EDUCATION AS A TOOL OF SOCIAL RECONSTRUCTION INTRODUCTION The etymology of the word education is the Latin educare meaning "to raise", "to bring up", "to train", or "to rear". Thus, education is the process by which an individual is encouraged and enabled to fully develop his or her potential; it may also serve the purpose of equipping, bringing up, training and rearing the individual to be a productive member of the society. Through teaching and learning the individual acquires and develops knowledge and skills. It is also defined by the New Catholic Encyclopedia as the aggregate of all those experiences that enlighten the mind, increase knowledge, foster insight, develop abilities and attitudes, and strengthen the will. In its restricted sense, education implies the systematic acquisition of knowledge through recognized agencies and a controlled environment, particularly that of the school on an elementary, secondary or higher level, in order to attain social competence and optimum personal development. It may be formal or informal. Informal education refers to the general social process by which human beings acquire the knowledge and skills needed to function in their culture. Formal education refers to the process by which teachers instruct students in courses of study within institutions. Formal education always has a pride of place in any discussion about education. Yet, the word's broader meaning covers a range of experiences, from formal learning to the building of understanding and knowledge through day to day experiences. Ultimately, all our experiences serve as a form of education. There is a saying that experience is the best teacher. However, reference to education henceforth will be to formal education. AIM OF EDUCATION Education at its earliest stage is aimed at acquitting pupils with the "Three R's" skill of reading, writing and arithmetic. These skills are further developed to realize the four-fold goal of education: the social purpose, intellectual, economic, and political/civic purpose. The realisation of these goals will result in an integrated person who exhibits the qualities of maturity, obedience, humility, etc. An educated person is holistic. BRIEF HISTORY OF EDUCATION The earliest educational processes involved sharing information about gathering food and providing shelter; making weapons and other tools; learning language; and acquiring the values, behavior, and religious rites or practices of a given culture. This took place through a direct, informal education where parents and elders taught children the skills and roles they would need as adults using oral tradition, or story telling to pass on their culture and history from one generation to the next. By using language, people learned to create and use symbols, words, or signs to express their ideas. When these symbols grew into pictorial representations and letters, human beings began to invent a written language and then made the great cultural leap. This was the seedbed for the formal education we have today. In the ancient Egyptian empire, which flourished from about 3000 BC to about 500 BC, there was already a formalization of education. Cultic priests in temple schools were tasked with the function of teaching religion, the principles of writing, the sciences, mathematics, and architecture. In the same way, Indian priests conducted most of the formal education in India. Greece, which is viewed as one of the origins of Western education cannot be skipped here for its contribution to education, especially, in the field of philosophy. All these have metamorphosed into the understanding of education we have today. THE NIGERIAN SITUATION At the time of independence, there were only two post-secondary institutions in Nigeria: University College (Ibadan) and Yaba Higher College. Four more government Â¬operated universities were established in the 1960s, one in each geographic region University of Nigeria, Nsukka (east); University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (west); Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (north); and University of Lagos, (south). This nurture has continued to grow to over 50 Universities and colleges in t e country at the moment. This number also includes those Universities founded by churches and private individuals. The country introduced the Universal Primary Education CUPE) Programme in 1976 (the period of Nigeria's "oil boom") with the aim of declaring a free primary education. This programme naturally collapsed on account of poor planning, faulty statistics, and inadequate funding as soon as the days of economic recess that followed the "oil boom" caught up with it. There was a generally low quality of teachers recruited to man the program and the trainees for the programme rushed through a short- term, often ineffective training program. Then came the Universal Basic Education (UBE) a Programme that was launched in September 1999 with the aim of improving on the Universal Primary Education. There have also been series of changes in the Nigerian system of education from 6-5-4 system to 6-3-3-4 system and the recent 9-3-4 system. AII these systems that refer to the primary education, secondary education and the tertiary education respectively, are all ways designed to adequately educate Nigerians. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for the following reasons; Many Nigerian children lack access to education. Some people especially in the rural areas are sometimes unaware of the importance of education, and there is economic pressure from those parents who prioritize their children's making money in the short term over any long-term benefits of education. Examples abound in the Eastern part of the country where young boys easily drop out of school and enroll in business with a mentality that the years that should have been spent in school can as well be spent as an apprentice with a higher chance of getting self employed afterwards. The prevalent scene of early marriages and cultural values opposed to female education in the Northern part of the country also buttresses the fact that many Nigerian children have little or no access to education. It is also a fact that primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Nigeria are grossly under-funded. Evidence abound on the degree of dilapidated buildings that characterize many primary and secondary school buildings in parts of the country; the non-payment and late payment of teachers salaries and allowances as a result of which strikes often characterize this sector; inadequate teaching and learning materials at all levels of the educational system, among other indices. It has also been argued that financial mismanagement and lack of accountability by officials lead to diverting substantial resources from the educational institutions to other ends. Our Universities and in some cases, our secondary schools are more easily identified with juvenile delinquencies and indiscipline manifest in aspects like examination malpractices, secret cults, prostitution resulting in unwanted pregnancies, bribery and corruption, unlawful killings, etc. These menaces have eluded every solution and have continued to plague our educational system. Many of these crises have also caused some of our academics to go into other sectors of the Nigerian economy and even outside the country in search of greener pastures. There is no gain stating that the current education system measures competency with tests and assignments and then assigns each student a corresponding grade and certificates. The grades, usually a percentage, are intended to represent the amount of all material presented in class that the student understood. But our experience of "semi-i11 iterate" or "half-baked" graduates who carry around their certificates show that this may not be the best and only way of assessing students. Besides, evidence abound to show that some (or many) students actively engage in examination malpractice, buy results and do many other things to obtain certificates. Thus many graduates may best be described as "certificate graduates" without a corresponding productiveness in their field of study. WAY FORWARD The saying that "a stitch in time saves nine" may be relevant to Nigeria's educational system. Of course, there is need for a sanatio in radice- 'healing from the root', for this country's education system so as to realize the afore-mentioned aims of education. This task will imply: A good orientation of the populace on the need for education. * Provision of job opportunities to cater for graduating students. * Good management of educational facilities and funds. * Good teachers' welfare. * Increase in vocational schools. * Incentives for teachers. * Encouragement of good educational policies. * Adequate moral and religious studies in schools especially, in primary and secondary schools. * Establishment of more schools. * Free education, possibly to the tertiary level. * Child labour should be outlawed. CONCLUSION Apparently, Western education is the order of the day in Nigerian education. Though, the country has made giant strides in all levels of education since her independence, this should not have to make her complacent for there is still much to be done. A good number of her populace is still uneducated in the light of formal education. Undoubtedly, education needs to be adequately funded if quality must be guaranteed. Accountability must be engraved in our socio-economic attitude and policies. Good education policies and the anti-corruption crusade initiated by the Obasanjo-Ied administration merit wide support. Indigenous and Islamic education should be encouraged with emphasis on their inclusion of a curriculum that aims at training holistic individuals and citizens of this country. These anticipated holistic persons must not forget these three things that make an individual- hard work, sincerity, commitment. These three qualities will undoubtedly bring about a social reconstruction in Nigeria.