13 Dec 2012


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The role of education in the prosperity of a people cannot be overemphasized. In fact, it could be said that the prosperity of a nation is a direct function of the quality of education of her residents. This is vividly observable when the people especially leaders of the so called developed nations are understudied. Their education is a factor that consistently comes across in their judgement, their plans and ideas, their approach to problem solving, their creativity and on and on; the list is virtually inexhaustible.

That quickly brings me to the topic of what education actually is, as I’ve found that most people in this part of the world, Nigeria inclusive, have a tendency to think of it only in terms of higher degrees. The problem with that outlook is that it is prejudiced, myopic and never projects a holistic picture, because education can and should never be restricted to the four
walls of a formal entity. To do that, would be to undermine its promises to say the least.

At this point, I refer to my earlier post on the purpose of education. I’ve had reasons in recent times to muse about what education is and what it ought to be. It was during such moments that I did the short piece on the purpose of education. I found out that the factors that affect the quality of education obtainable in a place are numerous but one very important factor that hardly gets considered, discussed or analyzed is that of culture.

(Let’s talk a bit ‘bout what culture is)

Culture essentially describes the way of life of a people. It covers nearly all aspects of their existence and reflects in their everyday life. I once came across a simple definition of culture that puts it as “the way things are done around here”. In other words, the way things are perceived, understood, evaluated and acted upon around here. To illustrate this point, it is said that: a plan, for a Russian is an aspiration, for a German, a plan is a regulation while an English man considers a plan to be a hypothesis. These slight differences in perceptions translate to major long term differences in areas where such discrepancies exist. Think of it in terms of three lines with small angular differences, if you stretch these lines forward by 100m, they would literally be ‘worlds apart’. This gives a picture of how small cultural differences not to talk of major ones, yield different futures for different people, institutions, communities & even nations. Lee Kuan Yew; the man credited for ‘singlehandedly’ leading Singapore to the phenomenal and historic feat of progressing from a third world to a first world nation once said that “Culture is destiny”. This can be interpreted to mean that the culture of a people ultimately decides their destiny or how their life turns out. In other words, give me a clear description of a people’s culture and I can make a good attempt at painting a clear picture of their future. So essentially, we can engage culture as scope to obtain a foresighted view of where a community, institution or nation is headed.

I consider the foregone to be sufficient background on Culture and how important a factor it is on many fronts. Without further ado, I’m sure you can already infer that culture affects almost all aspects of a people’s life and a connection must definitely exist between culture and a concept as important as education. This series is intended to evaluate and discuss this connection using Nigeria as a case study. I hope, at the end, to be able to stir up thoughts on the Nigerian culture and how it affects not only the education of her people but also their creativity.

by Damola

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