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St. Lawrence University and the Missing Link in Higher Education: A Personal Reflection by Dr. Oscar C. Labang
Among the several questions I have received in relation to the creation and functioning of the St. Lawrence University Ndop which will go operational in October 2016, one of them provoked a stream of thought that took me down memory lane to my days in the dusty hallways of the University of Yaounde 1 and the type of education I received. The question was “why are you interested in higher education and how will SLU be different from other institutions?” My first instinct was to answer the question simply and directly; but, on second thought, I felt that using my personal experience as an example I can provide a better and clearer response.
Like most young Cameroonians, I went to the university as a last option and out of excitement. I didn’t really give deep thought on what the journey was going to be and how it was going to affect my future and my life in general. My family thought I was going to read Law, but I had a deeper passion for Literature and I went for it. They felt kind of disappointed when I informed them I was going to read English Modern Letters (whatever that means). I remember being told by somebody with a mock heroic laugh that after the BA, my job will be to assist old people in the village to write letters to their children in the city. Was this what I really wanted to do? No. All I really wanted was do something I loved and was passionate about.
In the undergraduate years, I went with the crowds. There was no reason to dare anything new. The focus was on getting the BA in three years though we had been told it was not possible. Then getting a job or entering Ecole Normale which seemed to be the only useful employment channel. Three years went by really fast; my hard work paid off and I had the degree. I applied to almost all the private schools in and around Yaounde for a teaching job. I knew my stuff; I could teach it, make students to love it, and make them to pass excellently. BUT something was seriously WRONG; something was MISSING.
What was wrong? First, I found out after the interview at Oxford Comprehensive that I have no hope of getting the job because one of the ladies I was competing with had a Ph.D. in African Literature (she would become my mentor and friend later on). She did not even come for the interview. Someone simply called and gave her name, and I automatically lost my position as first on the interview list. I realized that the university system had a problem, if a Ph.D. holder and a BA holder were fighting for the same job.
What was missing? Three years undergraduate studies did not prepare me to become a teacher. As a matter of fact, it did not prepare me to become anything. I was applying for teaching jobs with no knowledge of pedagogy, assessment or the educational sciences. Was it enough to know Literature, to have the passion to teach it, and to be ready to take students to the celestial worlds of Shakespeare and shitty world of Ayi Kwei Armah? Yes, it was, but I needed more. My university education had not prepared me for that. Apart from the fact that I had read more books, I was not different from the Oscar that graduated from GBHS Ndop. The additional books and additional grammar that I had learnt was a very slight advantage over any high school graduate. University had not helped me in any way. It had taught me Language and Literature but had not taught me what to do with the knowledge or how to apply it to the real world.
What did I do? In the face of increasing confusion and possible frustration about my destiny and the education I had received, I opted for more knowledge. I thought that education was like a pyramid; the higher you go the smaller the tip – that is the lesser the crowd and the better the opportunity for a job. That was true, but I had also learnt that in Cameroon higher education even the fewer people at the top like the lady with the Ph.D. could not find a job worth the education. But my reading of Bernard Fonlon and excerpts from Cardinal Henry Newman had taught me that higher education had a higher purpose than we thought or are meant to understand. To cut a long story short, I went in for graduate education and earned an MA with "Tres Honorable" in less than 2 years, earned a DEA with "Tres Honorable" in 1 year instead of the usual 2-3 years, and earned a Ph.D. with "Tres Honorable" in 4 years instead of the usual 6+ years. But the search for more education and more knowledge did not solve the problem. Rather I gradually came to the realization that the higher you go the more profound your frustration and despair.
After the Ph.D., I spent much time thinking about what was MISSING in the higher education system in Cameroon because, to borrow from Cardinal Newman, the Cameroon higher education system is “giving no education at all to the youth committed to its keeping”. I have asked myself severally why the education system in Cameroon is not adapted to the reality of the economy. As a developing nation or emergent economy, there is a vast horizon of opportunities that have not been explored or exploited. There are still a multitude of problems that need creative solutions. So, why is there the issue of unemployment? This is a central part of my motivation and inspiration to start a higher education institution - St. Lawrence University.
My philosophy is that every academic discipline has a practical method of expressing it, every academic discipline has a method of linking it to reality, to the needs of the community and to the local and national economy. This is an integral part of the program structure at St. Lawrence University. The current higher education system continues to overload knowledge in students with little or no practical reality or essence. As a graduate student, I served as a Teaching Assistant with no knowledge of higher education pedagogy, no knowledge of grading/assessment, and no knowledge of appropriate discipline mechanisms other than what I had seen or heard other people do. This is when the internet was most useful in my life because I had to save myself and learn about these things. My higher education training had made me a master of the subject area but failed to link it to the economic reality of my immediate context. It had failed to provide valuable information surrounding the subject or other things I could do with the knowledge.
