The internet and the future of education in Nigeria

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July 7, 2016
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4 min read

“Education is a bubble in a classic sense. To call something a bubble, it must be overpriced and there must be an intense belief in it. Housing was a classic bubble, as were tech stocks in the ’90s because they were both overvalued, but there was an incredibly widespread belief that almost could not be questioned.”

- Peter Thiel

We’ve gotten to a point in human existence where schooling is becoming unjustifiably expensive. In many parts of the world, people are getting into massive debts just to earn degrees - degrees they may end up not using. Here in Nigeria, maybe debt accrued through schooling isn’t such a thing, but a large part of Nigerian schools’ curricula is outdated. What’s even worse, you go to university for 4 years, spend so much on tuition fees, only to graduate and find out that all you learned has become outdated.

In my second year in the university, I took a course titled ‘Newspaper and Magazine Production’. It was a mixture of theory and practicals. On one hand, the students had to learn the theoretical aspect of newspaper and magazine production. On the other, we were going to produce newspapers and magazines of our own, and sell them. This was 2011-2012. You would expect our lecturer to have taught us with 21st-century software. But no. He was teaching us with Adobe Pagemaker. Perhaps you don’t know how grievous this is. Let me help you. The final version of Adobe Pagemaker was released in July 2001. Modern newspaper and magazine publishers had already moved on to Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and so on. Mind you, I paid almost ₦600,000 school fees that year. It still hurts me every time I think about it. When it was time for us to produce our own newspapers and magazines, we had to use InDesign. I was the student editor and I spent hours practising with InDesign and Photoshop.

We’re in a different age than we were 5 years ago. Things have changed and are changing faster than a sneeze. The internet has become vital to our lives. We’re already having to deal with the reality that school is not, and will never be, enough. Also, data prices are falling; though the general internet speed still leaves a lot to be desired, there have been improvements, and there will yet be. The growing penetration of the internet provides us with a great opportunity to do something new and big, here in Nigeria.

There are several educational websites in the world now where people can learn and get degrees. There’s CourseraKhan AcademyCodecademyedX, etc. One thing I’ve noticed about these websites is that many of their courses are not designed for Nigerian (and African) audiences. Knowledge that works in the West, no matter how sound it is, might still be limited when applied to Nigeria.

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So, what can we do differently in Nigeria? There aren’t that many edTech platforms yet. Also, few schools have embraced the idea of distant learning. Like Mark Essien said during his talk at TEDxGbagada, “Let’s not play catch up. Let’s not think about copying what the West has done. Rather, let’s think about skipping a generation and then inventing what nobody else has invented.”

Companies as content producers and educators

What do Google, Hubspot, Hootsuite and Adobe have in common? Perhaps many things. But in this context, they are all commercial companies that provide educational materials. You could argue that they are able to do that because they are big and have the resources. Also, you could say that it’s because it benefits them and helps them achieve their business objectives. Fine. But how many big companies in Nigeria are doing that?

The concept of Content Marketing is already taking root in Nigeria. Companies are starting to realise how ineffective online advertising is. They are moving towards creating educational and informative content to attract more customers. My idea is simple. What if Nigerian companies created educational platforms where people could come to get knowledge that has economic relevance? Even if it means they have to hand out certificates.

These companies know what they want in their employees. They have knowledge of things most relevant to their business. I think it’s a good idea for them to pour this knowledge into modules and create a platform from which they can share. Since one reason we go to school is to gain knowledge that makes us employable, companies can help us save that money while also promoting their own brands. I think this is worth considering.

I don’t know how long it will take the Nigerian education system to adopt VR and AR technologies. I’m thinking maybe 50 or 100 years. So those are still too far ahead. But I think the idea of companies creating educational platforms and taking the place of unnecessarily expensive schools is worth considering. What do you think?

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