Debates, Resources

Is Tertiary Education still Relevant for Excellence in the 21st century? By Dara OLANIYAN

Is Tertiary Education still Relevant for Excellence in the 21st century?

Delivered at First Leg, Faculty Category, Jaw War 2017.

Good afternoon ladies, gentlemen. My opponent’s entire speech is based on their misunderstanding of the word “excellence”. The topic for today is “is tertiary education still relevant to excelling in the 21st century” and the Oxford dictionary defines excelling as being exceptionally good or proficient at something. The same dictionary also defines exceptional as rare by virtue of superiority.

According to over 525 million people in the world have acquired tertiary education. So my opponent has come here today to prove to us that being a university or college graduate like 525 million other people in the world would somehow make you rare. It seems my opponents would have to borrow a course or two from the department of mathematics.

The word “still” in this topic implies that once upon a time, tertiary education was relevant to excel, but whether it still is, is now in doubt. This is because back then when tertiary education was new to different locations, only a few people acquired it. I’m sure that if we went back in time, my opponents would have probably been the only degree holders in their respective villages. As such, the mere possession of this tertiary education set you apart instantly and you were rare by virtue of your superiority.

Back then, saying “I am a graduate” actually meant something. However, we all know that has changed. There are thousands of universities, polytechnics and colleges all over the world, and graduates are now more common than politicians in Aso rock . It’s obvious tertiary education on it’s own is no longer relevant to excellence in the 21st century, as a two eyed man in a kingdom of blind men is a king, but that same man in a kingdom where everyone has two eyes is just another commoner.

Furthermore ladies and gentlemen, it is evident that tertiary education is no longer what is needed to excel. Everyday we hear that academics isn’t enough, and that we need to do things beyond school, and have something beyond our certificate. The question then is, what is needed to excel in the 21st century?

According to the Global Digital Citizen Foundation, creativity is the fundamental tool for excellence in the 21st century. We don’t need an authority to know that. Creativity is what set Uber apart from Baba Ajani’s Micra. Same function but creativity is the difference. Creativity is what set Mark Zuckerberg apart from other Harvard students. Same tertiary education but creativity is the difference.

Interestingly, Sir Ken Robinson, an international advisor on education stated that tertiary education is the greatest killer of creativity. He said this is because tertiary education teaches us what to think instead of how to think. There is no need to stretch this further. How can tertiary education, which has been said to kill a skill needed for excellence be said to still be relevant to excelling?

In addition, there is evidence that the ability to teach excellence has continued to be out of the reach of tertiary education. According to the Global University Network for Innovation, before, the criterion for excellence was a perfect citizenry, and tertiary education aspired to teach that. Later, what was required for excellence was now a critical spirit, tertiary education once again struggled to meet up with teaching that to it’s students.

Now, the ideal has changed to creativity and once again tertiary education has begun it’s Sysiphian quest to teach what is required for excellence. This shows that just as tertiary education is about to be relevant, the goalpost is shifted and they once again have to scramble for relevance. And that is because for every generation, excellent people are always going the extra mile and breaking records to set new standards for what would be regarded as excellence. So just as the nose of a dog is always ahead of its tail, excellence will also always be ahead of tertiary education.

Additionally, as if it’s not enough that tertiary education does not give us what we need to reach for the stars, it also sets us far back and puts us beneath the ground. Literally, it actually puts people 6 feet beneath the ground. According to an article published on the number of students who killed themselves because they couldn’t pay back the money they borrowed to fund their college education is increasing rapidly with no signs of decline.

According to the Student Loan Statistics, students across the United States jointly owe 1.2 trillion dollars in student debt, that’s times two of the IGR of all the 36 states in Nigeria combined. Just for student loans. If our government was responsive enough to give student loans in Nigeria, only God knows how much we’d owe in student loan debt. The Institute for Fiscal Studies in the United Kingdom stated that three quarter of students would never be able to pay back the student loans till they die.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is obvious tertiary education is now like the devil that gives you a cap and takes your head in return. How can something that sets us so far back be said to be relevant in putting us ahead.

In conclusion dear audience, excellence takes different forms in different fields, but it’s definition remains the same. It is setting yourself apart from the rest and being exceptional. To do this, whatyou would need is creativity, hardwork, passion and dedication, because those are the things that make you an exception, not just tertiary education. Thank you.