In many nations of the world, education has been universally acknowledged as an instrument for national development. Economist and educationists alike have for long held the view that education is a prerequisite for economic growth and a master determination of all aspects of change. Right from the time of Plato it has been the view that “what you want in the state you must put into the school.” Consequently education has come to occupy a central position in the economic, political and cultural development of most developing countries: most of which have for the past decades invested heavily in education in the hope of realising heavy returns in terms of qualified and skilled manpower needed for their over-all  development.
Nigeria is one of the countries that have adopted education as an instrument par excellence for national development. Consequently Nigeria has for decades invested in education in the hope of generating qualified and skilled manpower for developing her abundant natural resources. As the title indicates, the main trust of this paper is on the present and future. But there is no present without a past. Therefore having as I do, a historical background, I shall start off by making a historical survey Of the attempts made since the inception of Western education in Nigeria, to structure her educational objectives and policies to approximate to what was thought compatible with the employment opportunities of the time.
In 1946, soon after the establishment of the first school in Badagry by the Missionaries, Lord Grey had recommended the establishment of agricultural education. The curriculum was intended to include household economy, gardening and surveying and agricultural chemistry (Faghulu, 1983, P 140). The tradition of work-oriented education was not successful as abundant evidence existed in the literature of complaints against the products of the school system who were unwilling to use their hands (Blyden, 1887). The same fate befall the attempt by missionary bodies to set up industrial institutions in Abeokuta.
In the twentieth century the Phelps-Stokes Commission of l922 attempted to redirect the focus of education to work, as it was generally felt that the education given to Africans was inadequate and inappropriate as it educated them away from their environment.  The Commission saw the need for education to keep the Africans in touch with the indigenous welfare of they tribes, to provide them with element of good agriculture and good Hygiene and to give them training in good crafts and home economics. This type of education was highly resented by Africans themselves who preferred the type of education the white collar jobs gave them access to in the government, the  trading companies or as catechists. They criticized the education proposed by the Commission as interior to the privileged education obtained overseas.
Between 1901 and 1950 various educational decisions were taken to meet the particular demand of the economy, training schools were set up by various governmental agencies e.g  the Railways (1901). The public Works Department, the Marine Department and the Posts and Telegraph Department started various courses designed to meet their peculiar needs between 1901- 31. These needs were very special and narrow since the required number of specially trained personnel were very few; this meant little expansion which slowed down the growth of the economy.
The era of open-ended aided professional specialisation started in 1932 with The establishment of the Yaba College of Technology which was designed to train professionally qualified personnel in medicane, agriculture, engineering and education. The institution offered mobility towards a jealously guarded economic stratum which was peopled by expatriates and a few African educated abroad. The Yaba experiment proved the reverse of a pattern whereby the labour market had indicated or dominated the activities of educational institutions. Before that following the recommendations of the 1945 Commission on Higher Education in West Africa, the Nigerian Colleges of Arts, Science and Technology were established (1950 – 54).
Nigeria’s Ten-Year Education Plan (1944 -1945) launched in 1944 aimed to provide a type of education more suitable for the needs of the country and also provide more financial assistance to missions, voluntary educational bodies and native administration for expansion of education (Adesina, 1977). The plan failed to achieve the stated objectives because the goals were vaguely defined and lacked effective executive. The 1948 Education Ordinance proved to be a land mark, in the development of Education as it led to the establishment of the nucleus of what later became the University of Ibadan which offered an elitist type of education for top posts in government.
By the l950s exciting experiments were either being proposed or carried out at both primary and secondary levels by Nigerians who were gradually seizing the initiative from the erstwhile colonial masters. In urgent response to the task of identifying the educational needs of the people, they embarked on the approach of linear expansion as a planning strategy. In 1955 the Western Region introduced the UPE followed by Eastern Region in 1957. In the Western Region the UPE was followed by the three year prevocational modern Schools established to take care of the products of UPE. Both experiences  did not last for long owing to inadequacy of funds. In 1961; before the opening, of the Universities of Lagos and Zaria, a new type of University, the University of Nigeria was founded “to provide for the requirement of industry commerce  and society”.  It’s character was a blend of the landgrant college idea and those of the classical universities. Twenty years later another new type of university was to established  the University of Technology.
