Vocational Technical Education Project Topics & Materials



Background to the study

Man is a purposive animal because he acts with an aim.  Man has aim(s) for all major enterprises before venturing into them.  Aims are purposes for undertaking something.  It is the expected result of an enterprise.  According to Okafor (2006), aims are values, and like values, they are intrinsic to man since they are inevitable concomitant of man’s rationality.

Aims generally could mean a clearly directed intention with a view to achieving a desirable result through a well-thought plans and activities. Aims connote both intrinsic and extrinsic values.  This is true because they are the reasons for any plan or action an individual or group intends to embark upon.  On the part of Okeke (1989) aims denote aspiration, and planned orientation for action.  Aims give one foresight ahead of time when a process will come to an end.   There are personal aims and societal aims.  The personal aims are subsumed in the societal aims especially at the time of the realization of each of them.  For the sake of clarity ‘per genus et differentiam’ (clarity of type and difference) personal aims are those aims in education, while societal aims are the envisioned aims of education.

Education is a major enterprise of man since man is endowed with an immense power of knowledge; it implies that he also posits the educational aims. Okafor (2006) observes that among the Spartans, the aim of education is for the service of the state.  Thus, the citizens are prepared for war, because the aim or point of emphasis is mainly on physical education, for physical perfection, as well as for state’s efficiency and military gallantry.

For the Athenians, according to Okafor (2006), their educational aims are not limited to physical training alone, but included intellectual, aesthetic and cultural.   For Aristotle (384-322 BC), the ultimate aim of education is the same as supreme aim of living which is happiness.  Education must concern itself with the development and nurture of the intellect as a means to happiness.  Aims of education must include the welfare of the state whose ultimate goal is to provide for the greatest good of its citizens.

For the early Romans, the aims of education are heavily weighted in favour of the preservation, the strengthening, and the perfection of the state.  It is for practical life.  During the medieval period, the Church was at the forefront of education in order to save the European civilization that was collapsing as a result of the Barbarian invasion of Europe. The Church did this through the establishment of monasteries, chivalry, the guild and Scholasticism whose ultimate educational aims were metaphysical and spiritually oriented towards the eternal salvation of the individual’s soul (Okafor, 2006).

At the time of renaissance, the aims of education was essentially the same with that of the medieval period, that is, the attainment of man’s happiness; but how to attain this happiness began to take a new turn.  The emphasis on the supernatural, ascetic, authoritarianism began to wane.   Interest shifted from things human to the things divine.  In this regard, Okafor (1992: 121) observes that:

There was a passionate exploration of the classical past; to restudy its methods of freeing the creative talents of man so as to recapture the creativity that has dominated classicism … their emphasis was that the beauty of nature must not be ignored and that authoritarianism should loosen its grip so that man’s creativity should have the chance to illumine man’s environment.


Thus, the favourable soil for the progressivists of educational thought of which John Dewey (1859-1952) stands out prominently was born.  To this end, Smith (1966) remarks that Dewey is the most influential thinker in education of the twentieth century.  Dewey’s contribution lies along several fronts.  His attention to experience and reflection, democracy and community, as well as environments for learning has been seminal.

In order to establish educational aims correctly, Dewey articulated that aims must be based upon what is already present in existential situation, including the resources and the difficulties eminent in the situation conversely, it must not lie outside human activities or “foreign in the correct makeup of the situation because the outcome will be a limitation of intelligence”.  This is true because when aims are given ready-made by “some authority external to intelligence”, the net outcome will be a limitation of intelligence since the latter is left with nothing but a mechanical choice of means.  Aim implies an orderly and ordered activity, one in which the order consists in the progressive completing of a process.

For Dewey (1859-1952), an aim means foresight in advance of the end or possible termination.  The foresight functions in three ways:

  • Careful observation of the given conditions to view what the means available for reaching the end are and to also discover the hindrances on the way.
  • The proper order or sequence in the use means
  • It makes choice of alternatives possible.

If one can predict the outcome of acting this way or that, one can then compare the value of the two courses of action; one can pass judgment upon their relative desirability. Dewey went further to state that the net conclusion is that acting with an aim is all one with acting intelligently.  To foresee a terminus of an act is to have a basis upon which to observe, to select, and to order object and our own capacities.  To be intelligent, one must “stop, look, listen” in making the plan of an activity.  To have an aim is to act with meaning, not like an automatic machine. It means to do something and to perceive the meaning of things in the light of that intent. The aim set up must be an outgrowth of existing conditions. It must be based upon a consideration of what is already going on upon the resources and difficulties of the situation.