One of the major deficiencies in Cameroon higher education is the disconnection between curriculum and reality – that is the failure to connect classroom knowledge with real world problems. I am interested in higher education programs that prepare students to be problem solvers, to be creative and to be enterprising and this is what I wish to achieve through the St. Lawrence University. We do not need undergraduate programs that jumble up general courses, optional courses and transversal courses. We do not need graduate programs that consist of highly specialized coursework without direct relevance to a career. The courses might be taught in excellent ways by highly dedicated and qualified staff, but if there is no connection between the course and the reality of society, then the students are ill-prepared for survival. It was years after graduation that I realized something fundamental was missing in the education I had received. My mission is to provide a better experience for coming generations by inspiring them to question what they hear, to improve what they have, to formulate and test new hypotheses, as well as develop new solutions to the problems of their community.
From my experience as a student, a Graduate Assistant and Lecturer (briefly), and from my study in the United States and readings about educational systems, I continue to imagine a higher education system that improves the present deficiencies. Part of my thinking has been to professionalize the humanities because the Faculties of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences are responsible for flooding the streets with graduates that cannot help themselves, their families or their communities. In 2013, at the Catholic University of Cameroon, I presented a paper at the Kashim Ibrahim Tala Annual Lecture on the “Professionalization of the Humanities” as a means of producing students who are ready for the job market and a method of fighting unemployment. My whole argument was on the introduction of professional course in all academic disciplines in the humanities at the undergraduate level. My argument was that if we teach a student English plus Education pedagogy that student can easily become a teacher; if we teach a student Anthropology plus Digital Media that student can do anthropological documentary for self employment; if we teach a student Sociology plus Banking they student can use knowledge of Sociology and Banking to understand and influence people’s behavior towards loans, saving etc. In the current LMD system, what is called Transversal courses could be replaced by professional courses. If as an undergraduate, I had learnt anything about education, I would have had better chances of having a job in the many schools where I applied. When I started my first company as a graduate student (Miraclaire Publishing), I would have succeeded far better than I did, if I had learnt something about business or financial management as an undergraduate.
A lot seems to have changed between 2006 when I sat in Room E114 for my last graduate exams and today. But the honest truth is that little or nothing has changed in earnest. The higher education system has gone from the hotly and hurriedly adopted French/European Union LMD system to debates about harmonization, which in essence is a form of assimilation or homogenization. What these suggest is that Cameroon does not have a higher education philosophy grounded on the reality of the cultural identity, and economic necessity of its youth.
What Must We Do To Be Saved?: Entrepreneurship in Cameroon Universities and the Crisis of Unemployed Professionals by Dr. Oscar C. Labang
The recent move towards the professionalization of higher education in Cameroon is creating an entirely new challenge which the government will again have to confront. The shifting paradigm has been to produce students who are professionally prepared for the job market. But the question is: which job market? I do not see any foreseeable future in which the government or the current private sector in Cameroon can absorb a greater percentage of students graduating with HNDs and professional BAs every year. What this suggests is that the nation is again heading towards a more severe crisis of unemployment. But unlike in the past where it was assumed that those who were unemployed were academically trained, the new wave of unemployed youth will be professionally trained. We need a system of higher education that can reverse the trend shown on the picture; a system in which more individuals seek to be entrepreneurs instead of employees.
What must we do to be saved?
The answer to what needs to be done to save the nation from this impending doom has been politicized into a philosophy of harmonization which in reality is, a worse, a form of assimilation of the Anglo-Saxon system and, at best, a homogenization of higher education. Interestingly, the higher education system has not even successfully embraced the ideas of LMD and professionalization; yet it is attempting to thread to new grounds. Harmonization will not solve the urgent problem of unemployed professionals. Rather, focus on highly improved entrepreneurial education which is part of the professionalization of higher education could yield better fruits.
From the multitude of definitions of entrepreneurship, I particularly like the one offered by Shane and Venkataraman. According to them, entrepreneurship is a study of sources of opportunities, the processes of discovery, evaluation and exploitation of opportunities and those individuals who discover, evaluate and exploit them. However, each time I think of an entrepreneur, I preferably want to break the word down to smaller linguistic units for better understanding. So I see an entrepreneur as:
>> A person who enters (entre) and takes over (preneur): the essence of starting a business is not just to have one but to a major force in your business sector.
>> A person who engages and takes risks:- the individual should be able to take an entrepreneurial bet with confidence and determination to influence or change the way things are done.
>> A person who is capable of disrupting, creating and/or reorganizing resources:- to enter and take over requires the ability to reorganize existing resources for more effective use or better profit.
>> A person who discovers previously unnoticed profit opportunities:- observing the current system and taking advantage of areas that have not been exploited is strategic.
To produce the kind of students who fit in to one or more of the categories outlined above, universities in an emerging economy like Cameroon's have to make some fundamental changes. What is the essence of professional or entrepreneurial education if we continue to produce students that look up to the government for jobs. The first two things are embodied in my view of entrepreneurship which states that if we want to produce entrepreneurs, we must stop teaching Cameroonian students about the world as it is and start teaching them about the world as it could be.
