Editor's Comment

Don’t compromise education

UNZA

EVERY year, thousands of young people are graduating from senior secondary school and are offloaded into society.
Most of the school-leavers are keen to improve their well-being by going to university.
Naturally, the school leavers’ targets are the two widely acclaimed public universities – the University of Zambia’s Great East Road campus and the Copperbelt University – with Mulungushi and Robert Kapasa Makasa universities being on the ladder too.
But these, plus the other new public universities, cannot absorb all the school-leavers.
This means that private universities and colleges must mop up the remaining school-leavers and other adults in need of higher education.
To fill the gap, there has been an outbreak of all manner of universities and colleges in the country.
This is a welcome move given the increasing population.
But people setting up colleges and universities are expected to meet standards set by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
This means people should take their time to ensure that they study the requirements before opening the higher institutions of learning, in this case, the universities.
Therefore, the de-registration of five universities by HEA for not operating according to expected education standards is a very sad state of affairs, but also a welcome one because mediocrity should never be tolerated.
Education is supposed to improve people’s productivity and creativity and also help to promote entrepreneurship.
So when the standards or quality of education decline, productivity and creativity are adversely affected, which in turn hamper economic development.
Capital and labour are critical factors of production. As Adam Smith once put it, “the acquired abilities of all inhabitants are a kind of capital”, which is now referred to as human capital.
Some economic research has shown that poor or lack of properly developed human capital is partly responsible or is the reason why some countries remain poor.
Therefore, universities not operating at the expected standards result in poorly or under-developed human capital, which affects productivity in the economy or industry and consequently retards national economic progress.
Although HEA has not specified the reasons for de-registering the five universities, it can be speculated that they were of low standard in terms of staff and facilities.
Any compromise on these would ultimately result in sub-standard education.
On labour, a poorly trained graduate will fail to perform at work. This employee will lack the necessary competencies, thus there would be poor productivity.
The effect of this is that the country is being flooded with half-baked graduates who can’t perform in industry. This eventually affects the economic development of the country.
The country ends up having engineers who construct roads that leave much to be desired or indeed medical practitioners who mis-diagnose patients.
There are a lot of cases in which patients are given wrong drugs, which lead to complications and death.
To avoid this, Government should come up with stringent measures like the HEA is doing, that would make it difficult for people with questionable backgrounds to open a university or indeed any other institution of learning, including colleges and schools.
The HEA should go beyond looking at the qualifications of lecturers or results of students who have been recruited by scrutinising premises where some of the colleges and universities are operating from.
Not every vacant office or house or servants’ quarters should pass for a university campus.
There is need for standards. Much as education is on demand, not every corner of a street or market passes for a university.
Parents, guardians or indeed members of public should also be careful when choosing universities. They should consult the Ministry of Higher Education before registering with some universities.
Keep mediocrity out of education.


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