An aim must be flexible; it must be capable of alteration to meet circumstances as they develop.  The value of a legitimate aim lies in the fact that one can use it to change condition.  Additionally, the educational aim must be capable of translating into a methodology which is activity oriented.  This is because according to Dewey (1859-1952), an aim is worthless unless it lends itself to the construction of specific procedures for its own test, correction and amplification.  Aim must always represent a freeing of activities.  The term end in view is only suggestive because it puts before the mind the termination or conclusion of some process.  The only way in which one can define an activity is by putting before oneself the object in which it terminates.  The doing with the thing, not the thing in isolation, is the end.  The object is but a phase of the active end of continuing of the activity successfully.  This is what is meant by the phrase, “freeing activity”.

Educational aims are aims in a directed occupation.  This is because an educator has certain things to do, certain resources with which to do, and certain obstacles with which to contend.  Dewey (1859-1952) outlines some characteristics of all good educational aims, which include:

  • An educational aim must be founded upon the intrinsic activities and needs of the given individual to be educated.
  • An educational aim must be capable of translation into a method of cooperating with the activities of those undergoing instruction. It must suggest the kind of environment needed to liberate and to organize their capacities.
  • Educators have to be on their guide against ends that are alleged to be general and ultimate. Every activity, however specific, is, of course, general in its ramified connections, for it leads out indefinitely into other things.

It is evident that the power to grow depends upon the needs for others and plasticity.  Both of these conditions-growth and plasticity-are at their height in childhood and youth.  The power to learn from experience means the formation of habits.  Active habits involve thought, invention, and initiative in applying capacities to new aims since growth is the characteristics of life.  Education is expected to be the same thing with growing; it has no end beyond itself.  The evidence of a good school education is its ability to create a desire for continued growth and it supplies the means for making the desire effective in fact.

In Nigeria, the colonialists gave Nigerians a grammar type of education which was to teach Nigerians how to read and write in order to help them in the economic exploration and missionary work.  In the words of Onwuka, and Enemuo (2006: 26)

This type of education is foreign to the needs of Nigeria.  It was ab-initio the type of education given to the less privileged in Britain in the early 19th century.  The type of education in question was primarily aimed at inculcating a mass of factual information into students without giving them any means of utilizing it. Students were crammed with the experience of the past rather than being prepared to face the problems of the future.


The above is to imply that the curriculum for the Nigerian education is irrelevant to the needs of Nigerians.  Nigeria has thousands of so-called educated men and women who have certificates on different disciplines yet Nigeria continues to run here and there looking for experts to solve some of the problems besetting the country.

This type of western education that is not practically oriented, affected all levels of education in Nigeria. This must have been the rationale for Onwuka and Enemuo (2006) to observe that the story of Nigerian education has been one of growth to an over-shooting of the educational system beyond the absorptive capacity of the economy.  The situation represents one of the most persistent fallacies in the newly independent African countries.  This is in terms of the confusion that followed between linear growth of the educational system and actual educational development.  It is extremely difficult to increase educational provisions sharply and enhance quality simultaneously.  Now the question is, should Nigeria continue in this type of education which encourages quantity without quality or the type of educational system which will lead to meaningful development?

In this regard therefore, O’Connor (2011) gave what seem to be the universal aims of education as when men and women are provided with a minimum of the skills necessary for them in order: to take their place in society, to seek further knowledge, that they be provided with a vocational training that will enable them to be self supporting, that the interest in and a taste for knowledge be awaken in them, to make them critical and to put them in touch with the past and train them to appreciate the cultural and moral achievements of mankind.

The Nigerian educational aims as enunciated in the National Policy on Education, FRN (2004) are not far from her policy on Education. The National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004: 7-8) spells out the national educational goals as follows:

The inculcation of national consciousness and national unity; The inculcation of the right type of values and attitudes for the survival of the individuals and the Nigerian society; The training of the mind in the understanding of the world around; The acquisition of appropriate skills and the development of mental, physical and social abilities and competencies as equipment for the individual to live and contribute to the development of the society.


