"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 03/15/14

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Comparison of Nigerian and American University Teachers (III)

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.


This series has dragged on longer than I wanted it to be.  As I indicated last week, I will conclude it this week by responding to a few of the questions readers asked me in the past few weeks.

Some readers wanted me to compare the salaries of university teachers in Nigeria and the United States. That’s a difficult task— for at least two reasons. First, Nigeria and America have vastly different socio-economic realities, so a comparison of the salaries of university teachers in both countries can lead to false, misleading equivalencies. 

Second, unlike in Nigeria, there is no uniform salary for university teachers in the US. Teachers with the same qualification, the same years of experience, the same disciplinary expertise, etc. may have radically different salaries. Salaries are determined by a number of factors: scholarly productivity, teaching effectiveness, need, location, cost of living, discipline, etc. For instance, teachers in California, Massachusetts, and New York earn higher salaries than teachers in the American south because of differences in the cost of living of these places. Teachers in the sciences and in business administration earn way higher salaries than teachers in the humanities and the social sciences, etc.


The difficulty of the comparison is made even worse by the differences in the hierarchies and qualifications of university teachers in Nigeria and the United States.  Over 60 percent of Nigerian university teachers have no PhDs, whereas PhD is the minimum qualification to teach in a US university. Of course, there are "professors of practice" who have deep industry experience but have no PhD. But that's usually only in disciplines that are vocational.

 American universities have no graduate assistants and assistant lecturers in the same way that Nigeria universities have.  In America, people who teach with a first degree are often master’s degree students who assist full-time teachers, who have Ph.Ds, to teach basic, lower-division-level courses. They are not employees of the university. On average, they earn between $500 and $800 monthly, plus tuition waiver.  That translates to between N81,000 and N130,000 per month.

Most people who teach in American universities with a master's degree are also often PhD students who are not employees of the university. They earn, on average, between $800 and $1500 monthly. That is, between N130,000 and N245,000 per month. Note that these figures vary widely based on location and discipline. Also note that at least 35 percent of this amount is paid back as tax.

 Full-time faculty salaries also vary widely based on location, discipline, experience, scholarly output, reputation, etc. The average salary for a new PhD in the humanities and social sciences ranges from $45,000 (about N7.3 million) per annum in small state universities to $109,000 (about N17.8 million) per annum in big, rich private universities like Harvard.  Remember, too, that at least 35 percent of this is paid back to the government as tax. 

By the way, the salaries of university teachers, especially in state universities, are public information.  Anybody with Internet access can find exactly how much any university teacher earns. I read somewhere that Nigerian university teachers are threatening to go on another strike because government wants to make their salaries publicly available--or something close to that. 

It is also worth noting that, in America, university teachers aren’t regarded as constituting “the critical mass of scholars in the society” who deserve  “unique conditions that will motivate them ... to attain greater efficiency, ” as ASUU’s 2009 agreement says of Nigerian university teachers.  Although universities are central to knowledge production and circulation, many universities teachers I have met here regard the opportunity to teach as a privilege, not a reason to claim a special status in society.

As a result, university teachers in America don’t have a special salary scale. In fact, I know many high school teachers who earn more money than some university teachers. For instance, three years ago, I met a high school teacher with a Ph.D. who turned down a university teaching job because he found his secondary school teaching more financially rewarding and less stressful than university teaching. Well, the truth is that, generally speaking, in America, teaching isn’t the profession people who want to make a lot of money choose. People choose to teach because they are animated by the passion to learn, unlearn, relearn, share knowledge and mold the minds of young people. 

I do not, by this, mean that it’s wrong for Nigerian university teachers to demand better remuneration and conditions of service for themselves. I am just uneasy with ASUU’s perennially crippling strikes ostensibly to “save” university education from collapse. Well, I think going on strike every so often to “save” the university system is like periodically going to war in defense of peace.

Some readers also asked me to comment on the validity and utility of student evaluations of teachers, especially because I pointed out that even in America students sometimes abuse the evaluations to “punish” teachers who push them too hard in a course.  There is no denying that student evaluations are not entirely reliable.  However, they can help point out patterns in teachers' instructional inefficiencies. A teacher who consistently gets bad evaluations over the same issues in different years is certainly due for a reprimand. Besides, I'd rather have "biased" student evaluations than the current instructional impunity in Nigeria.

There is a lot more to compare between Nigerian and American university teachers, but I have to stop here—at least for now.

Concluded

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Re: A Comparison of Nigerian and American University Teachers

This was first published on March 8, 2014 in my Weekly Trust column


Next week I hope to conclude my comparison of Nigerian and American teachers, which I suspended because of America’s Black History Month in February.  I received many comments and questions from readers on my first two articles with the above title. I have decided to share ta sample of the comments with other readers. The questions I was asked in the past few weeks will form the backdrop of my next article. Enjoy.