Harbison’s  study of Nigeria’s Manpower needs prepared a way for the work of Ashby’s Commission.  (1960). Harbison work focused both on intermediate education and Nigerian’s require for high level manpower for a period of 10 years and warned  against over investing in higher education and over-crowding the Universities with cohoresin on-science education,
a warning which is still very pertinent for todays educational  planning.  The report of that Ashby Commission known as “Investment in Education recommended among other things the setting up of the sixth form for the GCE/AL and the HSC; the up-grading  of the quality of primary  and secondary school teachers rapid expansion of technical colleges and stressed the importance of agricu1ture  despite its flaws in statistic  and projections.
At the University Level, the work of the Commission generated the establishment of two new additional Universities (Lagos and Zaria) opened in 1962. The Commission’s Report came to be regarded as Nigeria’s education “bible”.
The Post-independent Era 1960 —87.
In 1961 the Banjo Commission recommended that the Modern Schools in the Western Region be converted to Junior Secondary Schools which stressed shop practice commercial and business practice and basic science These were the needs of the Sixties; the JSS had flourished for a long time in America and were being experimented with in Liberia in 1961. In 1962, the First National Development Plan was launched. The confusion resulting from the nations political independence hindered the success of the plan. Education became more politicized and general statement of the plan on education pleaded for a programme designed to increase as rapidly and as economically as possible the high level manpower which is indispensable to accelerated development.
In the same year (1962) the comprehensive concept was introduced in Nigeria secondary education. It provided a single source for the identification and nurture of diversified talents and gave meaning to the egalitarian principles of equality of education opportunity.  The flirtation with coin comprehensive education was short lived flue ‘to shortage of funds. The Second National Develop Plan (1970) focused on the reconstruction and reconciliation of the damages caused by the 1966 crisis. The plan focused on the problem of education  gap and the usual questions of the middle – level educational expansion as well as the increase in enrolment of university students in the sciences, engineering and technology
The Third Nation Development plan (1975 — 1980) has been described as  “the most comprehensive of all since planning began in Nigerian.
Its innovative programmes include the introduction of the all-timed and ill- planned Universal Primary Education on a country-wide basis, the establishment of 4 additional universities and the strengthening of the existing one. It recommended massive expansion of student enrolment from the current 23,000 to 53,000 by 1980 on a ratio of 60:40 between the sciences and Humanities. The massive financial implications of the UPE were under estimated and it soon failed. Before that however it had triggered off massive expansion of the education system at an unprecedented rate, and this has created manpower problems which the country now has to battle with.
The philosophy and general policy framework for educational policy in Nigeria since the Fourth Plan Period (1980 – 86) are based on the contents of the “National Policy on Education” first published in 1977 and revised in 1981. The main policy objective in the education sector during the Fourth Plan was to raise the quality of education at all levels in order to make the products of the educational system more useful to society and to maintain education as one of the prime engines for development.
There was a significant improvement in the quality of the teaching staff as the number of qualified teachers increased from 271, 841 in 1980/81 at the beginning of the plan period to 285, 403 by 1983/84. In many States of the Federation, exercise books, text books, and other learning materials were provided free to the pupils at this level of education. The momentum generated by the Universal Primary Education (UPE) was sustained and led to further Increase in enrolment and the number of primary schools. Enrolment grew from 13.76 million in 1980/81 to 14.66 million in 1982/83 and to about 15.5 million in 1983/84. During the same period, the number of primary schools increased front 36,083 in 1980/81 to about 38,219 in 1983/84.
At the Secondary level the policy objectives for the Fourth Plan period 1981 to 1985 were to shift emphasis from purely academic curriculum to pre-vocational and vocational training by phasing secondary education into two sequential stages, the JSS and the SSS in accordance with the new National Policy on Education. A Policy of deboarding in favour of day neighbourhood schools was to be pursued.
As in the case of primary education, the period was marked by a tremendous rise in number of secondary grammar/commercial schools from about 4,495 in 1980/81 to about 5,642 in 1983/84 representing an increase about 26%. Similarly, enrolment increased from 2.024 million in 1980/81 to about in 3.154 million in 1983/84 reflecting an increase of about 56.3%. This increase in both enrolment and number of schools was due to the large turn out of the early sets of UPE and the successful implementation of the Policy of de-boarding which favoured the establishment of secondary schools
Within walking distances of pupils and consequent reduction in overall cost of secondary education to both parents and the government. The Policy also favoured soured the release of substantial funds to other aspects of secondary education.
Technical Education
Though priority was place on technical education during the Fourth Period, because of shortage of funds, less than 40% of the planned objectives were achieved and the growth of enrolment in technical/vocational school rose from 73,097 in 1980/81 to about 99,836 in 1983/84.