Over the years, successive governments have tried to give a face lift to our educational system as spelled out in the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004) in order to make it more meaningful and development oriented.  Some of the practical efforts made include the 6-3-3-4 system whereby a child is expected, after the nursery school, to spend six years in the primary school, three years in the junior secondary school and three years in the senior secondary school which is to prepare and qualify him for four years in the university or any degree awarding tertiary institution.  The introduction and inclusion of introductory technology, business studies, agricultural science and other vocational subjects in the junior secondary school curriculum was intended to set Nigeria on the part of education for living as espoused by John Dewey.  The 6-3-3-4 system which was launched by General Ibrahim B. Babangida’s regime in 1988 was not successful and a number of factors were responsible.

After the failure of the 6-3-3-4, system, the Nigerian government came out with another system.  The Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN, 2004) in her National Policy on Education (2004) specified that basic education shall be nine years duration, comprising 6 years of primary education and 3 years of junior secondary school education.  It shall be free and compulsory.  It shall also include adult and non-formal education programmes at primary and junior secondary education levels for the adults and out-of-school youths.  The policy went further to specify the goals of Basic Education to be the same thing as the goals of education to which it applies (that is, primary, junior secondary, adult and non-formal educations).

In 1999 the Obasanjo administration launched a new educational programme of 9-3-4 which Obanya (2006), describes as injecting fresh air of life into the staggering of education in the country.  Conceptualized as a system that will make education quality – oriented and driven by passion for excellence… it is hoped that the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme has been properly designed and tailored to avoid possible future collapse.

The word universal means “all over the world” while ‘basic’ means “the minimum requirement”. Therefore the Universal Basic Education (UBE) is the minimum educational requirement acceptable all over the world. That is why Okpanachi (2006) explains that the Universal Basic Education is the operational tag given to the new policy on education in Nigeria. It is the extension of compulsory education to every Nigerian child in the first nine years of schooling. This new policy compels the minimum education on the citizens to be nine years like the 6-3-3-4 system, the only change is that the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) will not be given to the pupils who successfully completed primary 6. The certificate will be awarded after the completion of Junior Secondary School and only if there is evidence of continuous assessment from 1 – 9 years of schooling.

This new education programme came up as a result of the target set by the United Nations to assist developing nations tagged “Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Adam (2007) explains that the millennium development goals were set up by the United Nations to assist developing countries to meet up with the standards attained in developed worlds.  Among the goals of the MDGs, is the achievement of Universal Basic Education.  What the United Nations expects from developing countries is that by the year 2015, there should be provision of quality education from nursery, primary and perhaps secondary schools for every citizen.

Another rationale for the Universal Basic Education programme is also linked to the daunting statistics of basic illiteracy in Africa and Nigeria in particular.  Commenting on these statistics, Baikie (2002) avers that, note should be taken of the fact that the word ‘Universal’ is used in describing the scheme; in other words, the scheme will have a universal coverage and application. This is understandable given the fact that Nigeria’s literacy rate is estimated 52% and out of a population of 21 million children of school-going age, only 14.1 million children are enrolled in primary schools around the nation.  A worrying aspect is that the completion rate in primary schools is 64% and the transition from primary to junior secondary schools is 43.5%.  The implication here is really a daunting one, in that there are about 7 million school-age children out of school.  There are about 5 million who are unable to complete school and another 5 million who could not go into junior secondary school.  This brings the total of out-of-school children to well over 17 million!   From these statistics, it becomes clear that with this level of illiteracy staring Nigeria in the face, she cannot but expedite action.  This is made manifest in its implementation of the Universal Basic Education scheme.

The intimate connection between basic literacy and development is yet another strong rationale for Nigeria’s desire to implement the 9-3-4 scheme.  By this scheme being universal, the urge for literacy covers the boy and the girl child, the physically challenged etc.  The emphasis on the girl child education is very important here.  Besides the economic and agricultural advantage of educating the girl child, there are also health advantages.  Gene  (2007) commenting on the value of the girl child education avers that, What is striking is the breath of benefits derived from educating girls – not only economic benefits in terms of higher wages, greater agricultural productivity, and faster economic growth, but also health  benefits, HIV prevention, and women’s empowerment. Gene still substantiates the claims above with empirical facts.  The first are a 1999 World Bank studies which revealed that closing the education gender gap in South Asia and sub-saharan Africa would have led to faster economic growth between 1960 and 1992, while increasing the share of candidates with a secondary education can yield growth in per-capital income (Klasen, 1999).  Another 63-country study attributed 43% of the decline in malnutrition achieved between 1970 and 1995 to more productive farming as a result of increased female education (Smith and Haddad, 1999).  More impressive here are the gains to health that come from educating girls.  An extra year of female education can reduce infant mortality by 5% to 10% (Schulz, 1993).  In Africa, children of mothers who receive five years of primary education are 40% less likely to die before the age of five than are children of uneducated mothers (Summers, 1994).  Across both Africa and Southeast Asia, mothers who have a basic education are 50% more likely than uneducated mothers to immunize their children (Gage, Sommerfelt and Piani, 1997).