Your piece in today's Weekly Trust refers, and in particular the last sentence.
This must be true, at least as at the days of my undergraduate studies. I vividly recall an incident (in the early 1980's) when my Algebra lecturer used to stand in front of the blackboard mumbling to himself, cleaning and writing without any regard to whether we were being carried along or not. One day, out of frustration, I did not know when I blurted out: “you are only teaching yourself!” The petrified class was waiting for the heavens to fall. I got away with a 2-week suspension, but not without my parting shot to him: I will not be missing anything anyway! Such teachers would have long been flushed out were an effectiveness evaluation system in place. Thanks for the write-up.
Sule R. Garba, Gusau

I'm in support of your views on ASUU almost completely. The major problem, I think, has to do with the processes of employing the lecturers and of admitting students. Merit has been murdered on that. Before we can apply lecturer's evaluation measure, I think the issue of merit should first be treated. The reason is that if a majority of students are mentally lazy, how can they evaluate serious or non-serious lecturers?
Nuru Omotosho, Lagos

My favorite part of your write-up, which for me encapsulates the problem you're articulating, is this quote: "In other words, they are pedagogical dictators—in both senses of the term." That was beautifully, elegantly, and powerfully put. Most of them are indeed double dictators! My second favorite part is the well-deserved shout out to our old teacher, Professor Saleh Abdu. We need to write that overdue essay extoling the pedagogical genius of that incredible teacher. Even thinking about our time in his class brings a smile to my face. What a teacher! He and a few other lecturers cushioned the frustrations caused by the many bad and lazy teachers we had.
Moses E. Ochonu, Nashville, USA

Wow, I doff my hat for Professor Saleh Abdu, too. He taught with passion and made teaching adorable to us even when the salaries of university lecturers were ridiculously low.
On the issue of periodic student evaluations of their teachers as part of the academic culture, it is long overdue in Nigeria universities. However, it can be achieved better with more improvement in university infrastructure and teaching facilities, which was part of ASUU’s grouse with the government. If teaching evaluations aren’t always foolproof in US schools, I wonder what will ensue between Nigerian students and their teachers.
Rasaq Adisa, Malaysia

Wallahi, this article precisely discusses some of the problems that partly make Nigerian universities churn out half-baked graduates. I always believe that it is never the fault of university graduates to fall short of expectations. It is the system that sides with the all-powerful lecturers, suppressing the powerless students. Yes, truly, in Nigeria, the almighty lecturers are free from accountability, evaluation or assessment of any form, but students are subjected to all forms of testing and are ridiculed for being half baked. But truth is, everyone can be a 'lecturer' given the dimension the job is taking. Most of them have nothing to offer and if ever evaluated, can hardly make to the ASUU family. NUC needs to do something to give students some form of sense of value and importance for the system to progress.
Usman Zakari Ibrahim, Katsina

Spot on Dr Farooq Kperogi! It reminds me of my days in Uni-Jos and later Uni-Abuja. I remember some of my lecturers being really great while some were clearly a trail. There were lecturers like Prof Alamveabee E. Idyorough and Dr Y.B.C. Omelle that I owe much of what I have achieved. They were not only teachers but also mentors and role models from whom I got much inspiration. But then there were those who had no business in academia. One lecturer was so uninspiring that I always sat in front of the class but go to sleep no sooner than the lecture began. I was surprised I made a first at the end of the semester. There was also a young lady who only came to class once but got intimidated and never showed up again. She used to send us her regurgitated lecture notes to be dictated to us by the class rep. She was just not supposed to be in the academia.

On the issue of evaluation I think university administrators are wrong by using such evaluations to determine tenure and progression. I once had a student that rated my module as boring and disorganized but added that I was enthusiastic about my teaching. The rest of the class rated my class 100 per cent satisfactory. You are very correct that some students get at lecturers through evaluation, especially after assessing their work and awarding marks they are not happy with. But it is the fault of bosses that give students the impression that they can use it to determine the success of one’s career rather than seeing it as a means of providing quality teaching.
Aliyu O Musa, UK

I must commend you for pointing out major flaws in our universities. I believe that if your recommendations are implemented, it will go a long way in closing the gaps. I’m particularly amazed that America has no Federal universities. Here, we even see it as an anomaly for states and private individuals to own universities. We regard tertiary institutions here as a responsibility that can be handle better by the federal govt. Another point to note is the distinction between RI and teaching based universities. Ours here is a combination of the two. That is why it will be difficult for ASUU to be denied their entitlements. However, I agree with you on the need for accountability on the part of the university teachers.
Aminu Isa, Lokoja

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