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Monday, July 16, 2012

Values-Based Education: The Role of Library and Information Science Educators in Nigeria--Uloma Doris Onuoha

Uloma Doris Onuoha is a lecturer in the Department of Information Resources Management, Babcock University Nigeria. She can be reached at:

Nigeria is a federal constitutional republic located in West Africa; the country is made up of 36 states. After attaining independence in 1960, the implementation of educational awareness in Nigeria became an essential priority with the government spending so much to establish and maintain schools at all levels of education. In a bid to increase the opportunity given to youths to pursue education at the tertiary level, six new universities were added to the already existing one hundred and four universities currently operating in the country (Apata, 2010). Despite increasing the number of universities and other educational institutions in the country, there are growing indications of eroding social values, taking into consideration daily news reports of political corruption, examination malpractices, armed robbery, human trafficking, kidnapping and a host of other related ills. This situation is however, not limited to the Nigerian society alone. The global call for values-based education (Hawkes, 2011; Sayers, 2007; Joshi, 2007) is a strong indication of the seriousness of the issue worldwide. Considering the number of students enrolled in Library and Information Science (LIS) programmes in Nigerian universities nationwide, there is need for LIS educators to take advantage of their position as teachers to contribute to societal development by adding practical life lessons beyond that found in textbooks to bring about holistic learning experiences targeted at transforming behaviour. As noted by Yogi (2009), education that does not help promote human virtues will not be of any good to the society, rather it will mislead the entirety of humanity.
Values-based Education
Education according to Aliyu and Oyafunke (2003) is a process of socialisation often performed by many institutions and agencies. Among them are the family, peers groups, school, government, cultural and religious groups. Education in the view of Erwin (1991) is the deliberate and systematic influence exerted by the mature person upon the immature, through instruction, discipline, and harmonious development of physical, intellectual, aesthetic, social and spiritual powers of human beings. Education can therefore be said to be a process of character building, whether it takes place in schools, churches, mosques or homes. The university as an educational institution oversees not only the academic achievement of students but their character building as well. As noted by Aliyu and Oyafunke (2003) at most convocation ceremonies in Nigerian universities, statements like "having been found worthy in both academics and character, we hereby award you the Bachelors in …." are usually made. This is of course a public acknowledgement that values in education are not inseparable from the values of life.
Values are principles about what is right and wrong. Ethmen, Mahlinger and Patrick (1974) describe it as standards used to decide whether some objects are good or bad, right or wrong, important or worthless, preferable or not preferable. Success in Librarianship therefore is not solely dependent on the possession of professional skills, but also on ones' ability to differentiate between right or wrong. Yogi (2009) argues that while education opens up the mind, values-based education brings about purity of heart. A Librarian who has been well trained in the profession would therefore be in possession of professional skills and character necessary to fit into the larger society. In line with this, William (1992) as cited by Mullan (2001) describes an educated person as one who listens and hears, reads and writes, has the ability to solve problems, seeks the truth, is tolerant, humble, nurtures and empowers others.
As the quest for values-based education becomes global, there is evidence that the educated person as described by William (1996) is being sought after now more than ever before. This is affirmed by Sayers (2007), who points out thatinternational focus in respect of values-based education is on co-operation, honesty, love, respect, responsibility, freedom, humility, peace, happiness, simplicity, tolerance and unity.
Relevance of Values-Based Education to Nigerian Society
Former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo (1999) as cited by Ogunji (2009) admits that immorality is the bane of Nigerian society. This is affirmed by Ajala (2002) who compares the threat of moral decay in Nigeria to the threat of a nuclear bomb. Despite government efforts to bring sanity to the society through the launching of laudable programmes such as ethical revolution (1980-1982) and War against Indiscipline (1983), Nigeria continues to witness the eroding of core values, identified by Aina (2004) as taking responsibilities, family, truth, integrity equity, do not harm and common good. While the blame can be attributed to poor leadership (Gbefwi, n. d.) some strongly believe that the get -rich- quick syndrome among the youth is mostly responsible (Elebeke, 2011; Kuta, 2010). Popoola (2010), however, blames educators focus on the development of the intellectual abilities of a person at the neglect of character. This corroborates an earlier view expressed by White (2002) in which the author states that the aim of secular education is the gratification of selfish ambition and quest for supremacy which encourages centralisation of wealth and the enrichment of the few at the expense of many.
