education-reform

With these three forces intersecting — logical policies, development of execution capabilities, and political will — student learning will dramatically improve.


Education reform has as its main purpose to make sure that the education delivered is of quality. – Enrique Pena Nieto

Currently we have a lot of students in our classrooms in Africa, yet even with the progress in enrolment, children still don’t really learn much. We have a learning crisis, with myriads of children leaving our schools without knowing how to read a chapter in a book or solve a simple two-digit subtraction.

Our educational systems are extremely convoluted presently; they have to deliver quality service, every single day, to millions of children.

This is a Herculean task when you realise that overcoming cultural, geographic and socioeconomic differences whilst trying to level the playing field is the ultimate goal. Yet, never say never is our mantra.

Some nations took several decades to improve their school systems, while others, like Singapore, did with a rapid turn around in less than three decades. Korea also had the same acceleration in two decades. In the 1940s, Korea was an underdeveloped war-torn country, where the majority of its population was illiterate (over 75 percent). By the late ’60s, it already had a very decent system with an illiteracy rate of less than 15 percent. Now, it is a success story marveled about worldwide.

Transformational education reform requires three necessary criteria.

First, logically designed programmes should be in place. Logical because we shouldn’t strive for perfection, as this doesn’t exist in our messy world. Perfectly designed policy does not exist. An example of this is how a policymaker may have top-notch ideas or global best practices to create a new incentive that improves teacher performance. The thing is adjustments have to be made that factor in each nation’s specific contexts which come into play during execution.

There must be follow up which identifies and measures impact, and allows for tweaking the policy over time. This adaptability will grow as time goes on.

Second, our educational institutions, and educators within them, need to be trained to imbibe reforms adequately. A nation’s ability to implement reforms depends largely on the quality of its educators and the civil servants behind the ministries that service education. Due to this, we need civil servants who are trained to understand the vision for education reform in the nation.

During my time back in Nigeria, I have interacted with a lot of educators and the civil servants who are affliated with the Ministry of Education. Its with great sadness that I say that I have met a very few dedicated ones amongst us. We would save the reasons for this for another day. I will cast no aspersions on them because I have experienced the sheer detoriation that the educational sector is experiencing. Yet, I recall, with great fondness and longing, spending my Saturdays with my children when I taught after-school programmes in the Bronx, as well as the afternoon after-schools in California; and in the Carolinas.

The issue is that everyone has their own vested interests; politicians mostly focus on providing benefits to special groups. Policy makers might try to protect their power base. Educators mostly fixate on financial security. Educational service providers, meanwhile, might be interested in profit, which leads them to push solutions that don’t necessarily promote students’ learning.


I went to work on Sundays of my free volition to put up my students work and decorate my room. I searched for professional development courses that enhance me as an educator and brought amazing value to my students.

After criticism from family and friends, I explained my dedication and tenacity, as I intended to give my best to my students as I knew the power that learning held for them. It wasn’t just a job; I had internalised the vision that my mentors, colleagues, and supervisors had passed down. I was there to impact lives.

In my varied experience spanning two continents now, I know that it’s imperative to get educators and the civil servants to buy into the need for reform.

Third, we must have our policy makers focus education reform on students’ learning.

The president, the legislative branch, the masses, media, educators, business owners and parents need to come together to find common grounds with education reform.

The issue is that everyone has their own vested interests; politicians mostly focus on providing benefits to special groups. Policy makers might try to protect their power base. Educators mostly fixate on financial security. Educational service providers, meanwhile, might be interested in profit, which leads them to push solutions that don’t necessarily promote students’ learning.

Getting all these segments to fuse and having quality learning as the single focus is instrumental to sustaining reform. It’s hard work but it’s possible; remember the nation’s mentioned above.

With these three forces intersecting — logical policies, development of execution capabilities, and political will — student learning will dramatically improve.

That is what will be the sole important determinant of our collective futures.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.