SCIENCE EDUCATION GRADUATES EMPLOYABILITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY
All over the world, science has become a great tool for solving socio-economic problems of mass unemployment, hunger, poverty, poor health facilities, rural-urban drift, population explosion, environmental degradation and a host of other problems besetting a developing country like ours. This is based on the great gains (social, economic, technological and political) which science and the application of its knowledge (technology) has brought to such advanced nations of the world such as Japan, USA, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, etc. These nations have nurtured science and its application to an enviable status where it has become part and parcel of the peoples’ culture. It was discovered that the tendency to adopt science and technology for solving societal problems and for creating further wealth dates back to the era of industrial revolution in Europe.
Prior to the nineteenth century, systematic investment in human capital was not considered especially important in any country. It has been recently noted that attention should be drawn to the skills of graduates who are entering the current labor market. The future workforce is required to pursue more general skills for living and working in the 21st century, besides job specific skills.
Various studies show that teacher education in Nigeria has catalogues of problems that make most trained science teachers lacked the repertoire for 21st-century job requirements. Some of these challenges are discussed to give a comprehensive understanding of the theme of this paper.
To start with, the science education teacher curriculum is inadequate. It was the argument of Babatunde and Buraimoh (2018); Matthew (2018) that the teacher education curriculum in Nigeria is defective. The curriculum only prepared students for teaching. The skills to do other jobs aside from the classroom teaching are rarely mentioned in the curriculum. This could explain why most teachers are impoverished in ICT knowledge because it is not significantly included in the curriculum.
Given this, Israel (2018) admitted that a lack of adequate ICT knowledge is one critical problem of teacher education in the 21st century. It will be practically impossible for an individual to show a high level of creativity without the proper ICT knowledge (Wheeler, Waite & Bromfield, 2002; Nikolopoulou, 2018).
Employability skills in the 21st century
Employability is a critical construct in higher education today because it links between graduates and the labour market (Pegg, Waldock, Hendy-Isaac, and Lawton, 2012). Employability may be interpreted differently by many people; however, within higher education, it is an experience, skills, attributes, and knowledge valuable to employers (Gedye & Chalkley, 2015). Employability is a set of skills, understanding, and attributes that make a graduate gain employment or successful in a chosen occupation (Bakar, Mohamed & Hanafi, 2007).
Pegg et al. (2012) cites Harvey that employability is getting a job and developing critical, reflective abilities to empower and enhance students. Given this background, employability is not something visible but manifests as skills. Thus, Rasul, Ismail, Ismail, Rajuddin, and Rauf (2009) opined that employability skills are part of the soft skills that any employee should possess in the industrial sector today.
In an era of the industrial revolution, it is significant that graduates of higher education should be equipped with the employability skills (Asonitou, 2015) irrespective of the field of discipline. According to Wilson, Lennox, Hughes, and Brown (2017), employability skills are critical thinking, complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence, creativity, judgment, decision-making, cognitive flexibility, people management, service orientation, and coordinating with others and negotiation. Securing a job today in a challenging economy like in Nigeria requires that fresh graduates have employability skills and hard skills (Ang, 2015).
Science education graduates employability in the 21st century
Learning science is good, but the application is the best. Previous studies show that most science learning in Nigerian schools is by memorization, and students easily forget what they learned (Bernhard, Lindwall, Engkvist, & Zhu, 2007; Aina, 2017). This suggests the reason many science education student finds it challenging to apply their knowledge to solve problems.
Application of scientific knowledge is essential: this indicates the argument of Cheng, She, and Huang (2018) that application is critical to problem-solving in science. Science education students in Nigerian colleges of education typically have two significant application choices, problem-solving (real- life problem) and teaching. Science should be taught to help students develop the skill for problem-solving (Dogu, 2008). However, the majority applied the knowledge in teaching. The implication of this is that many of these graduates are not creative. Problem-solving requires some level of creative thinking (Aldous, 2005; Hu, Xiaohui, & Shieh, 2017).
Creativity is essential for science education to enhance students’ entrepreneurial skills for job creation (Aina, Nathaniel, & Ayodele, 2019). The reason most colleges of education science students could not do any other job aside from teaching is because of the issue of creativity (Aina, & Abdulwasiu, 2018). There are creativity skills students should have to help their employability. Rabi and Masran (2016) submitted that creative thinking is a necessary skill in the present century; hence, fluency, originality, elaboration, and flexibility are creativity skills critical for every learner. According to Wilson et al. (2017), creativity is not a new issue in education; it has focused on higher education for decades. Creativity makes a fresh graduate marketable (Rabi & Masran, 2016), suggesting the connection between creativity and employability.