Teacher Education Trainings Level:
The expansion was achieved quantitatively although admission requirement were relaxed resulting in increased intakes and output of various grades of teachers for its numerous primary and secondary schools. In 1980/84, there were about 296 teacher training institutions of various categories with a total enrolment of about 272,000 students. By 1983/84 total enrolment had risen to about 286, 000
Higher Education
In pursuance of developing high level technological manpower, seven universities of technology were established by the Federal Government in addition to the 13 conventional Universities already in existence. Also 8 state universities were established bringing the number of universities in the country to 28. In order to meet the ever-rising demand for higher education, a Federal Open University was also established. The increasing financial constraint caused by the providing economic recession in the country and the need to ensure that qualitative education was maintained in these institutions, led to the reduction of the number of these universities. Four of the seven technological universities were merged with four of the existing conventional universities, the open university was suspended indefinitely and inordinate proliferation of private universities (about 36 of them) was prescribed by law.
During the same period, total university enrolment rose from 74,895 in 1980/81 to about 123,743 in 1984/85 in the conventional universities; subjects has not improved significantly in favour of science based subjects;. the enrolment ratio of science based discipline to arts and social science the ratio new ranges front 17.83 in Sokoto to 54.46 in Ibadan. All these are related to the low output of science students by the secondary schools.
An obvious problem resulting from this phenomenal expansion in the entire educational system in the recent past in response to excessive social demand, was the attendant real or threatened decline in quality. A vicious circle was set-up which eventually threatened the collapse of the entire system irregular  payment of teachers salaries,, shortage of space and of teaching materials; frequent closure of schools and the  production of  certificate holders (at various levels of the educational system) who, were  finding it increasingly difficult to secure  appropriate  employment.
A survey of Nigeria’s educational objective reveal that Nigeria has been in search of an education that would make all its products employable. The question now is what has been the employment pattern since then. The Government and individuals have always seen education ‘as an investment that would always yield returns in terms of skills and needs manpower resources, enhanced status and standard of living.
In the early colonial period, the products of the mission schools found
Jobs as either church workers or clerks in government and the trading companies. We have seen that the colonial government established training schools for the specific manpower needs of various government departments. This however did not suit the indigenous Nigerian politicians who opted for a speedier development of the country. This was the cause of the rapid expansion which starting in the 1950s reached a climax with the introduction of the UPE in 1976.
The most critical concern for Nigeria’s manpower problems is rising unemployment especially of youth in both urban and rural areas. The number of university graduates being produced is ahead of target and many graduates in the arts, humanities, social sciences and law are already facing the problems of finding appropriate jobs. Most of these graduates accept starting positions in the lower “executive” rather than the administrative” level of government services. There is evidence that the production of non-technical university graduates will continue to exceed the economy’s capacity to absorb them productively.
A recent survey conducted by the Federal Office of Statistics disclosed that Anambra State has a rural unemployment rate of 14.1%, the second highest in the Federation, the first being Imo State with 20.2% (F.O.S. March 1986). According to the survey, the rate of unemployment in the urban areas stood at 9.1% for the whole country; the bulk of the unemployed were secondary school leavers with 59.2 percent and 39.4 per cent for
urban and rural areas respectively; while the level for those with post secondary education in the urban areas was 6.6% . Generally those in the age bracket of below 25 years topped the list both in the urban and rural areas.
There is equally the problem of under-utilisation of the available labour. The most affected are the primary school leavers, and drop outs; and post- primary school leavers and drop outs. The second manpower problem is the inadequacy of funds for employment of those with critical skills. In the senior categories  of the civil or public service, there is a shortage of engineers,  scientists, doctors veterinarians etc. At the intermediate level, there are even more severe shortages of nearly all technical, sub-professional and certified teaching personnel, but the economy is so poor that these cannot be absorbed, instead qualified staff axe being rationalized.
In 1984 for instance Anambra State laid off 9.370 uncertified primary school teachers in the state while 2,193 teachers were retired at the post-primary school level. In that year the State Education Commission interviewed nearly 5,000 teachers, and recruited 2,555 teachers for its post-primary institutions; in 1985, a total of 4,575 candidates were interviewed for appointment as tutorial staff in the post-primary school system. Out of this number only 683 were employed. Table II gives the breakdown of the candidate who were interviewed in 1985 for appointment by the Commission.