Aspirant for the 2019 presidential election, Donald Duke, said the failure to invest in education is why the sector has failed in Nigeria.
While speaking during an interview on Pulse Nigeria's , the former Cross River State governor said successive governments have failed to take significant interest in education and have contributed to its sad collapse.
He said the government has not upgraded education from the glory days of the 60s and 70s despite the nation's population explosion, a situation he said has contributed to Nigeria's deterioration.
He said, "One of the sad things about our nation is our failure to invest in ourselves; it tells in every sector. The same thing is happening in education.
"Our glory days in education were in the 60s into the 70s and there's a population explosion and we didn't invest. The schools are not inspiring and the environment under which you study hardly works.
"The teachers themselves need to be upgraded; they don't even know what to teach. The curriculum is outdated and does not prepare you for the currency of the world. The teaching methods, of course, are outdated.
"We have not upgraded; if anything, our nation has deteriorated really fast."
Every child must be in school - Duke
The 56-year-old former governor said one of the best ways to improve education in the country is to make a number of changes that'll show real commitment towards solving the problem.
He said the curriculum should be evaluated, and teaching should be made attractive for teachers with incentives that'll also make them accountable to do well in the classrooms.
Duke said untrained brains in the country will become parasites and urged that every child must be in school for free up until the university level which they can opt to not attend as long as they've been equipped with vocational skills, of any sort, throughout their school years.
He said, "They say you've got to invest 25% of your GDP in education to bring up to speed, that's against subjective number. What's your GDP and all that?
"Regardless of the amount, we first have to do a study of the infrastructure that is required. We need to do a study of the number of teachers that are required. The manpower is there. We have a lot of folks that come out of the university who have no jobs. That youth corps year that is wasted, as far as I'm concerned, could be used to retrain them to go into the teaching field. You need to make teaching attractive.
"This is not theory, I'll tell you what we did in Cross River. You need to make teaching attractive and you ought to make it accountable.
"In Cross River, I took them off the tax profile so teachers weren't paying taxes any longer. It's difficult to tell civil servants to convert and become teachers, they don't want to do it, but once I took them off the tax break, everyone now wanted to become a teacher because you're earning 25% more immediately.
"Then I added N10,000 as allowances in the urban areas and N15,000 in the rural areas so some were okay to go work in the rural areas. Then I now asked them, every two years I must recertify you. So I got the University of Ibadan to come up with a programme where, every two years, you take an exam. If you flunk that exam twice, you're out.
"Then, I said if you go for an exam, like school cert, and less than 80% (students) pass, say mathematics, in the school, that maths teacher has to go. That is where accountability comes in. To me, there are no bad students, there are bad teachers because teaching is personal and you need to interface.
"Nationally, you've got to look at a curriculum that's functional. You don't have to think hard; just go to Germany and adopt their own curriculum, that's all. Train the teachers to work with that curriculum, even the Chinese are adopting that curriculum, it's very practical. And you know that the world we're advancing into rapidly is digital, so coding. By the time you get to the equivalent of SS3, you know how to code. That's how it works.
"You've got to revisit the entire curriculum, train the teachers to function within this curriculum and make it worthwhile for people to want to be teachers, So, if you're a teacher, you can be sure that five years after teaching, you own a house, you have a car; everybody will jump into it. And then I can demand that if your students don't do well, you're gonna lose all these.
"So how do you own a car and own a house? You have a special mortgage arrangement for them where they can easily own a house and own a car. Those are some of the incentives you put in place.
"I believe that education should be free. I believe that every brain that's untrained is a drain on society. If I have an untrained brain, I have no skills, I'm going to be depending on you, and if I'm depending on you, I'm a parasite. I'm taking from you without giving. So we've got to aspire for each one of us to be productive.
"By the time you get to SS3 you have a skill, no matter how minor it may be. That makes the fixation of university education reduced, so you've got to do a lot of vocational training, and people are not goinna be too fixated about going to universities because university education is expensive. That one, we must have a way of paying for that, it might not be free. But the first 18 years of your life, you must be in school, it is compulsory.
"Every child must be in school. It's not easy, it's expensive, but it's an aspiration. We should work towards it."
Duke hopes to become Nigeria's president in next year's election after the failure of his first bid in 2007. Even though he's yet to disclose on which political platform he'll run for president, he is most likely to contest on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) which is the political party that has been adopted by the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) of which he is a founding member.
If he wins his party's primary election, he'll face stiff competition from others like incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari; former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Kingsley Moghalu; management consultant and leadership expert, Fela Durotoye; Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore and a host of others.