The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, recently announced the abolition of the age-long dichotomy between Higher National Diploma (HND) and first degrees awarded by universities. The decision, which took many stakeholders by surprise, is generating controversy in academic and employment circles in the country.
The dichotomy between these two classes of certifications has been generating bad blood in the country over the years. It is a big threat to harmony in the workplace. From the reports on the recent development, it appears that the government has been weighing the move for a while, decided to go ahead with it after getting the endorsement of relevant stakeholders such as the National Council on Establishments (NCE) and the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
This bold initiative is, however, still a plan. A lot needs to be done before it is implemented. We, therefore, urge the government to properly think through the policy so that it can be implemented with a positive outcome. There is no doubt that this decision was aided by the pressing need to accelerate technical and entrepreneurial education to meet the nation’s gargantuan employment challenge. Many of our young and able-bodied graduates are increasingly unable to find jobs or employ themselves in profitable ventures after school.
This has forced a change in thinking about the best way to solve this problem. Polytechnic education is designed to emphasise practical and technical training, which, if properly done, can be quickly deployed in the workplace. This is different from university education which places more premium on liberal and intellectual faculties. It is the need to bridge the widening gap in critical perception and the workplace that we believe the new policy is designed to fill.
However, government must tread cautiously. It must first move to assure all stakeholders, especially those who are affiliated to the universities, of its real intentions. In implementing the policy, sufficient care must be taken to ensure the buy-in of all the stakeholders. Questions such as entry requirements for both kinds of education, should be considered, with a view to engendering parity. How to improve the quality and effectiveness of polytechnic education should also be considered.
The most important thing is that the country needs both university and polytechnic graduates. There is, therefore, no need for the dichotomy to persist. Let the differences between the two types of education be made very clear and the paths to attaining their certifications, unfettered. Those who are inclined towards technical education should not be made to feel inferior to those who choose other paths to career development and self-actualisation.
What is required is for the government to work out the nitty-gritty of the policy, so that issues of entry requirements for study, faculties, points of entry and career paths, especially in the civil service, are clearly spelt out.
It will be necessary to improve the quality of teaching in the polytechnics and the infrastructural facilities required to achieve this. The curricula of the polytechnic courses should be strengthened and streamlined to enable the institutions award the Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) degree, ultimately. In the same way, the practical aspects of relevant courses in the universities should also be strengthened. A lot of thinking and planning should go into these processes, so that the country can get the best that it can from both its university and polytechnic graduates.
We expect this policy to greatly improve the performance of our graduates in the workplace and also significantly stimulate employment generation. The entry point dichotomy and progression ceiling which have for long plagued the workplace can be replaced with a more equitable system which prioritises progression based on the performance of individual workers.
In the end, our society is the winner or loser depending on how well the policy is thought through and implemented. Society deserves continuous improvement and one of the most critical tools for achieving this is education.
This is why government and, indeed, all stakeholders should seek ways of deepening our tertiary education templates to ensure continuous improvement of both polytechnic and university education in the country.