The Secretary to the Enugu State Government (SSG), Prof Chidiebere Onyia, has disclosed that the education policy of the present administration is geared towards contributing to the bio-digital-technology that would drive the fourth industrial revolution across the globe through the introduction of innovative technologies in education, particularly in the state’s basic education system.
The SSG, while delivering a keynote address titled, “Smart Basic Education and the Future of Africa” at a quadrennial convention organised by the Union Secondary School Awkunanaw Enugu Old Boys Association (UNISSOBA) in Enugu on Thursday, said the administration of Governor Peter Mbah has taken some deliberate steps at reforming the education system to meet the much needed changing global demands.
He noted that with the African continent constituting the world’s youngest and largest population compared with other continents with declining and ageing populations, it has the greatest human capital opportunity, and future talent pool with enormous opportunities.
He, however, expressed regret that the continent is lagging behind in terms of quality education with a high rate of schooling and learning poverty rate which could rob the continent of the emerging future opportunities.
“We recently conducted a Baseline Assessment of our primary schools in Enugu State in November 2023. Our findings were shocking. After four years of primary schooling, 50% of our children cannot read a single word in English. Those who can read struggle with comprehension. After six years of primary schooling, 50% of our children cannot solve simple subtraction challenges. What we found out in Enugu State is writ large across our nation. In Nigeria, 3 out of 4 children who complete basic education lack numeracy and literacy proficiency. The World Bank, UNICEF, and UNESCO have defined this as “the Nigerian Learning Crisis.” On top of this, our children suffer a “Skills Gap” because existing modes of rote teaching do not equip children with scientific, technological, productive, and digital competences,” he observed.
Speaking further, Prof Onyia expressed optimism that the challenges were being addressed by the well-thought out radical policy-initiatives by the state government which would not only equip students with emerging future technological skills, but would also afford them opportunities to compete with their peers globally.
He explained that with the introduction of the smart school model across the 260 electoral wards in the state, which has new facilities such as the centre for artificial intelligence, interactive smart boards, centre for robotics, among others, the state is set to lead in the fourth industrial revolution, adding that the academic curricula would now emphasize on experiential learning methods, problem-solving and case studies.
“In Enugu State, we now believe that in addition to providing continuous training and professional development to teachers within the school systems, we must also transform how teachers teach, as well as how students learn, by adopting Experiential Learning, as a robust and lasting solution to the learning crisis and skills gap. Experiential Learning requires multisensory instruction to support project- or solutions-based learning beyond classrooms. It requires introducing innovative technologies in education, encouraging children to engage in experimentation, critical inquiry, and research early in life, and supporting them to solve real life problems as a normal part of their education experience. This is the only way that our education system can create a skilled labour force that can contribute to the emerging fourth industrial revolution. Experiential Learning is the pathway for Africa’s youth to become leading global citizens.
“The objective is to build the human capital of Enugu State, which will enable us to increase our GDP from $4.4b to $30b USD per annum and achieve zero poverty headcount over the next four-eight years. This revolution begins with the establishment Smart Green Schools, one in each of the 260 wards within the State. Each Smart Green School is equipped with an internet system, a robotics and artificial intelligence centre, a modern ICT centre, two science laboratories, a hybrid multimedia library, a technology laboratory, a creative production studio, 25 inclusive classrooms with digital white boards, and 700 android tablets,” Prof Onyia stated.
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