Although character building is cited as one of the aims of tertiary education in Nigeria as seen in the National Policy of Education (NPE) document (Infamuyiwa and Alebiosu, 2008), Ogunji (2010) affirms that the mission statements of most tertiary institutions in the country emphasize academic and intellectual development thereby undermining the moral aim of education as contained in NPE document which according to the author accounts for little effort in including character building into the curriculum. The implication here is that teachers are not mandated to bring in life values into the classroom. Character building, therefore, becomes a personal choice of the teacher at the detriment of the society. The relevance of values-based education for the Nigerian society is acknowledged by Akinpelu(1974) as cited in Ossat (2004) who states that character education will help to transmit socially acceptable values of the society. By introducing values to the curriculum, teachers would pay more effort to organising their lessons in ways that detail description of behaviour which are permitted in the society.
Values and LIS education
According to Highet (1974), the first responsibility of a teacher is to know his/her subject thoroughly. Subject knowledge he claims would make a teacher enjoy his or her subject, draw illustrations easily and bring out topics for discussions which are necessary for imparting values. The LIS educator, who imbibes the spirit of values-based education, would no doubt have an in-depth understanding of his subject to be able to look beyond the development of professional skills to the development of the whole being.
Various courses are taught in the process of LIS education. Courses range from Indexing and Abstracting, Records management, Management Information Systems, Cataloguing and Classification, e.t.c. These courses prepare students to work in Library and Information Services environment. Reference services as a course presents an excellent opportunity for the LIS educator to train up leaders of future industries in Nigeria. While the major objectives for teaching this course would be to: develop familiarity with general information sources; develop skills in the examination, use and evaluation of information sources; discuss the processes involved in providing information (e.g. the reference interview), e.t.c. it also presents an excellent opportunity to teach societal values. Receiving users with respect, being polite, putting up a smiling face, presenting one's ideas strongly but politely are indeed virtues that should extend beyond the work environment. They should extend to our homes, friends, colleagues and all those who come our way. It should be made a way of life for harmonious living, understanding and tolerance. LIS educators in the treatment of certain topics as "reference interview" could emphasis that Librarians do not assume to know it all, which is why they listen and seek for clarification in the reference process. This lesson could be related to the real world as it operates within the same basic principle, nobody knows it all using it to show the importance of listening to others and appreciating their point of view. Such emphasis, would no doubt lead to better tolerance of others in the society.
Even technical courses such as cataloguing and classification can be used in inculcating values to future Library and Information Science professionals. It would not be out of place to take topics such: "library classification" and "descriptive cataloguing" to transfer life values. The objectives for teaching in this case would extend beyond teaching students to arrange books in order to increase their utility while saving the time of users to teaching values in character building. Students should be made to appreciate the value of logical order in their personal lives as seen in library classification. They should be able to identify and meaningfully place priorities in their personal life, so that they can make maximal use of their lives. In teaching "descriptive cataloguing", LIS educators should not be contented in bringing up future Information professionals who understand the role of AACR2 in cataloguing alone. They should see it as an opportunity to raise future leaders who understand the place of rules in the larger society. Adherence to rules is not only important in bringing conformity and unity in the creation of catalogues, adherence to rules would indeed, make the world a better place to live in with citizens who are law abiding.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Eroding societal values in Nigeria is a problem that demands the urgent attention of teachers, government, families etc. In order to help tackle this issue, LIS educators in Nigeria should stand up to the challenge of guiding the thousands of Nigerian youths enrolled in LIS education all over the country towards the harmonious development of intellectual and social abilities needed to fit into the larger society by creating awareness and encouraging acceptable social behaviours. The federal government of Nigeria should not relent in pursuing its objectives of inculcating character building through schools as reflected in the National Policy of Education (NPE) document. Efforts must be made to ensure compliance with the document by making the inclusion of character building compulsory not only in the curriculum but also in the mission statements of tertiary institutions in Nigeria as this would help motivate educators in general to bring social values to the classroom.
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