FACTORS HINDERING THE EFFECTIVE TEACHING OF VOCATIONAL COURSES IN NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES
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This chapter deals with the review of opinions, suggestions, views of educationists and authors etc. as they relate to the topic under investigation. For easy accessibility, the reviews are made under the following subheadings:
1. Concept of Vocational Courses
2. The Importance of Vocational Courses at University Level
3. Applying Curricular for Effective and Innovative Teaching of Vocational Courses
4. Creativity in Vocational Courses
5. Problems Affecting the Teaching and Learning of Vocational Courses in Universities
6. Suggested Ways of Eradicating the Problems of Teaching and Learning Vocational Courses at the University Level
7. Summary of the Literature
2.1 Working Definition of Vocational Studies
Vocational Courses are broad, complex and multi-faceted concepts that can applied to several fields. Their multi-disciplinary accounts for a variety of approaches and conceptualization. As wehner, Csikzentmihalyi and Magyari – Beck (1991) pointed out the mass of research on creativity can be compared to the elephant in the fable in which blind men have to touch it in order to describe it, and this is what vocational courses stands for. As everyone is touching a different part they all come to a different conclusion as to what it is, and fail to recognize it as an elephant.
Indeed, one of the blocks in the study of creativity has been the tendency to conceive one of its aspects as the whole, offering a narrow vision of the phenomenon (Sternberg & Lubart, 1999). It is therefore necessary to consider existing research on creativity and innovation in order to:
- present a holistic approach to the matter and avoid disregarding important aspects
- validate an appropriate conceptualization and definition of creativity and innovation;
- identify key factors, issues and concern which may play an important role in the next phases of this research; and
- address some of the misconceptions of creativity and innovation that are based on common connotations in an attempt to avoid any possible bias concerning the reference framework for our research.
Despite the plethora of approaches, there seems to be a widespread consensus on the definition of both creativity and innovation; even if their applications and interpretations differ. Creativity has been understood as the “ability to produce work that is both novel and appropriate” (Sternberg & Lubart, 1997). Innovation has been understood as the “implementation of a new or significantly improved product (goods or services), or process a new marketing method, or a new organization method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations” (OECD, 2005). Craft (2005) sees creativity as the ability to see possibilities that others haven’t noticed, Esquivel (1995) sees it as the critical process involved in the generation of new ideas. Innovation has also been defined as the “intentional introduction and application within a job, work, team, or organization of ideas, processes, products, or procedures that are new to that job, work team or organization.
Creativity and innovation are obviously interrelated. Creativity as mentioned before is seen as the “infinite source of innovation” (EC, 2008c), and innovation if one deduces from the above definition, can in turn be perceived as the implementation and application of creativity (Craft, 2005). Moreover, different fields seems to favour once concept above the other. For instance, in business, the word “innovation” is used even when it referred to the creative process and work (Sternberg and Lubart, 1999). As innovation can be seen as the application of a creative process or product, the product of this chapter will be primarily on vocational courses as relates to creativity and understanding of what it is and how it can be framed. Our first concern is to enhance the conceptualization of creativity, which is often influenced as Runco (1999) suggests by a general implicit understanding and tacit knowledge of creativity. Creativity is often perceived as synonymous for imagination and originality, and is allegedly connected to the visual arts, music and artistic performance. if one were to build on these assumptions, the implication for education would be reductionism: ceativity would be seen as the domain of the arts only and therefore, restricted to certain specific courses. Although, recognizing the relevance of the visual arts, music, drama and the likes for creative education, it should not be forgotten that all areas of knowledge particularly in vocational courses and all other courses can benefit from its creativity.
2.2 The Importance of Vocational Courses at University Level
According to Dike (2005), vocational education and training “prepares learners for careers that are based in manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic and totally related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation.” In other words, it is an “education designed to develop occupational skills. Vocational and technical education gives individuals the skills to “live, learn and work as a productive citizen in a global society” (Chaedar, 2002).
The provision of vocational and technical schools has a long history. Before the Industrial Revolution (between 1750 and 1830) the home and the “apprenticeship system” were the principal sources of vocational education. But societies were later forced by the decline of handwork and specialization of occupational functions to develop institutions of vocational education (Duffy, 1967). Manual training that involves general instruction in the use of hand tools was said to have developed initially in Scandinavia (Dike, 2004). However, vocational education became popular in the elementary schools in the United States after 1880 and developed into courses in industrial training, bookkeeping, stenography, and allied commercial work in both public and private institutions. As the Columbia Encyclopedia (2001) noted some of the early private trade schools in the United States include Cooper Union (1859) and Pratt Institute (1887), the Hampton Institute (1868) and Tuskegee Institute (1881). The agricultural high school (1888) of the University of Minnesota was the first regularly established public vocational secondary school that introduced extensive public instruction in agriculture. (Chaedar, 2002)
The number of public and private vocational schools has greatly increased in the United States since 1900. There was an impetus on vocational education during World War II (1939-1945) when the armed services had great need for technicians that the civilian world could not supply. There was a further upsurge on vocational training from the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (the G. I. Bill of Rights), which allowed World War II veterans to receive tuition and subsistence during extended vocational training. There was also the Manpower Development Training Act (1962), the Vocational Education Act (1963), and the Vocational Education Amendments (1968) and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act (1984). These programs help to improve the nation’s workforce and ensure that vocational training is available for economically (and physically) challenged youths.
While technical and vocational education has continued to thrive in many societies Nigeria has neglected this aspect of education. Consequently, the society lacks skilled technicians: bricklayers, carpenters, painters and auto mechanics; laboratory and pharmacy technicians, electrical/electronic technicians and skilled vocational nurses, etc). The hospitals are no longer a place where people go to get their ailments treated, but a place they go and die. Tales abound of how people die during surgeries and out of minor ailments. And the half-baked roadside mechanics in the society cause more harm to vehicles when contracted to service vehicles, and because of poor training some of the commercial drivers have sent many people to their early death. The shabby performance of Nigeria’s house builders (mason/bricklayers, etc) is no longer news. For that individuals with important projects now use competent technicians from neighboring countries. This is not to mention the havoc the poorly trained technicians have caused in the power sector. Nigeria’s spotty electricity supply is the greatest bottleneck to national development. And toiling all day in the field with knives, hoes, and shovels would not feed the nation’s 140 million people. Mechanized farming requires technical skills that could be obtained in technical and vocational schools.
Every facet of the economy has been affected by lack of skilled technicians. The financial sector lacks technicians to regulate the banks and to develop financial software to properly tackle the rising fraudulent activities in the banking sector. Without security development is impossible in a society; no nation can sustain its democracy if the citizens lack confidence in the police. The police violate the citizens’ human and civil rights and lack forensic laboratory and fingerprint technicians to conduct criminal investigations. And because of lack of tools to track down criminals there was a shameful episode recently in the society where the police paraded a goat/sheep as a thief. It is only in Nigeria that a human being could transform into an animal. And due to poor training military officers are known to beat up the citizens who challenge their powers; the case of Miss Uzoma Okere and some naval officers is a case in point The danger posed by environmental pollution and fake drugs is alarming; the less educated in the society lack the skill to manage AIDS, cancer and diabetes among other serious health problems. One wonders what the nation’s health minister and the 36 state health commissioners are doing to tackle these issues. Any person who still thinks that leadership is not a major cause.