The Total Value of Education in Nigeria

By Oye Atilade BSc, MSc, MBA, PMP

Value is created when material changes are derived as a result of a program. Total value, or total return on investment (TROI), measures the total social, economic, and environmental value stakeholders, the people and organisations that affect or are affected by the program, experience through changes in their lives. An account of the total value created by a program or system is a story about these changes.

Education is defined as the process of giving and receiving systematic instruction especially in a school or university setting (Google). Wikipedia states that education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. Any experience that has a formative effect on the way we think, feel or act is educational. So education is designed to change its stakeholders and create value for them.

Education can be formal or informal. Formal education is imparted through formal institutions according to a predetermined curriculum. This does not mean that education stops when we graduate. Indeed, education is life-long as we are constantly learning, acquiring knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits throughout our lives. Informal education occurs through conversation, pursuing one’s interests and experience.

Human capital is the sum total of the education and learning, formal and informal, that produces the knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and behaviours of an individual. Human Capital Theory states that investing in education results in higher incomes and productivity by increasing knowledge, skills and ways of analysing problems. Studies show that the distribution of personal incomes in society is strongly related to the level of education people have, and that formal school is a contributing factor to the skills of an individual and therefore, the human capital of the nation. The quality of human resources is directly related to individual earnings, productivity and economic growth.

As of 2016, Nigeria had an estimated population of 186 million, the largest in Africa, seventh largest in the world, and home to one of the largest youth populations in the world (44% under 15 and 60% under 24). The United Nations anticipates that Nigeria will become the third largest country in the world by 2050 with 399 million people and with the potential to emerge as a major global economy. But education is critical to this growth.

Nigeria’s education system has three sectors: basic education (9 years), senior secondary education (3 years), and tertiary education (4 – 6 years). The tertiary level consists of universities and non-universities, such as polytechnics and colleges of education, which offer opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and vocational or technical education.

But the quality of education in Nigeria is one of the poorest in Africa and government spending is one of the lowest. Learning outcomes result in gaps in basic literacy and numeracy skills. A 2015 World Bank report using Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER), the World Bank’s global platform for benchmarking education systems, reveals that as of July 2017, Nigeria had the most out of school children of any country in the world: 10.5 million. This is equivalent to 1 in every 3 children who should be in school not in school. Indonesia with a similar population size and income level had only 2 percent of primary school children out of school. If the 10.5 million children were to complete primary education and enter the labor market, $6 billion will be added to the GDP.

The stakeholders of our education system include, parents / guardians whose socioeconomic status and feelings about the importance of education affect whether the children go to school and how seriously they take it; students as the direct beneficiaries; teachers who educate; schools and the administration, the quality of which are affected by public policy; the private sector, who run some schools and hire the graduates; the NGOs & Missionaries who also run some schools; the media, who can influence public policy; and of course, the government whose educational policies affect the quality of education across the nation, and who reap the rewards of higher productivity and tax from a more educated workforce. All stakeholders have to work together to make the education system work and deliver the quality that is necessary and relevant for the growth of the nation.

In the United States, one standard deviation increase in mathematics performance at the end of high school, translates into 12% higher annual earnings, while estimates of the average value of an additional year of school average 7–10%. Similar returns are seen in the United Kingdom. The total value of education in developing nations is even higher. Results from 5 African countries, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, and Tanzania, show that there are higher economic returns to the quality of education. More schooling means higher lifetime incomes, which increases with work experience.

Education produces learning which produces creativity. Creativity solves problems, improves lives, and changes our world for the better. Creativity correlates with intelligence; academic, social and emotional success; the development of skills; and higher processing skills, executive functions, necessary and valuable for the future. A society with a high percentage of university graduates has greater health and civic participation.

Education reduces poverty, as educated people tend to find higher paying jobs; it promotes health, as children of educated mothers have a 50% higher chance of surviving past age 5, minimises malnutrition rates and reduces the incidence of HIV/AIDS infections. Developing countries could gain up to $90 billion a year if girls receive the same education as boys.

Education also helps the environment. Educated people tend to change lifestyles and behaviour harmful to the environment, like using energy and water more efficiently, recycling waste, and purifying water. Educated farmers tend to be more creative in solving challenges like water shortages and other soil and climate challenges.

Building cognitive, socio-economic, and technical skills are critical to realising the socio-economic development potential of the country. To reap the total value of education we have to make the right and sustained investment in education. We need to pay attention to the competencies and quality of teachers, the educational facilities, early childhood development and the culture. We need to invest early and in relevant skills like problem-solving, learning, communication, social, creative and technology skills.

Nigeria needs a national learning assessment system to standardise education programs across all schools in the country, both private and non-private. This will help ensure that all students get at least the same level of quality education. Nigeria also needs to participate in international student assessment initiatives, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to help benchmark its education to world standards and help its citizens and the country remain competitive on the global stage.

All stakeholders have to be involved. Parents and guardians should provide quality parenting and insist on effective service delivery from educational institutions. Those who own and run schools like NGOs and Missionaries need to ensure that the curriculum meets local, national and international standards. The private sector should provide services like on the job training, work with education providers to ensure programs are aligned with their needs, and engage in a national dialogue on education. The media should take an active role in promoting, supporting and calling out public policy and schools that are doing well and those that are not. With so many private educational facilities in the country, public-private partnerships (PPP) are critical but the government needs to play a strong regulatory role over all.

What society values, society will invest in. If society values education, it will invest in education, and wages and productivity will increase, resulting in higher economic growth and development. If society does not value education, it will not invest in education, and the country will not grow.

If the government does not take immediate steps to reform our education system, then the government does not appreciate the total value of education to the socio-economic well-being of the nation. Which means that the government, therefore, does not appreciate education. We need the government to see, understand and appreciate the big picture. Investing in education is not an option. As with any program or system, the time honoured qualities of honesty, integrity, hard work, perseverance, creativity and creating value are the foundational hallmarks for sustained growth and success in education.

Oye Atilade is a Total Value Consultant. She has over 20 years experience in Technology, Health, Finance and Retail, across Nigeria, the UK and the US. She holds a BSc from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; an MSc from the London School of Economics, UK; and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, USA. Email:; Twitter: @oyeatilade, @arabalelimited; Mobile: +234 (0) 816 082 0196 .