Recovering Philosophy in the ‘PhD in Nigeria – By: . .
By Professor Tunji Olaopa
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported in the second quarter of 2020 that there were 76,526 PhD graduates in Nigeria. Indeed, in the absence of current and useful data, we can cautiously approach the figure for 2022 at around 85,000. And there are approximately more than 20,000 PhD students in Nigerian universities. This should be nice statistics in terms of educational data for national development. But then statistical good taste deteriorated when you pair the large number of PhDs with the raging unemployment figure and the quality and relevance of education in the country. Still tracking the 2020 figure, the NBS said 16.9% were unemployed. The breakdown is that while about 46,000 are fully employed, 15,000 are underemployed and 12,000 are unemployed. And the worst evidence in this analysis of the situation is that a large part of the approximately 20,000 doctoral candidates will be added to the unemployment figures at the end of their doctoral studies.
Then there is the fundamental question of the strength of these PhD holders, and their abilities and skills to intervene intellectually, through significant research, in the difficult socio-economic situations of Nigeria. The quality of PhDs from Nigerian universities is closely linked to the status of the universities, their infrastructural dynamics and their academic acumen. Once we take into consideration ASUU’s outcry over the state of Nigerian universities, as well as the precarious working conditions of academic staff, we come away with a negative verdict on what to expect from degree holders. doctorate that we produce each year. The state of higher education in Nigeria makes it extremely difficult to produce effective and far-sighted PhD holders with the philosophical sensibility who deduce and solve problems logically and within a broader view of human well-being and their humanity. .
A fair diagnosis, therefore, is that PhD programs in Nigerian universities are essentially devoid of their fundamental core: the philosophical essence of a Doctor of Philosophy. This diagnosis is rooted in the stilted ideological postulate of the National Education Policy. By distinguishing the human sciences on the one hand, and the natural, social and management sciences on the other; and by preferring the latter to the former, the federal government is basing the Nigerian education system on a philosophical path that rejects philosophy, history and the humanities as important to national integration and development. If philosophical sensibility is central to the nature and relevance of the humanities, then relegating the humanities to the background of the national development equation in the NPEs is not only to undermine the fullness of what the doctorate entails for grasping the essence and foundations of life and existence and being, it should be done more creatively.
The anti-intellectualism of the Nigerian political class manifests itself in the nonchalant attitude towards the health of higher education in Nigeria, as the very linchpin of human capital development that sustains the backbone of the Nigerian state in as a development entity. Universities produce human capital as a result of research on existing and developing bodies of knowledge. And these human capitals are conditioned to also achieve the advancement of knowledge through their commitment to enrich existing bodies of knowledge, either in industries or through new research. When universities produce students, the graduates are end products of specific knowledge about societies and economies. And they are expected to generate new knowledge that continues to fuel knowledge production for the good of society and the nation. The principles, theories, formulas, hypotheses and postulates that are taught to these graduates are meant to run through them for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of society and the good of mankind.
Philosophy occupies a prominent place in the understanding and analysis of all the knowledge that is gathered and used. Philosophy and philosophical methods, especially critical thinking, moderate basic and applied research, especially in describing, analyzing and synthesizing ideas, issues, problems, data and the direction in which to drive problems related to progress of society and the future of our society. civilization. More fundamentally, the philosophy emphasizes clarity of ideas and problems, and rigor in seeking answers and resolutions through properly worded queries and questions. More fundamentally, philosophy – as the love of wisdom – is about knowledge and proper facts that could be properly deployed for human welfare. Wisdom is not just an abstraction. It has functional tangibility. It asks the question: what do we do with what we know – about the world and about ourselves?
The culmination of the academic accumulation of this functional knowledge is the doctorate. It is the highest degree awarded by a university. Philosophy, as the love of wisdom, therefore sums up the apogee of the love of knowledge and its usefulness in practice. So it stands to reason that the highest degree would be a Doctor of Philosophy. However, having a doctorate does not make the holder a philosopher. But that’s because we’ve used ‘philosopher’ here to mean someone who has dedicated their life to studying philosophy as a discipline and understanding its methods and subjects. But there is a broad view of philosophy that makes every human being a philosopher. In this context, we are all proto-philosophers insofar as we are curious about our existence and what it implies. A PhD holder approaches philosophy in that he acquires knowledge in a specialized field that speaks of problem-solving ability and critical thinking. At this level, a doctorate, strictly speaking, must be able to apply the accumulated knowledge to difficult problems and situations. She must be able to search and re-search in such a way as to open the way to solutions and resolutions. After all, philosophy was usually the sum of all practical knowledge.
However, the real question is not whether all doctors are philosophers. On the contrary, one must ask oneself if it is desirable to make a doctor of a philosopher. The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’. Philosophy goes beyond a research method. When we look for a philosopher in a Ph.D., we require a Ph.D. holder to be primarily trained to be a thinker – that’s Ph.D. philosophy. A philosopher in this sense develops insight – the insight that allows a relationship between existence, meaning and values in life. And the thread that runs through all three is the accumulated knowledge that connects the values to the meaning that makes existence bearable. When a candidate therefore applies for a doctorate in a university, he enters a journey of discovery, through a regime of disciplined research, which describes the relationship between accumulated knowledge and the imperative of being human. Knowledge becomes useless – from physics and quantum computing to sociology and human geography – if it is not conditioned by the human search for meaning. The methodological rigor involved in research for the doctorate involves perseverance, creativity, imaginative learning, critical and analytical thinking, passion, patience and communicative openness. However, all of this opens the candidate up to an empathetic mindset that sees a larger picture of humans and humanity, and the functionality of knowledge gained in the larger search for meaning. It is the ability to see a broader view of humanity and the values that give meaning to life that makes a PhD holder a philosopher – a thinker with the imperative to make life and life worth living. of interest.
From the above, it is not difficult to see how the doctorate as a philosopher becomes essential to the task of nation building in Nigeria. With an expanded mind, beaming in those dimensions of being and being that my little 2010 book calls The Joy of Learning, such a doctoral graduate transcends the ethnic and religious prejudices that paralyze the national integration project in the Nigeria. Discipline requires accumulating and sifting through knowledge to determine which is relevant and which does not condition open-mindedness. A critical and analytical mind enables the ability to see how we can move beyond the frivolous and superficial as a people to a deeper understanding of our collective malaise and ways out of it. Sadly, however, it is also not difficult for the discerning reader to see how turning a PhD holder into a thinker becomes a rather herculean task in Nigeria. The condition that makes higher education the context for such transformation simply does not exist. The universities themselves are not driven by any philosophical clarity about the vision of their existence and their goals vis-à-vis Nigeria’s postcolonial knowledge production and development research.
First, the goals of higher education in Nigeria therefore need to be reviewed and rethought, particularly within the framework of the national education policy. The place of the humanities, and of philosophy in the humanities and in national development, must be properly and creatively realigned side by side with the natural, social and management sciences. Philosophy is fundamentally central to understanding the educational dynamics of a nation, as it is central to the doctorate a student obtains from such higher education which is believed to produce the human capital to transform such a nation. Once philosophy is missing anywhere in this equation, hope is lost!
Oloapa is a retired federal permanent secretary