in Tech

Really. I asked a ‘programmer’ 2 days ago if a site he built was responsive. He had no idea what I was talking about.

— Abigail Anaba (@Anabagail) May 7, 2013

“….How can a computer science graduate not understand the basics of writing software codes?”

The questions above makes revising or rather improving our IT curriculum for the over 80,000 IT youths and Computer Science students in our institutions a necessity. If we must compete globally then something must be done to improve our IT curriculum or completely overhaul the entire system.

Over the years, people have come up with alternatives to mitigate the deficiency of the depleted system.

First it was the Computer Centers of the 90’s that taught people Basic computer skills commonly known as “Computer Appreciation”. The big guy at that time was “Microsoft Office”. After that was the complimentary prometric centers like HIIT, APTECH, NIIT, Firstlogic, etc., that tried to fill the technical gap at very huge sums. Finally, we have the new generation of talent acceleration companies like ProJaroAndela etc that train young people to become world class software engineers.

If our educational system had not taken the down slide to doom, we may not have had any of the above as alternatives but as compliments. And with the recent quest for more software engineers for the growing and emerging technology community, we have no choice but to revamp computer science education in Nigeria starting from the curriculum, infrastructure and to human capital. Presently, I think that “the IT curriculum is a pest that seems to be decaying the field of computer science”.

Why we ponder on this decay that seems to have no end, listed below are steps Celestine Omin think we should take to fix Computer Science education and groom quality engineers at scale.

  • First and foremost, we have to overhaul our entire Computer Science curriculum. It is definitely not working, we just have to drop it and do a 360.
  • This is a long shot, but we can start with a photocopy of Computer Science curriculum from the best schools around; IIT India, MIT, Stanford, Harvard, etc.
  • If we are serious about competing globally, we just have to go for the best. No shortcuts.
  • Every Computer Science department should have a working and well maintained Internet service. The libraries must be updated too.
  • Exchange programme between Computer Science lecturers and some of the best schools around the world; MIT, IIT, Standford, Caltech, CMU, Berkeley, etc.
  • While the exchange programme effort is ongoing, the government should reach out to the private tech companies and seek assistance.
  • These tech companies could send some of their brightest engineers with a passion for teaching to go back to the classroom.
  • Nothing beats having an industry practitioner coming back to the classroom.
  • Some of the finest Computer Science lecturers at CMU and co. are staff engineers at Google, Uber, etc.

Changing or Re-training of Personnel

I do not think we can change course contents without changing or developing course lecturers/resource persons. I believe this is an aspect of revamping computer education that shouldn’t be ignored. We need resource persons who are equally updated on the technological changes. Training on new technology should be routinely organised for the lecturers and a periodic review should also be put in place. Imagine a situation where a lecturer teaching operating system does not know about Windows 10, Linux or even iOS or a database management lecturer that knows nothing about NoSQL, SQLite, MySQL, Postgress, etc. (Just to mention)

Provide standard labs and basic infrastructures

It is worrisome after leaving school that most students still have to acquire modern day IT skills with huge sums of money due to obsolete facilities available in schools. In my view, a revamp of Computer science  education will not be complete if standard labs and resources are not made available to compliment class room lectures.

  • Computer science labs should have functional, fast and reliable internet facilities.
  • Online courses (also called MOOC’s) should be integrated into the system. One of the most amazing innovations in online learning over the past few years has been the growth and development of massive open online courses. MOOC’s are offered by highly prestigious colleges and universities like Harvard, Stanford and, most predominantly, MIT, and taught by the same professors and instructors that teach them on their famous campuses. This will seriously compliment any deficiency in the system.

The former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, while delivering an address at the second Prof. Barth Nnaji Biennial Lecture series in 2012, at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, said that “Nigeria’s higher institutions were plagued with inadequate science and technological facilities and materials for practical skills development and as such churns out thousands of science and technology graduates each year but several of them are under-employed, going into the banking and non-scientific sectors.”

Collaborate with Private Sector

It is interesting to note that the current curriculum run by our schools is way behind what the industry needs. No need to match make, we all know that QBasic, COBOL , FORTRAN 77 etc are no longer required skills where you have C#, Java, C, Ruby, PHP, etc., making waves. This is not to say that computer science is all about programming. After all what will the world be like without exciting stuffs like compiler construction, algorithms, pointers, logic, system design, UI/UX etc.

To boost the effective implementation of the curriculum, there should be a serious love affair with the private sector (note: IT or IT Compliant industries) which should be aimed at integrating computer science students into their project teams and processes and keep them at pace and on the know to what skill is required for the fast moving technology trend.

The problem with computer science as a course in Nigeria is a manifestation of the problem with Nigeria. But its past time to complain of the wrongs, it is time to get back to work. This is why at ProJaro, we  are committed and relentless in making sure we train, groom and empower quality software engineers.

Image Credit: http://cs.qau.edu.pk/

  • Don Jajo

    Nice write up.

