Following the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the world, through the General Assembly of the United Nations, came up with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in September 2015. Based on the principle of “Leaving No One Behind”, the agenda, which consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims at achieving all-encompassing development by ensuring global prosperity, protection of the planet and eradication of poverty. Therefore, the SDGs are a plan for three Ps: the people, the planet and prosperity.
But of all previous developmental agendas, the current one is unique in the sense that it is the first of its kind to accord priority to what is primary. In other words, it is the first time that education would be solely recognized as a developmental imperative; the world realized that without education, there would be damnation, destitution, disintegration and destruction. So, the fourth Sustainable Development Goal is Quality Education, not just education, by which every nation of the world is nudged to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning.” The question is: what is quality education and why is it so important?
Quality education is the type of education that is “pedagogically and developmentally sound and educates the student in becoming an active and productive member of the society.” According Educational International (EI), it is the one that focuses on “the whole child, the social, emotional, mental, physical and cognitive development of each student regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or geographical location. It prepares the child for life, not for testing.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) posits that for quality education to exist, it must encourage “learner’s creative and emotional development, in supporting objectives of peace citizenship and security, promoting equality and passing global and cultural values down to future generations. It should allow children to reach their fullest potential in terms of cognitive, emotional and creative capacities.” If Quality Education is likened to a building, it would be supported by three pillars, which are ensuring access to quality teachers, providing use of quality learning tools and professional development as well as establishing safe and supportive learning environments.
Meanwhile, the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) recognizes five dimensions of quality. These are the learner, the environment, content, processes and outcomes which are all founded on the right of the whole child, and all children, to survival, protection, development and participation. Therefore, as I noted in a lecture delivered to the Students’ Union of Kwara State University, Malete, Nigeria, at its recent Annual Leadership Summit, scholars believe that quality education has six features: quality learners, quality learning environment (physical element, psychosocial element, non-violence, service delivery), quality content, quality processes, teachers’ working conditions and quality outcomes.
In essence, quality education consists of four fundamental elements: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to develop skills. When any of these elements is missing, quality education is deficient. For instance, it is not sufficient to know without knowing how to do, a point made by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe when he said, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
Also, there is no value in knowing and doing without learning how to live together in peace and harmony, an educational imperative requiring bringing up people whose attitudes are bereft of discrimination and intolerance. Besides, education without skills (tools to solve problems in the real world) is useless in today’s world; it is a recipe for hunger, poverty and ill-health, the very antithesis of the first three SDGs: no poverty, zero hunger as well as good health and wellbeing. “Quality education”, Charles Rangel once agreeably noted, “grants us the ability to fight the war on ignorance and poverty.”
In the light of the foregoing, it would be clear that the problems assailing the world, from poverty to insecurity, from bad governance to corruption, from diseases to inequality, and from environmental degradation to injustice and the rest are all outcomes of the lack of quality education. In Nigeria and most of Africa for instance, there are clear signs of underdevelopment the tides of which would be stemmed by quality education. These signs manifest in low level of income, mass poverty, lack of capital formation, heavy population pressure, agricultural backwardness, unemployment problem, unexploited natural resources, shortage of technology and skills, lack of infrastructural development, lack of industrialization, lack of proper market, mass illiteracy, poor socio-economic condition, inefficient administrative system and high level of insecurity and crime.
Unfortunately, what goes for education in many places is just schooling for certification. The teachers are not motivated, the learners are not encouraged, the classrooms are overcrowded, the buildings are dilapidated, the curricula are outdated and the entire system is manipulated to suit the whims of the privileged class. There is little surprise that the products of the system are barely fit for the 21st century job reality and they constitute a burden to themselves and the society. As the devil finds work for idle hands, our society is prone to crime and violence perpetrated by those who are/were not qualitatively educated, hence largely ignorant. Mozah bin Nasser Al Missn once noted that ignorance is by far the biggest danger and threat to human kind, our world faces the biggest threat and danger from the hands of the uneducated and miseducated lot.
At large, as sustainable development will remain a mirage without quality education, it behooves governments at all levels, organizations and individuals to join hands to invest in quality education for the sake of the present and future generations. They should remember that “a quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labour exploitation and disease, and give them the knowledge, skills and confidence to reach their full potential,” as noted by Audrey Hepburn.
Without doubt, quality education is the solution to the problems of the world.
END SARS, END IMPUNITY
Two week ago, Nigeria imploded as several thousands of youth took to the streets to protest the highhandedness, impunity and brutality of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigeria Police Force. What started as online agitation soon became a huge conflagration that potentially signaled what could herald a Nigerian Spring.
As beautiful as the protests were at the beginning, the subsequent days started to show how easily a peaceful movement for positive change could be hijacked by thugs and arsonists whose mission is violence. With the mature and proactive response of the authorities in disbanding the unit and creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), one would hope that the youth would be placated but the agitation also shifted to ending Senators and Representatives’ Salaries (SARS) and the Utopian campaign to right all the wrongs in the country at the same time.
While protests are legitimate, there is need to determine when to end them so that anarchists would not totally hijack them and endanger the lives of the innocent people. Besides, all agitations including wars ultimately end at the negotiation table and excited youths should not be fascinated by the fanciful notion of revolution. Those who revolted in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen are worse off today, if they are even alive, than they were before they sprang in the famous Arab Spring.