. Debaters are talking and chasing them. The future is said to belong to them. Realistically, the future is theirs because the old must give way at some point. Yet, these youths must survive in a radically changing environment.

 The future is today and tomorrow too. The future is an admixture, yet desperate. One lives today to live in the future. But, how youths go about things today affects their future. This is likely the concerns of many who offer opinions. Often their ideas don’t merge with that of youths in want of experience.

The basic issue in education at a point in this part of the world is that people should go to school. There is initial resistance in many parts. This reluctance to go to school favored the weak and ordinary folks of the society. The so-called nonentities of that time took advantage of this gap. Thereafter formal education that is not largely practical, technological or entrepreneurial start to determine the way of the society. It becomes to a larger society a way of living. In the minds of parents who never had any formal education and who suffered the pains, a measure of formal education should be pursued by their children.

Legislative compulsion to go school at that time was in many parts lame as it is today. But it did not take long before the wise saw the wisdom in emerging dualism and superordination of one form of knowledge and education over the other. It becomes the ‘ superior means of exchange’. However, within a century, things have radically changed across the board. This gives rise to many questions about the current type of education. Now, the issue in some parts of the world and Africa is not only about going to school but other fundamental issues on education itself. Other issues are embedded.

What is to be learned?

What kind of teacher is required?

What and how does the teacher teach?

How does the learner absorb what is taught?

Are things being taught making a difference for the critical mass in the present order of things?

How does education affect the quality of life of persons – industry, commerce, country and the world?

Are many of those being taught getting it right?

If not why?

Are there conditions beyond the current that underpin the shortfall and seeming inertia?

People have wondered:

Does the learner have the right foundation, environment and other means to learn?

Why are students seen as poor in one location easily transform to “wonder-men” and “super-women” in another clime?

 How practical and relevant to living are the things being learned to the learners at different stages of life, to the society and the world?

How are each society and its education ordered?

What should useful education do to people?

Is relevance in education to be seen only in practical, tangible, monetary and time denominated sequences?

These are no simple questions. Little wonder, it elicits many ideas.

We are sure this current exercise is limited in answering all the questions. But think through these questions yourself. Perhaps, it can open our minds to other thoughts on this huge challenge.

Let us examine a few.

What is to be learned? Often, it is a challenge given to differences in needs of individuals and society. One size fits all prescription hardly gets to the bottom. It requires introspection and effort to unify ones underlying philosophy of life to rightly determine what is to be learned.

Who teaches what is learned raises the issue of the process and quality of the teacher. What are the guiding principles? Again, the one who pays the piper determines the tune. Is it not said one should teach what one is paid to teach? Those who taught something different, of course know where they end.

The way a learner absorbs what he learns depends on his foundation. A weak foundation unless worked on thoroughly will often reflect some limitations. But in learning, low absorptive capacity is not always a function of the teacher’s poor impartation methods. The learner personal qualities deriving from self, foundation, family, environment, and society can have a share in good or poor performance.

Are the things being taught making impact on the lives of one learning? Can it put a meal on the table, meet the diverse needs of society? The answer can diverge times in the course of development of a society. The assessor’s values also could come into the picture. At what point is a judgment valid on the quality of education in a particular location of the world?

The intrinsic and extrinsic value of educated, skilled young men entering the job market in a developed economy where aged, educated and skilled labor are dominant are bound to be assessed differently from an emerging economy with another labor index. The same is true where a limited number of youths making entry to the job market who barely have a good and skilled education. The long-term outcomes can be seen without the power of clairvoyance. In these cases, discussion on education can take a twist.

Take a look at Japan, Germany and Nigeria. Carefully see how they score in this.  No gainsaying the fact that quality of education and related skill at a point of entry into the job market are not necessarily the same hence a uniform or universal score of future outcome cannot be the same.

Hear this on education. Much talked level of quality education that brings great results among individuals, across countries and continents will largely remain differing targets of aspiration and attainment from time to time.

“Universalism in thought and aspiration are not harmful, but in many things, the workability is often the issue”

To be continued.