Apart from the mentioned benefits of Basic Education, especially for women, it has also been proved that education is one of the most powerful tools for the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Recent studies in rural Uganda found that, in comparison with young people with no education, those with some secondary education were three times less likely to be HIV- positive (Walque, 2004).  In Kenya, a study of 17- years-old girls found that those in secondary schools were almost four times as likely to be sexually inactive as those who had dropped out after primary school.  In Swaziland, a 2003 study found that more than 70% of in-school youths were not sexually active, while nearly 70% of out-of-school youths  were  sexually active (Whiteside, 2003).  And school-based AIDs education programs have been shown to reduce early sexual activity and high risky behavior (Kirby, 1994).  According to the Global campaign for Education, seven million cases of AIDs might be avoided over the next 10 years if all children completed basic education.  The depressing statistics enumerated above with regard to the value of basic education is yet another strong rationale for the adoption and implementation of the Universal Basic Education scheme in Nigeria.

Universal Basic Education scheme like any other scheme in Nigeria has very clear objectives (aims) that when implemented to the letter, ought to make a lot of impact on the development of individual, and the society at large.  The Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004: 14) outlined the objectives of the UBE as:

Developing in the entire citizenry a strong consciousness for education and a strong commitment to its rigorous promotion; The provision of the Universal Basic Education for every Nigerian child of school age; Reducing drastically the incidence of drop out from the formal school system; Catering for the learning needs of young persons who for one reason or the other have had to interrupt their schooling through appropriate forms of complementary approaches to the provision and promotion of basic education; Ensuring the acquisition of the appropriate literacy (numerancy) and manipulative, communicative and life skills as well as the ethical, moral and civic value needed for laying the foundation for lifelong learning.


The Universal Basic Education programme has already taken off in Kogi State.  Some public primary and secondary schools are selected and new structures have been erected, and facilities are put in place.  The administration of the U.B.E schools is different from that of their “mother” schools.

The Universal Basic Education scheme is meant to provide basic education for all Nigerian citizens.  It is feared, however that, it may not guarantee the acquisition of the appropriate levels of literacy, manipulative, and life skill that is needed for laying the foundation for lifelong learning.  It is also feared that many beneficiaries of the UBE may not be able to continue their education beyond the nine years of primary school.  If John Dewey’s aims of education are applied, it will go a long way to assist those who may not be able to go beyond the junior secondary school, to acquire the basic skills needed to be self sustaining and self employed.  There is possibility of the government not being able to provide job for a good number of its citizens.  There is also the possibility of many graduates from different levels of education from Kogi state being hoarded and wasted in the reservoir of the unemployed (Abiogu, 2004). It is the opinion of this research that the 9-3-4 education system will produce job creators in Kogi state rather than being “veritable means for churning out white collar job hunters”.  The resultant effect is bound to increase the number of school dropout, since those with certificates have no job, and by extension of reason it will also add to the number of children involved in social vices such as armed robbery, prostitution, child-labour and the likes.

Dewey’s position besides reducing these vices will also have implications for parents and teachers. The parents have various expectations when sending their wards to school. They do not just send them because others do. They expect their children should come out refined and equipped to be gainfully employed to help themselves and even their parents. As it stands now, the UBE in Kogi state is yet to fulfill these desires and aspirations of the parents in this direction. For this reason, the researcher thinks Dewey’s conceptualization aims, when properly adopted by the UBE programme, could help meet these desires in the parents.

Also, this research proposes that the adoption of Dewey’s schemes could give the teachers the appropriate strategies needed to fully actualize the goals of the UBE programme. Obviously, what we have is just a sketch of what the UBE programme is, as well as its goals, objectives, and advantages. The specifics of how the pupils are to be guided to reach this end are not clearly mapped out. As such, teachers are implicated in this research to know their difficulties in getting the pupils to where they should be and the various deficiencies their strategies have with regard to Dewey’s conceptualizations

Statement of the Problem


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