    Computer Science in Nigeria schools really need a HUGE CHANGE. The most annoying part are the lecturers, most of them have little or no idea about the courses they are teaching. I have seen a scenario where a lecturer teaching Operating Systems as a course didn’t know Microsoft has released Windows 10. Another lecturer handling Paging in Operating System had no idea what he was teaching. Students thought it was some sort of math though. I have a lot of experiences that make me want to weep for myself in school.

    Flushing all the lecturers and employing capable people in the field is where I need a change. With worthy people, they’ll change the scheme themselves.

    • I Am Magnus

      I don’t fully agree with you, John. I think the lecturers need to be lectured

      • Don Jajo

        How exactly are you going to lecture a PhD holder in Computer Science? Because most of them have those

        • just turn out outstanding software, that will be your teacher!

          • Don Jajo

            I don’t really get you…

          • What I mean is, when u create apps that will teach those PhD holders, talking is a waste of time with such folks.

          • Hello @georgeudosen:disqus I do not think there is any need for an app. The Profs can help themselves with the numerous MOOCs around. They can substitute their classroom lectures with the video classes/webinars from universities like MIT, Stanford, Harvard etc and can easily go ahead to give take home task. My thinking

          • @dkdimgba:disqus , Yes I agree but I don’t see most doing so, as many are so stuck on the old ways of getting things done and on the new way of Nigerian teaching. I have seen many who will give you a score of zero if you dare give answers outside the “text book” versions. Bros its a pathetic situation.

          • Don Jajo

            These PhD holders are project supervisors to students. These projects come with apps, what other app are they going to see?

          • Hello @donjajo:disqus it is possible you misunderstand @georgeudosen:disqus Check my response to his reply http://disq.us/p/1d459wq. I strongly believe that one day MOOCs will be strongly adopted as a standard learning system in our schools

  • I Am Magnus

    I love this!

    However, you focused on “How to fix computer Science in Nigerian Schools”
    I believe we can do and learn more for ourselves outside the Nigerian Education sector.
    Good stuff!

    • Definitely! We can do more for ourselves outside the Nigerian Educational system. However, we should never relent in leading a revolution that will change the system. The bedrock of development and economic growth of any country depends on how good, strong and reliable the educational system is. If we can fix our educational system, a lot of things will fall into place

  • Excellent piece!

  • Rapheal

    Wow.. Awesome Read.. You just said everything i have in mind…

  • Daniella

    Well thought out article. very solid points, however Nigeria is not an ideal society so I really don’t see this happening soon enough. first of all, these current lecturers are mostly too old or too lazy to want to go back and re-learn.

    Next, the internet service is a great idea, still a greater idea would be for the government or school admin to make sure that every student admitted to study Computer science MUST have a laptop.

    A computer lab would also be great, hoping that the money for projects like these wont get embezzled somewhere along the line.

    By the way, a word of advice or a different article for those still strapped in this archaic computer science system would be appreciated.

    All in all, Great Write-up!

    • Very nice thoughts @disqus_UeaAOXfHsI:disqus. I want o believe that there are young and smart lecturers who are willingly to learn and re-learn. However, the entire recommendation is a process. That is why I emphasized on a strategic partnership with the private sector to bring their best engineers back to the classroom. Like I pointed out in the post, nothing beats having an industry practitioner coming back to the classroom.

  • Habeeb

    Good write up sir, also very good suggestions, anyway one cannot but think that they could be far fetched. Not trying to be pessimistic but then I really don’t see these brilliant suggestions and recommendations being effected in our public schools anytime soon. I do stand to be corrected though.

    • @disqus_BQW2SwT85F:disqus I don’t understand why you are not optimistic about a change. It takes one brave leader like you to pioneer a change. Do your bit, let me do mine. Together we can spring up a change. Check out what Gossy Ukanwoke is doing with Beni-American University.

  • Gladtidings Anoruem Paul

    Hi Dimgba, I am always happy to see young guys think out some fantastic ideas that can compete on global platform. Interesting post, well articulated idea. How do we bring this to live? I am happy I am not the only one thinking through it. We can start with building a foundation and going back to our alma mater to give back to the foundation that built us. I am happy to a part of this revolution, reach out to me, we can build up on this.

    Paul.

    • Thank you sir @gladtidingsanoruempaul:disqus. I am happy to have this conversation with you. A little drop of effort from each of us can create the desired change. How can I reach out to you?

  • Israel Obiagba

    I agree with you and love your suggestions and will like to add two things to the above mentioned:

    First, it will be cool if the government can sponsor students in Nigeria to study computer science in top colleges and universities, mandating them to come back and give back to the country for a fixed minimum number of years.

    Also, one other way the government can collaborate with the private sector is to expose the students to the processes, culture and technologies of companies who employ for those skill sets

    I almost forgot to add that I also think nothing beats engineers (industry practitioners) with a passion for teaching coming back to the classroom.

    • “I almost forgot to add that I also think nothing beats engineers (industry practitioners) with a passion for teaching coming back to the classroom.”
      – I agree

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