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Published On: Thu, Jan 9th, 2020

Western education: A system designed to fail or cause failure?

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By Israel Dara Sobaloju

As you read through this piece, I will like you to get an insight into my mind and also see with a clear mind. We all have questions raging like storm in our hearts and most often the answer we get, do little in calming it. Western Education, a System on which the bricks of our education system in Nigeria are laid, has been a subject of discussion over time, whether it has lost its essence or it should be subdued in the waters of time.
Some months ago as a student intern in Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching and Research Farm (OAU T&R Farm), as most of my colleagues – we were required to grow Cucumber according to the pattern the Internship Coordinator gave to us. At harvest, I, as also some of my colleagues, my 12 meters size Cucumber field of over 70 cucumber stands had no fruit but flowers. Soon, the flowers which are expected to be pollinated and hereafter turn to fruits begin to fall away. Fewer days later, a disease called Downy Mildew ravaged all the farm and destroyed the crops including mine – labour of over 6 weeks destroyed, and for weeks, the Internship Coordinator could not provide an answer as to why such incident happened and could not be curtailed. Despite the incident that happened, which in no way can be said to have been caused by the negligence of us, students but the incapacity of the system. We were accorded scores according to the number of fruit on our individual plots. Funny, aren’t it?
My narrative above is exact as how the western education operates, a system which has failed to deliver its essence now fail students based on the yardstick of its own failure. Sorry, my story did not end there. Is it not surprising that I made a little cucumber farm afterwards, for myself in my hostel’s backyard and I had a bumper harvest despite not following the crop management scheme judiciously. I could have been made to believe that I am a failure, and that I lack basic understanding of farming precepts. With the result on the Internship plot, I could have been stereotyped to see myself as a duns who cannot succeed at farming. But, a trial on my own proved the system wrong. I scored a zero for no fruit, but in practice of my own, I harvested fruits that only I could not eat but had to dole out to others.
The western education has rendered many people failure, it has done worse by tagging some fellas worthless, but the fact remains that, the system was never meant to tell us who we are but to help us choose who we want to be. The system now tell people who she think they are, and not only stop there, but also proof to them she’s right by tendering letters from A to F, just to save herself from the voodoo of her own self-destruction – loss of essence. Western education at its inception was meant to do one thing, to ‘educe’ – to open up whoever undergo it to himself, to open him to realm of knowledge and stimulate him to think.
I saw a primary school student’s report card recently, and in the comment section, the teacher-in-charge boldly wrote ‘She’s failed all subjects she took this term, she’s been a failure since, I think you may consider getting her a private tutor.’ As good as the Teacher’s remark may be, she has no right to tell the child’s parent who she is. Such remark may continuously create a perception that lingers in the child’s heart and eventually make her end up a failure. The system is meant to help the child discover herself, to be able to create terms for her life to bear the consciousness of the requisite value of herself.
The system now helps her students to think instead of stimulating them to think. Life is not universal, it’s unique to how individuals, society, clan or family live it. This is the reason why the western education at its onset was created to stimulate her students to think out how to live in any social system per time. The professors, teachers and high ranking officers of the system now find solace in the student’s ability to repeat a particular sequence, order and set of information given to them. Little wonder why the students of the system forget anything they were thought after successful delivery of the ingested information, just to get the grades.
The inventor of the grading system – Williams Farish, which is now mostly in use by education systems in the world, invented it not to tell the students their assumed future, but to know how much of a topic his students understand, to know maybe he should proceed to another or teach them the more. But, it is saddening that the purpose of education in Nigeria has now been reduced to just grades not acquisition of knowledge. It’s bewildering to hear, a professor boldly acclaim that your level of cramming is the primary decider of your grade in his course. The education system today only set people into competition with others when they have themselves to defeat. The essence of the western education has never been grades but knowledge acquisition. Grades system should only be a precursor to enable the teachers or lecturers know the level of their skill utilization not the student’s ability.
The short-sightedness of the key player in Nigeria’s education system has made it loose its essence. In 1792, when Farish came up with the grading system, some lecturers then, in Cambridge university saw it as a means to evade their responsibility, as it would later allow them to blame the students for their failure instead of their own laziness to impact knowledge rightly. The disconnection of history cords is one of the reasons we are here, most of the teachers who exist today do not even know the essence of the grade system; either to help the student or condemn him. Many of the graduates this system churn out yearly are unable to think outside the four walls of their school, because a particular sect had helped them to think during the prime of their years – this is the main cause of incompetence in our society. The purpose of education is never to get a means to living or survival, many persons who were never privileged to go through the western education system are in wealth and affluence. The essence is to stimulate people to think and create a means to life himself, device his ideology and adapt any established one for his living.
My ink is already fainting, but, a friend of mine once opined, ‘never think about dropping out of a Nigerian university because you may never make it like any of the American drop-out did.’ Now, I find it to be true. Their system still preserve the essence of stimulation to think, but our system has totally lost it, and it now runs a system of oppression which demean, condemn and relegate people to levels they are never meant to reside. The western education in Nigeria has lost its essence and it’s high the key players in the system came together to devise a means to return the sweetening effect of the salt, or else a morning after, the next generation may see no reason to be educated under this system, because they would have learnt all the vocabularies and acquire the wealth you once used as a bait to get us into this failed system which now infect our students with its venom – failure.

Israel Dara Sobaloju is a Student of Obafemi Awolowo University and can be reached on

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