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Title: Education for all? : complex solutions to complex problems in the Nigerian education sector
Author: Waziri, Nafisa
ISNI:       0000 0004 9348 3805
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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As Nigeria has grown to be the biggest economy on the continent, it has also earned the unfortunate distinction of having the highest number of out of school children in the world. Population growth disproportionate to investments in the education sector have stretched out resources to the detriment of quality. In the North, the majority of pupils are functionally illiterate. This is further compounded by a security (and humanitarian) crisis with girls in particular facing daunting odds. While the South has slightly better learning outcomes, there has been a steady decline in performance across the board. Unstable enrolment rates, high poverty levels, growing gender disparity and poor teaching quality have meant that even committed states face severe challenges in their efforts to improve the education system. Nonetheless, limited resources are still directed towards closing the education deficit. One of the notable efforts is the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN). Using ESSPIN as a case-study, this thesis explores the potential of a new approach to development planning and implementation in the education sector; a complex adaptive systems approach. Structured in two parts, the research first makes the case for viewing the education sector as a complex system, and then moves out of the theoretical domain into development practice (a modelling exercise). Two of the most populated states (Kaduna and Lagos), representing the North and South are selected for analysis. To understand the dynamics of change processes, the research adopts investigative techniques (observations, interviews and interactive surveys) to collect primary data first-hand, and then simulates the social system using technical instruments (computing platforms and coding libraries). With secondary data from state records and projects reports, these elements come together in the development of one model architecture – the School Improvement Programme Model (SIPM). This research is a critical analysis of simulating social systems. It aims to shed light on the insights that can be gained from complex systems thinking, as well as its limitations. Results from the SIPM indicate that this approach can be utilised to recreate historical states within an acceptable range of accuracy. Thus, there is some potential for the SIPM as a tool to reasonably anticipate how changing conditions might affect the impact ESSPIN in the future. This research also provides a frank discussion on the challenges of this approach – the difficulty of ascertaining the precise effect of each element, over-elaborated processes, the degree to which assumptions about the system are inevitable, and the potential implications of any one of these considerations on the model. Overall, this approach demonstrates the multiple ways elements are connected in the education system. As with the famous metaphor of the butterfly effect, the SIPM operates under the same principles that allow small changes to produce a chain of events with large scale differences in a system. Processes of development (indeed change) are shown to be non-linear, and this thesis argues for a higher level of flexibility, while unpacking the problem of “measuring” project outcomes. By weaving together theory and practice, this research aims to contribute to development planning in Nigeria, and more generally to the design (and application) of models in an often “messy” and complex development space.
Supervisor: Fennell, Shailaja ; Clark, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Education ; Nigeria ; Agent Based Modelling ; Complex Adaptive Systems ; Human Development ; School Improvement Plan Model ; Complexity ; Learning crisis ; Lagos state ; Kaduna state ; Model validation ; Modelling uncertainty ; International aid