A former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Prof Bola Akinterinwa, has stressed the need for the Federal Polytechnic, Ile Oluji, to be unique in its programmes.
Besides, he called for a new perception by the government of polytechnic education as the bedrock of self-reliant industrial development in any developing country, such as Nigeria.
Akinterinwa spoke while delivering the institution’s fourth Foundation Anniversary Lecture on Wednesday, where he emphasised that the institution “must be a polytechnic with a difference, relevant to the local context of Ondo State, Nigeria, and the West African region, yet continentally and globally competitive.”
The lecture was titled: “Polytechnic Education in National Development: Global challenges and strategic leeway for the FEDPOLEL in Nigeria.”
He said that the purpose of polytechnic education is different from that of university education and should therefore not be confused, though he noted that both work towards national development.
While insisting that the institution’s products “must represent the new army of critical thinking and digitally savvy entrepreneurial spin-off, job, and wealth creators” he described this as a major challenge that must be taken seriously by the Rector, Prof Adedayo Fasakin, before his tenure comes to an end, and challenged him to “quickly begin to lay the foundation for a FEDPOLEL with a difference.”
Describing it as an instrument of globalization, he noted that the institution is also an embodiment and reservoir of technological knowledge required for both economic growth and national development, and nation-building.
For the institution, he recommended among others: “ In other words, structural engineering is the science and art of designing and making with economy and elegance, buildings, structural roads, bridges, aircraft, shipbuilding, frameworks, and other structures, so that they can safely resist the forces to which they may be subjected.
“In this regard, the FEDPOLEL can develop research expertise in the use of local building materials like clay, lime, and timbers, rather than cement and other imported materials. The FEDPOLEL can provide leadership in the art of designing.
“… A third leeway is focusing on enablement of mechanized agriculture. The location of the FEDPOLEL is in a community where agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. The cash crop in the community and in Ondo State, in general, is cocoa. The importance of cocoa in the community is best explained by the fact of the establishment of the cocoa industry in the community.
“In this regard, the FEDPOLEL can seek partnership with the Cocoa Industry in the town to articulate the areas of possible special research needs for joint examination. Put differently, how can the FEDPOLEL boost cocoa production through a FEDPOLEL technology? What prevents the FEDPOLEL from developing a cocoa harvesting technology that the whole world can be proud of?
“Evolving a special entente cordiale between the FEDPOLEL and the host community is also a desideratum because the community support is necessary in the achievement of the mandate of the polytechnic. “
He said that efforts should be made to publish a FEDPOLEL-Community Relations News Magazine to enhance a better understanding of the efforts being made by the FEDPOLEL and the community, and especially the local elite who will be required to assist.
Besides, he said that within the context of the structure of technical education, the skills acquisition centre, which is not yet intellectually well developed, can serve the purpose of a training workshop for the institution in enhancing the purposes of the centre; noting that this will be consistent with its social responsibility.
He also called for FEDPOLEL-industry partnership training programmes, the purpose of which should not be general training, but the special articulation of areas of special societal needs.
His words: “For example, there is bitumen in Ondo State. There is the cocoa industry in Ile-Oluji. In which way can polytechnic education be brought to bear on their development and on their industrial processes?
“Can there not be an inter-polytechnic partnership on research and development on capacity building, bitumen, and cocoa in the various locations of the polytechnics? The FEDPOLEL, should in this regard, engage in special training based on industrial requests in addition to its statutory mandates.”
He said: “The direct challenge for the FEDPOLEL is to note that party politics must be collectively and cautiously monitored to be able to take good advantage of whatever situation there is. Party politics impacts considerably and in different ways on tertiary education, and particularly on polytechnic education.
“The FEDPOLEL, without doubt, cannot thrive in an environment of hostile policies and should therefore keep itself abreast of current political developments.
“… By way of implication and challenge, shouldn’t the FEDPOLEL begin to strategise on where to seek international collaboration from? One good approach has always been to seek neutrality, that is, not being the friend of one and being the enemy of the other.
“The FEDPOLEL can seek collaboration with any similar polytechnics with
similar objectives anywhere to acquire capacity and capability to compete well internationally. To have this capacity to compete well internationally and creditably, and be able to impact positively on national development, some strategic leeway and options have been offered.”
He said: “At the epicentre of the thrusts of this lecture is the question of what identity the FEDPOLEL wants to have in the current world of globalisation. In other words, what does it want to be internationally recognised for?
“In which area of polytechnic education does it want to be a leader, not only in Nigeria and Africa but particularly also in the world? For various reasons of force majeure, the current changing world of globalisation is most likely to be driven by information technology, at least, until the end of the present century.
Akinterinwa lauded the impressive way polytechnic education is being handled by the nation’s policymakers, saying: “First, my appreciation is against the background of my strong belief that polytechnic education cannot but be the bedrock of a self-reliant industrial development in any developing country.
“In many parts of the developed world, polytechnics also have a university status and award undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. Many global leaders also have a polytechnic educational background. Yet, in Nigeria, whose government recognised in the 1980s the need for a Crash Programme and therefore sent hundreds of students abroad to acquire technical education for purposes of mid-level manpower, has not given due attention to monotechnic and polytechnic education.
