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 ProJaro, Andela 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.