News Column

'Education, Knowledge Exchange Now International Commodities'

July 17, 2014

Eno-Abasi Sunday

Daily, key players in the international education market are arriving Nigeria to woo Nigerian students to universities and colleges abroad. This flow of student traffic, though with its merits and demerits, is gaining momentum. ForwardLeap, a United Kingdom (UK)-based education and human capital development outfit is the latest firm, which is planning a seminar on education opportunities abroad for Nigerians. At the event scheduled to hold on July 29th, 2014 at the Lagos Country Club, Ikeja, opportunities available for holiday studies, A/Levels, foundation courses, degree and postgraduate courses abroad, especially in Australia, Canada, UK, U.S. and New Zealand, would be laid bare. Director of the firm, Babatunde Modupe-Ojo, in this interview with ENO-ABASI SUNDAY, speaks on what the country stands to gain from investment in knowledge, implications of students working with unverifiable recruitment agents and how pervasive corruption has pinned down Nigeria's education sector among other issues.

ARE there serious implications in allowing just any one to come here to shop for Nigerian students to take abroad?

There are serious implications in allowing any one to come into Nigeria to recruit students. Amongst these are that human traffickers may masquerade as students' recruitment agents to lure unsuspecting students into forced labour, prostitution and unworthy educational pursuits. It is therefore imperative that parents and students should be very wary of unverifiable and unscrupulous agents. From our experience, such agents, often promise what they cannot deliver in terms of scholarships in countries with educational systems that are worse than what are presently available in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the fees they charge are opaque, without any benchmark to measure deliverables. The countries that they often take the students to have legal systems that will not guarantee the rule of law and sanctity of contracts. The key word for students and their parents is vigilance.

The flow of student traffic from Nigeria to other nations is upswing. What do we stand to gain or lose from this trend?

Education and knowledge exchange have become international commodities. It serves the long-term interests of Nigeria to allow the free flow of these commodities, in that the benefits of education generally cannot be internalised by the beneficiaries only. The society at large benefits immensely from a highly educated populace through cross-fertilisation of ideas and best practices in all fields of human endeavour. There is really nothing to lose from the trend of Nigerian students seeking education abroad.

What are the verifiable benefits of sending children abroad to school and what are the demerits of doing so?

The verifiable benefits of schooling abroad are many. One can point to exposure to high standards of teaching and research, particularly in the sciences, benefits from quality facilities, networking with fellow students that will pay high dividends in future, etc. Perhaps, the demerits are mainly the tendency for the gullible students to want to imbibe foreign culture and attitudes, which may not be beneficial to the Nigerian society.

Considering the radical difference way of life, how advisable is it to send teens abroad to school especially at undergraduate level?

I am of the considered view that any student above 16 years of age, who has a stable family background would have been well grounded in the cultural background that he or she has been raised, so the impact of cultural difference will be minimal. In any case, majority of these students are from middle class families who are already exposed to the western culture through the schools they have attended, information technology, holidaying abroad, etc before embarking on a trip abroad for schooling for lengthy periods of time.

The capital flight occasioned by sending students abroad and the expertise some of them bring back, which is better?

I do not think that we can really quantity the real value of education, when compared to what the society gains. It is when these students do not return to Nigeria after their education, that one would say there has been a capital loss or flight. We should always remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin that, 'an investment in knowledge pays the best interest' when we look at the returns on investment in education.

What happens when hidden charges that were not disclosed begin to pop up thereby jolting the students?

There are no hidden charges when students deal with reputable agents like ForwardLeap. It is the charlatans who are in the business solely for the money that spring such surprises.

Besides poor budgeting, unsteady calendar, corrupt practices of education providers and managers, what major issues do you think militate against a virile educational system in the country?

One of the major issues militating against a virile educational system in Nigeria is the pervasive corruption that has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society. It manifest as a culture of anything goes, impunity, of wanton disregard for laws, regulations and rules. Regrettably, the education sub-system is not immuned from the effects of such misconduct by the rulers and the ruled in the Nigerian system. This gives credence to the age-long adage that 'if the head is sick, the whole body cannot be whole'

There are claims that Nigerian students who studied abroad pick jobs easily, or generally fare better than their locally schooled counterparts in international labour market. If this is true, what reasons would you advance for the trend?

As you know, human capital is the most important factor in the production mix. Corporate bodies (both public and private) will source for the best material available and pay premium salaries and other allowances to attract and retain them. The reality of our present age is that we live in a global world, where information now travels at the speed of light. So it is relatively easier for people educated abroad to get jobs before those who schooled locally. This is the reality and it supports my earlier view, knowledge adds value.

It is a bit rare to have full scholarship in schools in the United Kingdom, with the schools you are in partnership with, are there opportunities for Nigerian students to benefit from the scholarship schemes of the institutions or work while studying?

There are opportunities for scholarships in few universities, but the criteria are high and stringent. Our students are welcome to explore these opportunities. Also, the immigration laws in the UK allow students to work different maximum numbers of hours per week during term time, depending on their course of study and unlimited hours during school holidays. We guide our students carefully in this area.

Research has shown that a good number of international students seeking overseas education lack adequate information and career guidelines that would influence them in taking decisions. How does your firm help in this regard?

ForwardLeap provides our students with career guidance and advice on their choice of course of study from the beginning. We seek to match the student's interests with their academic strength as evidenced by their results.

What practical steps would you recommend for Nigerian leaders to take in order to rejuvenate and improve education our ailing education system?

In order for education to improve in Nigeria, good and transparent governance must be enthroned through the building of strong and viable political and economic institutions. The people must take serious and proactive interests on the calibre and quality of the people that seek to lead them at various levels. Above all, the rule of law must be given a pride of place.

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Source: AllAfrica

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