The quality of engineering graduates from universities, polytechnics and technical colleges in the country has been a major concern for industries operators over the years.
The current trend in engineering education, has however, created a disparity between the quality of training received by the graduates vis-a-vis the employers’ expectations in the business and industries in the country despite enormous resources.
As a way of mitigating this problem, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), and other stakeholders from the academia, government and industry, recently, converged on the Renaissance Lagos Ikeja Hotel, for two days on ‘Outcome-based Engineering (OBE) workshop and review of Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) and accreditation scoring criteria for undergraduate Engineering programmes in Nigerian universities.
Earlier, the President of Council, Mr. Kashim Ali told THISDAY that, “we as COREN, our task includes determining what skill and knowledge is required for anybody to be recognised as an engineer and technologists, technician or craftsmen . In doing this we need to know the quality and skills that individuals posses for them to practice as engineers in Nigeria.
“We found the need to review some of the concepts, so we started with university system undergraduate engineering programmes and work on the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) as criteria for accreditation of undergraduate engineering programmes.
“We started in 2013 and ended in 2014 and developed the BMAS document. We felt that the BMAS engineering is universal , so we shouldn’t restrict it to ourselves. We broadcasted it to all relevant institutions and organs of institutions by UNESCO and engineering groups around the world. We got positive responses, and the review was quite nice. For that reason, we needed to sit down and develop strategies for operationalising it and share the experience of international organisations and interest.”
He said the council had organised a similar workshop in Abuja on high level policy forum on engineering education, adding that, “ the outcome is why we are here today. The review was done again and we found that our engineering education system is not outcome- based so we brought in experts to help us strategise on how to move our university engineering education to be outcome -based to meet the benchmark set by international organisations.”
Ali expressed concern that some engineering students do not know why they are in the department, adding that by the time they get to the industry, they don’t know what to do.
According to him, “some students go to the university to do engineering, because their uncle is an engineer, and you will hear all sorts of stories because they don’t even know why they are there. It is when they graduate trying to actualise themselves that problem arises. It is because they didn’t have the opportunity for the outcome-based engineering education.
“From the first year, you are made to understand clearly what will be the outcome, so you will know what exactly you want to achieve. An engineering graduate who goes to the industry, is going there with a purpose. You must have a solution to one of their problems, not just going there to be employed and deployed to anywhere, you are going in with a purpose which will make the industry smile.”
The president stressed the need for continuous professional development, noting that it is a fundamental path of any career.
“It will bring about the capability to keep pace with the current standards of others in the same field, ensure that engineers continue to make meaningful contributions to their team and become more effective in the workplace. We have to set a minimum standard that by all means, we must not go below it and it is subject to review; we need to raise the bar, it is a dynamic cutting edge,“ he stressed.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu said the workshop is coming at a time when the engineering profession is faced with challenges, adding that a lot need to be done in reviewing the curriculum.
Adamu who was represented by the Director and Principal of the Federal Science and Technical College (FSTC), Yaba, Lagos, Rev. Chris Ugorji expressed concern that most of the products in the nation’s universities, cannot stand side by side with their counterparts in the field of engineering in other countries.
“We discovered that there are a lot of gaps, various examinations are being conducted in the country, and many of our parents have lost confidence in the system. They would do anything to ensure that their children pass an examination.”
While commending the academy of engineers and fellows for visiting his college, he urged vice chancellors and rectors not to be discouraged with what they are doing saying, “the workshop will bring out documents that will instill confidence in our education system.”
The President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs said the workshop is a way towards the right direction, noting that the quality of young graduate engineers who have been coming to work in its industries does not align with its requirements.
He said this is the reason the industry prefers to hire expatriates to work for them.
“We are looking forward to having engineers that will be trained and aligned with the requirements of the industry. We have tried so many times to liase with the academia. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria is prepared to work with the council by way of workshop that will cover our requirements.”
Some past presidents of COREN in their submission, expressed delight that the council is involving politicians saying that a nation cannot be developed without the inputs of engineers.
“They have played important roles even in the educational development of the country. There should be a good rapport among members so that people will begin to take another look at engineers.
Mr. Ebenezer Osoba said the council has made consistent progress over the years noting that this is the reason why it is looking forward to a time when products of engineering can be in any part of the world to practice effectively.
The Vice Chancellor of Crown Hill University, Ilorin, Kwara state, Professor John Olorunmaiye who gave an overview on BMAS and accreditation scoring criteria for undergraduate engineering programmes in Nigerian universities, said it must be translated to module, adding that course learning outcome must be marked to programme outcome.
“There must be ability to analyse problems, carry out investigations in research context, there must be proficiency using standard codes, knowledge of humanities that will ensure that engineering will not be practiced in a vacuum,” he said, adding that BMAS must be periodically reviewed and updated for each cadre.
A representative of the Federal Engineering Institution of Asia and the Pacific (FEIAP), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mr. Lee Boon Chong, who emphasised on ‘Outcome-Based Engineering(OBE) Education’, said flexible teaching methods must be introduced, adding that all curriculum and teaching decisions are made based on desired outcomes.
“OBE develops life-long learning after graduation and makes them complex thinker and knowledgeable. It will change the way students learn and help them demonstrate their skills,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor of Anchor University, Lagos, Professor Joseph Afolayan emphasised on the challenges of implementing OBE learning in Nigeria; noting that it requires the overhauling of the curriculum, assessment and reporting practices in education to reflect the achievement of the impact of learning and mastering rather than accumulation of course credits.
“We have universities where turning out First Class graduates is a competition, whether the knowledge is there or not, is not a question. Graduates are not fully prepared for the workforce and little emphasis is placed on softskills. These are the things we want to address,” he said.
He stressed the need for a revision of course content to suit specified learning outcomes, industrial needs, job specification and professional job, adding that there should be a continuous quality improvement.
Professor of Electronic and Computer Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Gloria Chukwudebe in her presentation titled, ‘Engineering Education in Nigeria: Challenges and the way forward’, said institutions must have Information Communications Technology (ICT) to function effectively, adding that learning must change from tutor to student centered.
“There must be academia-industry connect, supervised industrial training scheme in engineering and weak foundation at pre-university must be addressed. These will ensure that when students graduate, they can successfully do anything relating to the practice of engineering, ” she said.