I have spent nine straight months in Cameroon for the first time since December 2003 (when I first travelled out of Cameroon in search of a better life). During these nine months I have been engaged in various economic/developmental activities (running a business and lecturing on a part time basis). In my opinion, the major missing ingredient to attain economic growth in Cameroon is lack of relevant education. The Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines EDUCATION and RELEVANT as shown below.
• The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university: a course of education
• An enlightening experience: Petrus is a good workman—it is an education to watch him.
• Appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest
• Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered
Education + Relevant
I am sure you can do the math………..
Using the accountancy profession as an illustration – relevant accounting education in Cameroon will mean that an accounting degree holder in Cameroon should be versed with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in Cameroon – which is OHADA Accounting. But you will find many accounting qualifications that barely cover OHADA, some accounting qualifications treat OHADA Accounting as a course. Are these qualifications geared towards preparing Cameroonians for the Cameroon market?
a) What/how are we teaching our students, especially those in the universities?
I have presented lectures on finance related subjects on a part time basis to masters students at two higher education institutions in Cameroon and to my greatest surprise I noted the following:
• Even at the masters level students are more pre-occupied with gaining marks and subsequently getting a qualification. Students are very passive and only get active when a test is announced. I usually tell my students that if you have a master’s degree in a subject, then you should be able to display some mastery of that subject in the way you speak.
• The lecturing method employed by some of the lecturers does not help the already bad situation. Students should read and do research and class rooms at the master’s level should be used to examined principles and how these principles are applied in practice – practice in this case should look at the local environment – Cameroon.
• Lack of study material that links subject matter to the Cameroonian economy. How can universities/higher education institutions be using textbooks with foreign content (having little reference to the local realities) to train future leaders/managers of Cameroon? How come we do not have textbooks written by Cameroonian scholars that are relevant to the Cameroonian economy?
b) Who is teaching/lecturing our students?
It is maybe only in Cameroon that a student gets a qualification from an academic program in year one and without any job/professional experience becomes a teacher/lecturer in year 2 of the same program that he completed in year 1. About 50% of the knowledge I share in my classes comes from my professional experiences and not from just reading text books. In my opinion lecturers who possess some professional/practical experience stand a better chance to deliver relevant education to their students.
c) Learning is not only done in the classroom……
I have also noted with disappointment that many students do not think beyond the classroom box – they come to class, get notes from lecturers, read these notes and write exams. Once they pass these exams they obtain qualifications and many a times are unable to confidently explain to someone what they studied in the program. During an interview where I sat as an interviewer, a candidate who has obtained a certificate in Computerized Accounting was unable to explain what computerized accounting is all about. Learning and education does not only happen through formal school and certificates. The following are examples (not exhaustive) of alternative or complimentary learning routes or opportunities:
i. News (TV/radio) – there is always something on TV or radio that speaks about your field or sector. An accounting student should regularly listen to business news, or watch business related shows on TV.
ii. Movies – movies are for enjoyment but try to watch movies that can teach you something in your field or sector, e.g. a law student should have preference for legal/investigative movies.
iii. Magazines/Newspapers – Read magazines or newspapers in your field/sector.
iv. Internet – points i to iii above can be achieved on the internet. The internet is not just a medium to socialize through social applications. It holds a wealth of information that can be used as a source of learning/education. You frequently hear people saying “google it”, how often do you google things?
The reason we spend so many years in school (from primary to university) is because we seek to gain knowledge and skills that we can use (through working) in our country. It is therefore imperative that the learning process (education) is aligned (relevant) to the needs of our country.
Written by Collins Mazu, CEO and Founder of 25-45 Business Consulting SA (www.2545bc.com)