“In fact, the impression is wrongly given, because of differences in the scope and methodology of teaching and learning, that polytechnic education is inferior to university education. “
Noting that despite the recent Federal Government’s decision to put first degree and HND holders on the same pedestal, the perception of inferiority is still much there.
He agreed with the observation of Mr. Obafemi Omokungbe that “the perception of polytechnic education in Nigeria is not what one should be proud of. Many, even policymakers, still view polytechnic education as inferior compared to university education. This inequality and perception continue even when government has stated its willingness to remove the dichotomy between a polytechnic certificate and University B.Sc.’
Akinterinwa said: “In addressing this lecture topic, let me respectfully ask you what your understanding of polytechnic education nationally and globally is. What should we mean by national development in a globalizing world?
“Can there be national development without community development that is a constituent of it? If the whole world is considered a community, and even as a village, is Nigeria not a community and another village? Is Ile-Oluji kingdom not a community, not a village?
“In every sense, to me, any community where the people are not belligerent, where there is peace and tranquility derived from traditional parliamentary democracy and where development policies predicated on self-reliance … altruism and rule of law, such community cannot but be a global village per excellence and should be internationally emulated. Ile-Oluji is undoubtedly a community, a global village that is worth seriously studying as a model.”
Going down the historical lane, he said: “… In this regard, with an increasing and changing globalising world, it is better to look at polytechnic education from the perspective of an international setting, seek the understanding of its challenges, and draw lessons for national polytechnics. Without any shadow of a doubt, polytechnic education has its origin in French, Polytechnique, and Greek, Polytekhnos, both meaning skilled in many arts.
“Polytechnical education is dated to 1865 with the training of artisans by Quinn Hugg in Britain. The date varies from country to country (vide supra).
“…According to the United Nations Educational Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), polytechnic education deals with ‘those aspects of educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences, and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economic and social life.’
“…The point being underscored here is that in the evaluation of higher education and its impact on national development, there is no different evaluation criteria for university education and another for polytechnic education.
“… Thus, the attributes of a university and a polytechnic are imbibed. Consequently, for the FEDPOLEL, polytechnic education should not only be taken to accommodate both polytechnic and university cultures but should also be in competition with the leading higher institutions of the world.
“The methodology of evaluation internationally adopted underscores academic reputation, employment reputations, citations per faculty, and extent of international students in the college.
“Secondly, despite the foregoing, the purpose of polytechnic education is different from that of university education and should therefore not be confused. We observe here that polytechnic education is as equally important as university education, even though they differ in their curricula and pedagogy.
“In both cases, it is a matter of the graduate not being a job seeker in the employment market but being a graduate-seeker that employers are desperately looking for. The importance of polytechnic education has been variously explained in policy actions of many governments. “
Akinterinwa’s words: “In essence, the purpose of the university and polytechnic education is national development. … no one disputes the fact that the main purposes of polytechnic education are to provide courses of instruction and training in engineering, applied sciences, and business management, to impart skills to produce technicians and technologists, graduate people who will be able to apply scientific knowledge to solve societal and environmental problems, etc.
“The purpose of university education is similarly to grow and develop the society. The difference between the two is in their approaches and points of emphasis.”
“…Thus, the perception of polytechnics is constantly changing for the better, especially with many of them being considered for a change of status and mandate to become universities. Theories and practical education are consciously being married to respond to global developmental challenges. Secondly, the problems of polytechnics in Nigeria are multidimensional and have also been variously identified.”
He quoted a polytechnic teacher, Obasi, that “technical, and indeed polytechnic education have suffered stunted growth in Nigeria. As a result of this, polytechnic education has not made the much-expected impact on the country.”
He listed some of the problems causing the stunted growth of polytechnic education in Nigeria as poor leadership; financial crisis and poor funding; poor infrastructure;management; the dichotomy between university education and polytechnic education, or poor perception of polytechnic education; brain drain; lack of polytechnic commission; volatile and militant students’ unionism, secret cults, examination malpractices and sexual harassments, among others.
According to him: “As recalled by Obasi, Polytechnics exist to boost industrialization efforts, create technical manpower and especially middle-level cadre to contain the industrial dynamics, develop indigenous technical capacities for self-reliance, and make up for the inadequacies of ill-equipped universities in terms of technical contents, and technical skills development.
“Today, the situational reality in Nigeria points to the sad fact that the objectives of polytechnic education have not been fully realized as noted earlier. The problem is not simply that there is the unemployment of many graduates, but more seriously that the few graduates who are lucky to get employed are underemployed, not well-paid, and are rated as middle or low-level employees in the Technical Manpower Team. This should not be so.
“Thirdly, polytechnic education is, and should always be, an instrument of sustainable national development. It is yet to be seriously taken as such.”
“… The implication of this is that opportunities through access to information and advanced technologies have been made available to all educational institutions particularly technical education institutions in the globalized world.”
He, therefore, recommended that “there is the need for a total restructuring of the polytechnic educational system, with emphasis on creative thinking, entrepreneurial skills, positive social and cultural values.”
He said: “Put differently, the review of the structure of Polytechnic education in Nigeria and their relevance to current global and national socioeconomic developments towards the realization of sustainable national development must be taken as a desideratum.”
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