FROM time immemorial man has given himself to be shaped by his knowledge, experience and the bearing of his environment. At the initial stage, learning and the process of learning was, to a large extent, neither classified nor restricted by law or constrained by systems. People learnt within their families, among peers, in the course of events, occasions and activities e.t.c. However, in the course of time, man began to consider organising the very large body of knowledge generated by him into several fields of inquiry. Several disciplines began to emerge, mainly from the traditional philosophy. Disciplines like economics, political science and many others were all carved out. The more these bodies of knowledge were classified and organised the more the restriction in access and the more the traditional means of learning lost in significance in determining who learns and the quality of learning.
Furthermore, the process and quality of learning came to be determined by systems created by the dictates of the few privileged in the ruling class of the society. Apart from just organising knowledge, determining what will be thought, who will teach or learn, under what conditions this process will take place and many other components of an education or learning system; a very critical part of the learning system stands out – the measurement of the quality of learning. A key function of any system of educational measurement is to reflect the quality of learning and the efficiency of the process of learning.
The definition of the quality of learning is problematic and its measurement difficult. In the literatures two approaches have become common. The first is to use scores on standardised national or international tests or examinations when they are available as a measure of education quality. The second approach is to proxy schooling quality by the level of school resources especially in terms of teaching and learning facilities. Though the relationship between the second measure and the quality of learning is still seriously debated, other studies, however, found a strong relationship between school resources and the achievements of students in tests and examinations.
Nonetheless, quality essentially indicates or suggests conformity with expectations on a consistent basis. Therefore, learning succeeds when it meets expectations – when it is anti-traditional to the extent that it liberates, stimulates and informs the individual and teaches him how and why to make demands upon him or herself. Additionally, learning succeeds when it is effectively able to create a stimulus for practical solutions. On the other hand, any mechanism for measuring learning is successful to the extent that it is able to effectively reflect the individual’s state at meeting these expectations of any learning process.
Nigeria has over the years relied enormously on the outputs of our mechanisms for education measurement despite the very visible failure of this mechanism in reflecting the value-added to the student or pupil who passes through the school system. A major pitfall of such mechanism is that students’ performance may simply reflect the student’s innate ability or prior preparation, rather than the students’ contribution or value-added.
Obviously, results from standardised tests and examinations over the years from many of our education institutions have failed to reflect the decay in our learning system. Universities have continued to produce 1st class, 2nd class Uppers and 2nd class Lowers every year without querying the quality of value added to the individual students’ knowledge base.
Government policy in education has always paid great attention to the expansion of access to education through increased classroom spaces, increased number of teachers and large enrollment among other strategies. Government’s attempts to respond to the declining quality of learning have always been based on the records of the systems of measurement of learning outcomes. Invariably, government is always bordered about instances of mass failures in standardised examinations rather than the relevance and quality of curriculum, teachers and value-added to students. Education policies over the decades have always sought ways of increasing the numerical output of students from schools rather than how effectively the products of the schooling system fit into the larger society. The huge emphasis on the “endorsement” by education measurement mechanisms has no doubt taken a heavy toll on the efficacy of the average “Nigerian Certificate”.
It is obvious that our traditional yardstick for measuring learning outcomes does not reflect the state of our education system. This is important considering the flaws inherent even in the most ideal measurement system, how much more that of our country that is flawed with severe imperfections and irregularities.
In conclusion, in rethinking learning in Nigeria we may not completely ignore education measurement. We must pay greater attention to the quality of learning outcomes by reconciling the quality of learning with expectations. In achieving this, the entire learning system from policy to the frontline service delivery facilities must be reformed. For instance, in the area of remuneration we must ask questions like “must every teacher with equal “paper qualification” be paid the same salary merely going by the face value of their certificate, rather than according to the quality of their services? Must students’ performance be measured wholly by their scores in standardised tests or examinations? Have we completely exhausted all available avenues for bridging the gap between classroom knowledge and technical possibilities in the real world? Answering these questions and many more may lead us towards achieving learning success in Nigeria.
• Ikechukwu Okoli is a Public Sector Economist and wrote from Enugu.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”