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Opinion - The diploma disease and education for national development

2021-04-09  Staff Reporter

Opinion - The diploma disease and education for national development
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In his book, “Diploma Disease”, Dore (1976) rationalises the concept after which the book is entitled as a system in which people tend to acquire many diplomas and certificates, which become obsolete and irrelevant in terms of elevating the standards of living of the people. In the process, the “diploma disease” breeds educational inflation, educational ritual and educational delusion, which becomes detrimental to a fair education system, aiming at developing the capacities of the consumers of education. The three aspects affect the quality of education to such an extent that the aim of education simply becomes rhetoric and ritualistic and defeats the good intentions and purpose of the system.

Many people believed and still do so that the acquisition of many diplomas and certificates is a panacea to all developmental ills of the indigenous people, a doctrine that the colonizers planted into the minds of Africans. As a result, many Africans yearned for white-collar jobs, by acquiring many diplomas and certificates through the Western type of education assuming that they should end up in offices after obtaining those qualifications. This culminated in some Africans loathing practical work-related subjects in pursuit of many diplomas and certificates which ultimately dumped them in the work-sphere doldrums.

In other situations, secondary school enders refuse to enrol in vocational and technical colleges as they see these institutions as less prestigious than universities and polytechnics. The sad fact is that neglecting vocational and technical institutions may lead to underdevelopment, as the products thereof are important as far as development and employment are concerned, as they are more practical than the theoretical curriculum pursued at universities and polytechnics. In political circles, we have seen leaders who amassed degrees, diplomas and certificates yet failed to deliver on their promises during the campaigns leading up to Independence and ending up by earning their qualifications as degrees of violence (Blair; 2002). This equally resonates in the real life situations where holders of numerous diplomas and certificates are usually not successful in their endeavours.

The main focus of opening private universities today is to try and get money in a quicker fashion instead of creating an educated individual. The quality of education is compromised and sacrificed at the monetary cross, leaving the holders of diplomas and certificates from such institutions semi-literate. These semi-literates fail to compete with other academic giants and become incompetent, leading to wastages and corruption in many workplaces. This process “kills” the real aim and function of education, which is the inculcating of values and norms in the mind of the child to become a more responsible member of society. It is in this vein that Barker (1999) contrasts the European education system with the African one, by asserting that the old African way of education emphasized the ways of staying healthy; social responsibility; the development of manual, artistic and intellectual skills, political awareness as well as spiritual and moral values. Should the colonizers have tapped on the knowledge of African education systems, which advocated communalism and hard work, surely the situation on the continent might have been better in terms of economic development tempted by greed through the illusive white-collar jobs acquisition, which was created by the ambiguous Western education systems, many African leaders and educators started creating and establishing pseudo-tertiary institutions which are offering substandard curriculum, which in the long run fail to deliver quality education. 

How can one explain a situation where there are more than sixty private universities in the country with a population of fifteen million! In this case, the reality of the diploma disease rears its ugly face, in which many people clamour for enormous and numerous qualifications without much content and value. The whole process boils down to a situation where the country produces half-baked and semi-literate graduates and the consequences thereof are too detrimental to the consumers of the education system. It is analogous to a situation where medical doctors are given half courses and later on sent into our hospitals. This will be gambling with the patients’ lives. It becomes, even more, scaring about the quality of our education system as per the findings, which emanated from Professor Kangira’s article on, “The Many Faces of Academic Dishonesty”, in Namibian tertiary institutions, which appeared in the New Era of 1 April 2021. He touched on academic vices like unholy students’ syndicates, plagiarism and students’ sloppiness in compiling information to use in writing assignments.

If Namibian authorities are genuine and serious about national development, quality education should be the key in this dimension. Yes, the larger chunk of the national budget is allotted to the two ministries of education. Although this money seems to be enough, it is spent on teachers’ salaries and the remaining amount should be put to good use to harvest quality education. 

It is a fact that any development in any country needs educated people who went through the educational grill. Anything besides that will only render the country in developmental blunder and chaos, which may take centuries to mend. Bodies like the Namibia Qualifications Authority and quality assurance departments should strive in working together to curb the academic vices of acquiring and sometimes buying diplomas and certificates for jobs - application purposes.  

2021-04-09  Staff Reporter

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