Most works in the 21st century require graduates equipped with specific skills and attributes aside from the right academic qualifications (Suarta, Suwintana, Sudhana & Hariyanti, 2017). These skills are known as employability, as already discussed in this script. Creativity was considered to be one of the employability skills by Wilson et al. (2017). However, the Application, Creativity and Employability (ACE) of science education in Nigeria is weak, informing why many science graduates are teachers in Nigeria.
Some science graduates in Nigeria lack the employability skills required for the industrial sector in the 21st century (Adebayo, 2016; Aina, Nathaniel, & Ayodele, 2019). This outcome may be attributed to their training as professional teachers. However, the state of the economy in this century requires that all science graduates have high science literacy to function moderately in any economic sector (Udompong & Wongwanich, 2014).
Therefore, being professional teachers should not preclude them from working in any other industry apart from education. The reason for not being able to work outside the classroom is significantly due to not being employable due to low science literacy.
Scientific literacy should equip individuals with the power to use skills, values, and knowledge associated with science to solve problems and decision-making (Fortus, Krajcik, Dershimer, Marx, & Mamlok- Naaman, 2005; Rule, 2006; Genc, 2015) in any sector. It thus implies, there is a relationship between scientific literacy and employability skills.
A recent study shows that science students in a Nigerian College of Education have low scientific literacy (Aina, Abdulrahman & Ayodele, 2020). Unfortunately, many NCE science education graduates lacked many of these skills, which suggests the reason for a high rate of unemployment among these graduates (Aina, 2017). Most Nigerian science education graduates lack the skills required to work in industries: even with their fantastic certificates because they lacked the creative abilities.
A science education graduate could be an employer of labour without working as a teacher or under anybody. This could be possible through ACE, as the framework shows. It only requires the shift of paradigm of instruction in science teaching. The teaching strategies that enhance creativity should be employed in schools. The teacher should teach students to apply scientific knowledge to solve problems, not to only award certificates. It implies strong scientific literacy skills by all science students are required. A good grade is beautiful, but that alone will not be adequate to work in industries, companies, and job creation. Labour employers do not rely on the certificate alone in the 21st century for job placement.
Enhance science students’ enrollment
Science student’s enrolment is decreasing in the Nigerian tertiary institutions yearly because of many reasons. One such is the quality of graduates of these institutions. Many of the colleges of education graduates cannot do any job aside from teaching: many are not sound in the classroom. Consequently, a significant number of these graduates are jobless.
Given this, parents and guardians are unwilling to enroll their wards in the college of education again. The problem of science students’ enrolment in the Nigerian colleges of education was observed many years ago by a scholar (Harry, 2011). Other authors found that science enrolment in Nigerian schools is low (Aderemi, Hassan, Siyanbola & Taiwo, 2013; Osokoya & Junaid, 2015) due to many variables.
Science students’ enrolment in the colleges of education could be enhanced through the ACE framework. Students will be willing to seek admission to the colleges of education once they know their careers will not be limited to teaching. Science enrolment will be boosted when physics education graduates from colleges are employed in industries, and some set up small electronics businesses. Similarly, if biology education graduates offer opportunities to work in the food processing industry, some set up a horticulture business. All these would be as a result of the creativity and employability skills acquired.
Critics of the subject- centered curriculum design are that; there is a high degree of fragmentation, there is no integration of content and automatic transfer of information is not possible. Ensuring that changes in the education system should be effectively implemented in all learning institutions. There is urgent need of Guiding, assisting and counseling students to choose their career subjects wisely which align with their future career jobs in the market; Proper guidance on learner’s career guide and orientation programs; Designing a better method of assessing the learners in the subjects, they undertake in order to gauge their progress.
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Aina, J. K. (2017). The physics authentic learning experience through the peer instruction. Saarbrucken, Germany: LAP Lambert Academic Publisher
Harry, I.H. (2011). Attitudes of students towards science and science education in Nigeria. (A case study in selected secondary schools in Obio/Akpor local government area of rivers state). Continental Journal of Education Research, 4(2), 33-51.
Ogunleye, A. O. (1999). Science Education in Nigeria. Lagos: Sunshine International Publications.
Lawson Peter – Chief Editor in Projectvilla Nigeria. A writer and academic researcher.