“Cartoons have ruined learning”
3 tips to get Nigerian students excited about school
For over three decades, Comfort Oyekanmi has been an educator. Starting as a graduate assistant at Kwara Polytechnic, she has taught across Nigeria and earned a master’s degree in educational management along the way.
Thirty years and several grandchildren later, she has prepared hundreds of students to take milestone exams like IELTS, IGCSE, and TOEFL. But these days, she works as the head of a primary school in Abuja. She occasionally still teaches Year 6 students.
Oyekanmi admits that teaching children below the age of 10 isn’t without its challenges. They have high energy levels. They struggle to sit still. And, don’t get Oyekanmi started on TV’s negative influence: “Cartoons have bastardized learning,” she said.
So, what’s the trick to teaching primary school children in an age of constant distraction? Oyekanmi shares three tips to get Nigerian students excited about school.
Draw children into learning with visuals
Primary school teachers need to be firm and carefully guide their students because they think education is boring. “You need to make them see the reason why they should learn for mastery,” said Oyekanmi.
To get children excited about learning, Oyekanmi plays to their strengths. Children are highly visual learners. They retain 75% more information through visuals than just reading text. Since children are often glued to screens, and watching cartoons, Oyekanmi engages reluctant learners through educational videos.
Once Oyekanmi coached a family with four children. One of the children, a boy, seemed impossible to reach. Oyekanmi had heard about the uLesson app and tried it for the first time with him. The interactive and colorful videos drew him in because they were like the cartoons that he frequently watched. Working with young children, teachers have to meet them where they are.
Positive reinforcement and healthy competition
Children love to be recognized just like adults. Blow their achievements out of proportion. Motivation is an incredibly potent tool. “Exaggerating their accomplishments, putting gold stars in front of their names [on the blackboard] goes a long way,” she said.
Oyekanmi also stokes healthy competition among students. This was the tactic she used to turn the indifferent learner [from above] into a high-achieving student. When he took his first test on the uLesson app, he failed. He quickly realized he was being tested, and simultaneously scored, alongside his peers, which pushed him to do better. He performed above average on the next test and has steadily improved.
Repetition to obtain mastery
For Oyekanmi, repetition is critical to academic mastery, especially for subjects like mathematics. ‘“If you’re a day away from maths, it will be a week away from you. There’s no shortcut to learning for retention,” she said. For her, learning for mastery is a key difference between the education she received decades ago vs now. Oyekanmi credits her education at the Anglican College of Commerce in Offa for her critical thinking skills. Decades after she graduated, she was able to teach her children Biology when they were preparing for SSCE exams.
Yet, today, teachers, parents and students face enormous pressure to score high marks on exams. Teaching methods tend to prioritize rote learning instead of retention. They teach to the test – not to learn. By making learning fun, children will be more motivated to practice so they retain concepts and perform well in school.
In a world of distractions and cartoons, it can seem challenging to teach children at the primary level. Oyekanmi believes that educators should use whatever tools or resources to help their students succeed in the classroom. “I was happy to learn about uLesson. It’s like a replacement for cartoons that parents use to occupy children,” said Onyekanmi. (She was also pleasantly surprised to learn it was a Nigerian-made and owned solution.)
When teachers instill a love of learning in children early on, they become more confident and curious. They can even learn ahead of the class. That should be the goal of any educator or parent.