The teaching and learning of Entrepreneurship Education in tertiary institutions is of paramount interest to all stakeholders. The National Policy on Education describes Education as an instrument ‘par excellence’ for effecting national development (FRN, 2004). It is conceived that education is capable of bringing about the desired socio-economic and political changes in the country. The recent call for the inclusion of Entrepreneurship Education in tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria is an indication of its importance to employment creation; as Nigeria continues to churn out graduates from our various institutions that are hardly self reliant but solely dependent on white collar jobs for sustenance because they lack adequate skills that will make them function effectively and efficiently towards the development of the economy.
In the western world, the need to recognizing entrepreneurship education started to gain prominence immediately after the Second World War. After the World War 11 that lasted for a period of six (6) years (1939 – 1945), there was evidence of collapse of most of the structures of the economy thereby making it impossible for the government to fully absorb all the graduates of the educational system. Though the situation during those periods were not the same with what was obtainable in developing countries like Nigeria. The discovery of crude oil at Oloibiri in the 1950s subsequently led to oil boom in the country and there were enough funds in the government treasury to fully absorb all the graduates of the educational system at various levels. The collapse of the oil boom thereby leading to economic recession in the country with its accompanying problems – unemployment, poverty and othe social vices like kidnapping, youth restiveness, and Boko Haram insurgency redirected the focus of Nigerians. The increasing level of unemployment in the country was what informed the introduction of entrepreneurship education in 2006 by the Federal Government to remedy the problems of unemployment, poverty and unrest in the country (Ediagbonya, 2013; Imeokparia & Ediagbonya, 2013).
The Federal Government made the programme compulsory for students of higher education institutions irrespective of area of specialization and in most tertiary institutions, entrepreneurship education has been adopted as a compulsory general studies course for students. The overall objective is to continuously foster entrepreneurship culture and spirit amongst students and faculty with a view to educating them as well as supporting graduates of the system towards establishing and also maintaining sustainable business ventures (Urbano, Aponte & Toledano, 2008). The Minister of education stressed that the National Universities Commission (NUC) was given presidential directives by the Ministry of Education to supervise and coordinate the programme of introducing entrepreneurship education in Nigerian institutions of higher learning in collaboration with all regulatory bodies of higher institutions – the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) to be handled by the committee set up by the Federal Government.
As a nation, Nigeria has been working tirelessly since the collapse of oil boom to achieve youth independence, poverty eradication and improved economic status through several reforms and programme initiatives such as the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP), Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), National Directorate of Employment (NDE) among others. Regrettably, however these programme initiatives aimed at capacity building and utilization seem not to have helped in any way to equip young school leavers (Youths) with appropriate skills that will empower them after graduation from school (Okolocha & Okolocha, 2012).
Despite strong economic growth, youth’s full – time unemployment rate for 2006-2008 in Nigeria was put at 55.9%. Till today, youth unemployment has continued to be on the increase. Countries like Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, China, India, Korea, to mention a few, have joined the community of industrialized nations by strengthening their small scale industries. Nigeria on its part is equally trying to join other industrialized countries by 2020. It is in a bid to bridge the gap between youth unemployment and job creation that the Federal Ministry of Education made entrepreneurship education one of the compulsory general studies for students in tertiary institutions across the country to inculcate in the youths the spirit of self reliance, which has become essential for national economic growth and development. The essence of entrepreneurship education is to build in the students entrepreneurship spirit and culture (Akpomi, 2009; Adejimola & Olufunmilayo, 2009). Entrepreneurship education has emphasis on education for self-employment rather than education for paid employment. This kind of education has become so important in Nigeria owing to the high level of unemployment coupled with its accompanying social vices and unrest. It is believed that this kind of education is capable of meaningfully engaging the individuals and making them more productive and useful to themselves and the country at large.
The growth and development of the economy depends largely on the kind of skills that the graduates of our educational institutions are equipped with. According to Ihebereme (2010), skill acquisition is the process of acquiring or gaining effective and ready knowledge in developing ones aptitude and ability in a particular field. Skill acquisition is one among the policies embarked upon in Nigeria with the sole aim to alleviate poverty, youth restiveness, sophisticated crime and corruption rate; rural – urban drift, unemployment and other social vices (Ihebereme, 2010). Skill acquisition in Nigeria tertiary education level is meant to equip our students with more practical and less theoretical knowledge on income generating skills. Mbionwu (2008) noted that when youths are given adequate training in skills, they can be self-employed after schooling; hence they become active partners in both community and national development. The possession of skill is important in preventing youths from becoming social misfit. Ihebereme (2008) opined that skill acquisition (Entrepreneurship) education in Nigerian educational system acts as a rehabilitator, re-orientator, motivator and empowered to the under-privileged (students of poor parents). These skills are described as entrepreneurial skills (Akudolu, 2010).
Okolocha and Okolocha (2012) described entrepreneurship skills as business skills which one acquires to function effectively in the turbulent business environment as an independent or self-employed person in order to improve one’s economic status and the society at large. The result of the study carried out by Okebukola (2006) confirmed that most Nigerian graduates are deficient in self-reliance and entrepreneurial skills. In a similar vein, Anyakoha (1997) as cited by Olumese and Clark (2011) stressed that training for entrepreneurship skill development is not currently well articulated by Nigerian universities. The importance of entrepreneurial skill cannot be over-emphasized since appropriate skill acquisition through entrepreneurship will help to make young school leavers’ to be self-reliant and boost their economic states. Isike (2008) stated that entrepreneurship has been identified globally and nationally as a tool for generating a sustainable economy which is the core value of the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategies (NEEDS). Uloko and Ejinkonye (2010) remarked that when youths are empowered through the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills, there is the possibility that they will use the skills to create new avenues for wealth. Empowering the youths to set up businesses involves proper acquisition of skills through education and training. In a study carried out by Egwanyenga and Ranor (2012), the authors concluded that the entrepreneurial skills are: managerial skills, accounting and financial competency skills, marketing and sales, general business and human relations skills. The entrepreneurial skills possessed by graduates are perceived in different ways by stakeholders.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Entrepreneurship education which is a sort of intervention programme which was introduced into Nigeria’s tertiary education sub-sector in 2006 to remedy the unemployment challenge; and redirect the attention of our youths/graduates towards job creation by instilling in them relevant entrepreneurial skills that will positively grow and develop the economy. The goals and objectives of the programme seem laudable and for these goals and objectives to be achieved, some machinery has to be put in place. The relevance of this programme in the curriculum of all tertiary institutions in Nigeria is geared at creating an entrepreneurial culture and entrepreneurial spirits in the students. Since the introduction of this programme, there seems to be increase in graduates’ unemployment. For instance, the unemployment rate as at 2006 was 5.3 percent but as at 2011, it has risen up to 23.9 percent. Many graduates seem to be roaming the streets in search for white collar jobs.
The rate of poverty, corruption and so many other social vices has become worrisome to the government and to every well meaning citizen despite the introduction of entrepreneurship education. This state of affair is of great concern to the researchers and if this trend continues, it will leave no one in doubt to question the relevance of entrepreneurship education in the school curriculum. The main purpose of this research work was to find out the perceptions of Business Education students on the relevance of Entrepreneurship Education.
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