Formally, a general theory of education can be said to have one aim only: to produce a certain type of person, an educated man. The interesting question is how to give substantial content to this formal aim. To do this, there is need to work out in detail the criteria which govern the actual use of this term. The criteria will be those which enable us to mark off the educated man from one who is not. 

At the outset of this enterprise, we meet with a complication. The term ‘education’ can be used in more than one way. In a restricted sense, it is used to describe what happens to an individual in specifically educational institutions like schools or colleges. In this case, to talk of a man’s education is to talk of his passing through a system. ‘He was educated at such-and-such a school’ signifies that he went to the school in question. A more restricted sense still is one which imports into the notion of education some reference to value. Education, on this interpretation, is a normative or value term, and implies that what happens to the individual improves him in some way.

According to the normative use, an educated man is an improved man, and as such a desirable end product, someone who ought to be produced. It is this normative sense of education which provides the logical starting-point of a general theory, the commitment to produce something of value, a desirable type of individual. Such a person would have specific characteristics, such as the possession of certain sorts of knowledge and skill, and the having of certain attitudes themselves regarded as worth having. The educated man would be one whose intellectual abilities had been developed, who is sensitive to matters of moral and aesthetic concern, who could appreciate the nature and force of mathematical and scientific thinking, who could view the world along historical and geographical perspectives and who, moreover, had a regard for the importance of truth, accuracy, and elegance in thinking. A further requirement is that the educated man is one whose knowledge and understanding is all of a piece, integrated, and not merely a mass of acquired information, piecemeal and unrelated.

Education, then, can be seen as the total development of the individual through acceptable methods and techniques according to his abilities and interests to meet up the needs of the society and for the individual to take his rightful place and contribute equally to the enhancement of the society. For Herbert Spencer, the educated man is one who has acquired knowledge and intellectual development sufficient to enable him to support himself in an industrial and commercial society, to raise and support a family, to play the part of a citizen in such a society and to use his leisure wisely.

Education, in the life of a nation, is the live wire of its industries and also the foundation of moral regeneration and revival of its people. It is also the force and bulwark of any nation’s defence and it has been observed that no nation rises above the level of its education. Education plays an indispensable role in the society, no doubt. Education supplies the needed manpower for national development. Education is an indispensable tool which will not only assist in meeting the nation’s social, political, moral, cultural and economic aspirations but will also inculcate in the individual knowledge, skills, dexterity, character and desirable values that will foster national development and self-actualization. From the definition of education given above, it is clear that education trains an individual to be useful in the society and to meet up the need of the society for national development. Therefore, it should be clear that without education, a nation cannot get the needed manpower for material advancement and enlightenment of the citizenry. The trained engineers, teachers, medical doctors, inter alia are all the products of education. This explains why it is argued also that the quality of a nation’s education determines the level of its national development.

Education also promotes the culture of productivity by enabling individuals to discover the creative potentials in them and apply same to the improvement of the existing skill and technique of performing specific tasks, thereby increasing the efficiency of their personal societal efforts. In other words, Education teaches or trains people to be useful to themselves and the society they live. By this, they have to be productive and discover their creative abilities and use this to perform specific tasks to attain self-actualisation.

Education also develops in individuals those values which make for good citizenship, such as honesty, selflessness, tolerance, dedication, hard-work and personal integrity, all of which provide the rich soil from which good leadership potential is groomed. As already noted, education trains an individual to be responsible in the society. From this, it is clear that education gives moral training. Disappointedly, Nigerian leaders are morally bankrupt and have nothing to offer in terms of national development from their leadership style. This therefore demonstrates that education has not fully impacted positively on Nigerian leaders.

From the above, it is clear that education has a critical function in the development of any society. But in the Nigerian context, education has not fully played its roles in the regard. This is as a result of certain inherent problems in the Nigerian education system. First among these problems is inadequate funding. Education is no doubt, directly linked with the processes of nation building and development. Education in Nigeria has not been properly funded and this leads to poor infrastructure developed in the universities, secondary and primary schools. This poor infrastructure makes the environment very hostile. This shows that products of this underfunded educational sector will be very poor and teachers will not be adequately remunerated for them to perform their duties effectively. This explains the incessant strike actions embarked upon by Academic Staff Union of Universities. This also explains why pupils and students in the school system sit on bare floor and under mango trees to receive lessons and lectures. This utter disregard for quality education which is informed by poor funding appears to have bedevilled the academic qualifications obtained in Nigerian universities today.

Still in the same vein, education in Nigeria has been bastardized by the grade-system. Grade and/or mark is the determining factor to know whether one is educated or not. This explains the sex-for-marks scandals ravaging our higher institutions of learning. This also explains the level of examination malpractice among students. Students are no longer interested in learning, they are interested in boosting their grades. Little wonder, the perplexing problem facing our society today is that a greater percentage of students study only to pass exams which is leading to the mass production of graduates who are 'academic misfits' in their specializations. It won’t be wrong to say that one the maladies facing Nigeria today is not unemployment. Rather, it is 'unemployable graduates' - graduates who can't do what their certificates present, graduates lacking in 21st century work skills, and it is getting worse by the day. The greatest challenge of employers in today's Nigeria is unemployability. This is the bane of our educational system! It revolves around reading only to pass exams. There is very little concern for the practical application of what is being learnt. This is the reason many uneducated graduates flood the labour market annually. The emphasis is only on the paper (certificate). They think that the certificate certifies them as being ‘educated’. Not knowing that it is not just about the certificate, it is about the certification! Because they are so certificate-minded, they indulge in all sorts of examination malpractice just to get a pass mark and get the certificate at the end of the day. We have so many graduates with certificates yet they are uncertified! Many live in the delusion that to be literate (being able to read and write) is to be educated without knowing that education is broader than literacy. 

Despite these challenges, the importance of education is overwhelming. In a democratic society like ours, education should serve democracy by producing democrats. This is because a democratic society depends on democratic men. Plainly, if it is in the public interest for society to be democratic, it will be in the public interest to provide whatever is necessary, education included, to sustain a democracy. This would involve some kind of political education, an initiation into the practice of group decision-making and the inculcation of a commitment to such principles as the adherence to majority decisions, toleration of differing opinions, and an introduction to the institutional structure of democratic society. This will go a long way to groom and train the leaders of tomorrow.  

Ezinwanne Onwuka writes from Cross River state, Nigeria. She is a Corp Member serving in Cross River state. She writes informative, creative and research-driven contents on topics about life, politics, religion and more. You can reach her on and +2348164505628.  

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Hi, I,m Pospi Otuson. A Nigerian Blogger, Social Entrepreneur and Convener of the renowned Boki Business Conference. CEO/Founder of Possibility Desk, the largest online consulting platform for possibilities in the world. Lets connect today.

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