Repositioning Technical Education

GLOBALLY, technical education plays key roles in the advancement of societies and enrichment of economies. Realising this centuries ago, developed economies of Europe, America and Asia invested richly in technical education and have continued to reap abundantly from the system. While deliberately developing technical education, the advanced economies also ensured conscious refinement and furtherance of vocational education, which in any case, is the lower rung of technical education.
Technical education has been variously described as the system of education that involves the training of people for jobs in technology and other practical subjects. Put simply, it is the aspect of education that deals systematically with the training of the mind and hand for self-reliance.
In the mid-1970s, the then federal government sent thousands of its young citizens to some European and American countries for technical training to produce manpower to serve the country.
The federal administration followed this up with the 6-3-3-4 education policy in the mid-1980s, which laid emphasis on vocational education at the junior secondary level, that is, the first three years of secondary education. After the junior secondary education, students had the option of continuing with either technical education or non-technical education at the senior secondary and to higher levels.
To give vocational education the fundamental boost, various technical equipment were imported for all secondary schools. Their crates, covered in tarpaulin, dotted school premises with no workshops to install them. Worse, there were no technical teachers to take the newly introduced vocational subjects, for instance, introductory technology. Hence teachers in biology, chemistry and physics were drafted to teach the subject. In theory, vocational subjects are taught at junior secondary level but they are practically non-existent in terms of equipment and workshops.
At the various technical colleges, a similar scenario plays out. There are the challenges of personnel shortage and lack of equipment and workshops. Even at higher levels of technical education like the polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education, it is the same story of infrastructural deficit and lack of relevant manpower.
Technical education broadly cuts across electrical and electronics technology, automobile technology, building technology, metal works technology and woodworks technology. These are fields of specialization that are critical to the development of economies. There is hardly any aspect of the Nigerian economy where the above are not strategically relevant, in terms of infrastructural development and job creation.
Some agencies have been created to manage technical education in the country. Some of them include the National Board for Technical Education and National Business and Technical Examination Board. The first coordinates the activities of polytechnics while the latter takes charge of technical and vocational examination at the senior secondary/technical college level. Both bodies have long been criticized because of the lack of relevant expert manpower in their administration.
Generally, the entire gamut of technical education from policy formulation to implementation falls flat in the light of attempts to harness its potentials to grow the economy. It is argued that technical education would remain prostrate for as long as social scientists and artists dominate the policy formulation and implementation machinery of technical education. Experts drawn from the various fields of technical education mentioned earlier should naturally be empowered to design the nation’s technical education policy and oversee its implementation.
We are of the view that there is urgent need to review technical education policy in the country, considering the manifest inhibiting factors in the system. As a widely acknowledged agent of social and economic advancement, it should be made much more relevant to the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.
Acting proactively, the governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, in his first day in office, forwarded to the House of Assembly a bill to establish a Technical and Vocational Education Board. The bill has since been passed, awaiting the governor’s assent. Well managed, and with the appropriate and relevant personnel as well as adequate, disciplined funding, the board would place Delta State on a high pedestal in the acquisition of strategic technical and vocational education.
The commendable initiative is an indication of policy review in technical education in Delta State, which we expect to sweep across the nation.