Certificates, Skills and Manpower Utilisation

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Development is about people. It is about the quality of life of people, their capacity to improve the conditions of their existence, to recognise, reach, control and utilise their resources for greater productivity and enjoyment. It is about the autonomous and self-respect of the individual as a free member of his community. It has to be brought about by people.

Education plays a central role in the development process. This role is reviewed in Nigeria's second national development plan document which takes time to expatiate on the "considerable controversy" which is said to exist as to what the objective of education ought to be. Should education be provided for its sake, "as a means of enriching an individuals' knowledge and developing his full personality", or should it seek to prepare people to undertake specific tasks and employment functions which are essential for the transformation of their environment"? Should be a consumer god or a capital good? But the antithesis is illusory. As a total concept education encompasses many aspect and levels, each of which may be oriented in varying degree to both objectives. It has to do with the entire learning process. As an organised activity it is concerned with the socialisation of the individual. It determines the nature and extent of his environment and how he relates to it. It mould his capabilities, choices, tastes and preferences. What the individual puts into the society and what he gets out of it are together conditioned by his education experience.

From the point of view of manpower development and utilisation, education performs two basic functions. It inculcates in its recipients a range of skills and provides a convenient screening divide for regulating entry into various prescribed roles. The two may not necessarily be closely related. Thus one African Government is reported to have Required GCE O level certificates for entry into its cadre of official traditional dancers. The problem in education planning is how to determine the necessary range of skills and the allocation codes most relevant to productivity and development.

Nigeria has made considerable progress, particularly over the last ten years, in the provision of education and educational facilities. But there is much reason to be dissatisfied both with the types and quality of education being imparted and with the contribution of the educational system to the satisfaction of the national need for specific skills.

Part of the blame lies with certificates. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines a certificate as "a document wherein a fact is formally certified" to certify being "to make (a person) certain (of); to vouch for."

The certificates in our educational system today do not vouch nor attest truly. Much too often their assurances are vain. They are out of phase with the nation's development, circumstances and needs. A relic of the past they give the wrong signals to those who seek to acquire them, those who would use their holders. They distort the pattern of demand for education, inhibit the rationalisation of the structure and content of courses, and, by beclouding the character of the training involved, prevent the full realisation of its potential. Thus the triangular mismatch between what students want to study, what teachers teach by these conniving go-betweens.

In this paper I shall discuss the evolution of the certificate system, examine its present impact on the pattern manpower production and utilisation and make suggestion towards a more rational, more functional system of certificates.