Society problems

How Universities Can Teach About Society’s Most Pressing Issues, By Toyin Falola

Contrary to popular belief, our universities cannot solve all of society’s problems or even teach about them. Every society contains many centers of knowledge – domestic, public, private, industrial, etc. We belong to the higher education cluster and cannot perform tasks assigned to other sectors, such as primary and secondary. Sometimes we inherit issues that should have been fixed earlier, such as language, ethics, and civic responsibilities. However, this does not absolve them of the responsibility to improve society. Therefore, the best way for our universities to start teaching society’s most pressing issues is to begin by determining the issues that matter to society. Knowing this will help focus on addressing each pressing issue identified.

As a powerful institution, the university must start pushing for some changes on its own while teaching about the issues and changes in societies. The people with the most connections, knowledge, access and skills reside in the university community, and we must use all of these resources to drive change. To what extent have we been able to harness these resources to influence the changes we want to see in the country? Are our universities taking the wheel or just waiting for things to fall into place?

Our universities must begin to establish a deep connection with other institutions in society. For example, they must connect to the workplace, religious centers, and most importantly, early education providers, which are important because they lay the groundwork for each student before entering a university system. If they are wrong, the university will struggle to produce excellent graduates. And since we know best in universities, we should connect with these important institutions. If our universities can get in touch with them, they can understand how the training that students receive in their early stages is essential to their later growth and development in universities.

Above all, we must rejuvenate our curriculum. We have long maintained a program that has lost touch with the realities of our present world. It’s possible that if you line up college graduates of the last twenty years, they will all testify to learning the same thing in the same way and with the same limitations. We must rise above this and address the terrifying knowledge and skills gap in our program.

However, when developing a curriculum, one should not make the mistake of bringing together people who alone have been in the system. While their experience and input is valuable, I believe we can be more inclusive in developing our program by including the best contributions from employers, key stakeholders and policy makers. The contribution of all these people to the curriculum will give it a boost, but also make it stronger and more relevant.

Our universities are called research and development centers, which means that from a far and near look, the university has the endless obligation to conduct research and development for academic or educational improvement and to propose solutions to the fundamental problems of society. To meet the demands of society, I cannot stress enough the importance of community service. Many Nigerian universities have set up different community service programs around them, but we still need to delve deeper. The goal is not just to establish these community programs; we also need to investigate whether these achieve their goals.

In particular, we must ask ourselves how community service has been able to get people out of some of their most terrifying situations? How many people have we served in a life-transforming way during their years of establishment? How did community service grant access to people on the street? We shouldn’t just talk about the dress and the city; we need to make sure that the contributions of the dress elevate the city in ways we’ve never experienced before.

Universities should go beyond imparting knowledge from textbooks to students to teach them real-life experiences. Students should be able to learn more about their future workplace, how it will work and how to manage there. They should be made to understand labor market trends and how they are expected to prepare to meet its ever-increasing demands. Universities can also create work-integrated learning opportunities so that students have unfettered opportunities to find out what’s going on there.

Routine demand quickly disappears and is replaced by machines. This means that based on the current operational curriculum in our universities, graduates may be unable to meet the demands of the future workplace and most likely become unemployable. In response, our universities can train students for a world that demands more soft skills. So beyond what we are currently experiencing at our universities, we can begin to integrate lifelong lessons and skills into our curriculum so that graduates can meet the demands of the 21st century workplace.

Cultural learning is one of the soft skills of the future that robots cannot replicate as it teaches young people about the culture and values ​​of the environment. This will contribute to their success in any job as it gives them cultural sensitivity, people management skills, communication skills beyond just the language of their disciplines, etc. Universities must be designed to adapt to the particularities of students. It should be designed in such a way that students can find happiness, purpose, value, and knowledge in it. The university should no longer be a center of rote learning. It should be a place where everyone comes in and leaves feeling fulfilled. Happy college graduates build happy societies.

Toyin Falola, Professor of History, University Professor Emeritus, and Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, is the Bobapitan of Ibadanland.

This is the text of a presentation to the 6and Biennial Conference of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Public Universities of Nigeria, held at Osun State University from 21-25 March.


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