1- Teach students about the world as it is
When we teach students about our world as it, we make them to be complacent or to engage in servile conformism as the Vice Chancellor of St Lawrence University, Emeritus Professor Kashim Ibrahim Tala, would say. This means that students are trained to be satisfied with things the way they are. Have you ever been insulted by your classmates because you asked too many questions? Has a teacher ever hushed you down or ignored you or someone you know because you/they asked too many questions? Has a friend or foe ever called you “over sabbi” (know too much) or “seek no” (seeking notice)? Your classmate, your friend or foe, and such teachers want you to be satisfied with the way things are. They do not want you to break the code, or question the order of things, and that is what is wrong with our culture and educational system. Until we start training students to be dissatisfied with what they see, to questions the basis on which everything is build, or not to accept that things are best as they are now, we will never move beyond the current problems we face as a nation. The inclusion of one course on Entrepreneurship in the curriculum is not sufficient grounds. Higher education institutions designed to train professionals have simply ended at the level of telling students of how business works instead of telling them how the business world could/should operate. We can't teach students about how the world is and then expect them to be risk takers. They have not been equipped with the relevant tools for risk taking.
We need to re-evaluate the type of Professionals we graduate under such a stereotypical system. Every year higher education institutions graduate thousands of HND holders and pump them into an economy that is seemingly inelastic and incapable of absorbing even a quarter of the graduates. Because our economy is apparently unable to incorporate the new generation of graduates, the only way of creating elasticity is to teach the students how to change the economy through job creation. In the current system, a degree in Business is just as good as a degree in a traditional academic discipline because both students have been taught about the world as it is. The only real difference is that the student with a degree in Business has been brainwashed into thinking that his degree is a professional one and so has more value than that of the student of History, Biology or English.
Is it relevant for Cameroonian students to understand the world as it is? Absolutely yes! But when teaching ends here, then the mind becomes contented and the imagination no longer yearns for anything beyond or better. Thus if we must be saved, we have to teach students about the world of possibilities and opportunities.
2- Teach students about the world as it COULD BE.
When we teach students about our world as it could be, we create a thirst for more in their imagination and thus expel the need to think that all is already well, perfect or accomplished. When we teach students about our world as it could, we create a yearning for a more perfectible state of living and existence. When we teach students about our world as it could be, we feel their minds with hypotheses and set them on a path in search of answers. When we teach students about our world as it could, we create in them the zeal of thinking about possibilities and opportunities. When we teach students about our world as it could be, we help them to find fault with the current system because they are anxious to fix, improve it or change it.
At St. Lawrence University, Ndop we are working on a model of how it will be possible to teach students about the world as it could be. Generally, my colleagues and I agree that when we teach students about our world as it could be, the following needs to happen:
-- The teacher and the student become risk takers. The teacher stops professing knowledge and becomes a partner in the adventure of finding new ways of doing old things.
-- The breaking of rules is allowed as part of the knowledge creation. The teacher’s job is to teach the rules in a way that students can break them.
-- The student is allowed to test even the most stupid hypotheses without the fear of being shot down, the shame of failure or the fear of risk. You never know where or how the new breakthrough will come about.
-- Practical knowledge is valued more than theoretical knowledge; i.e. the actual testing of how knowledge works is preferred to listening to lectures of how knowledge works.
-- The teacher is a resource person and guide instead of an all-knowing master. The teacher uses experience to point out problems in the community and students use creative energy to propose/provide solutions.
-- The hierarchical classroom collapses and a democratic classroom comes into play. The teacher remains the teacher but his/her role is that of challenging the student’s ideas when they depart from his/hers and when they align with his/hers. The teacher should be in search of reasonable, logical and intellectually grounded conclusions.
According to Hytti, entrepreneurship education has three components: learn to understand entrepreneurship, learn to become entrepreneurial and learn to become an entrepreneur. While most Cameroonian higher education institutions focus on the first component, in the St Lawrence University’s model that we are developing, we are placing equal emphasis on all three components. When students are taught about the world as it is, they are trained to understand entrepreneurship. But when students are taught about the world as it could be, they are prepared to take the entrepreneurial bet and become entrepreneurs. We are developing a project based learning model which will allow students to learn through entrepreneurship rather than learn about entrepreneurship. This model will be presented and discussed during the Faculty Development Workshop in early September.
To be continued>>>>>>>>
 Shane, S. & Venkataraman, S. 2000. “The Promise of Entrepreneurship as a Field of Research”. Academy of Management Review. Vol. 25, No. 1, p.217-226.
 Hytti, U. (ed.) 2002. “State-of-Art of Enterprise Education in Europe – Results from the Entredu project”. Written jointly with Kuopusjärvi, P., Vento-Vierikko, I., Schneeberger, A., Stampfl, C., O’Gorman, C., Hulaas, H., Cotton, J. & Hermann, K. Published in the Entredu –project, Leonardo da Vinci –programme of the European Commission: Turku, Finland.
Looking Back into the Future: Three Courses I Wish I Was Taught in the University by Dr. Oscar C. Labang
The type of higher education that we provide as a nation has direct implications on the national economy and global competiveness. The Ministry of Higher Education in Cameroon has, amongst other things, the responsibility of formulating programs and assuring quality control. The Ministry’s ability to envision a context where higher education contributes directly to economic development and growth should be a major focus.
When I started classes in the Master of Fine Arts program at National University, California, one of the courses I had to take was Pedagogy of Creative Writing. By the end of the course, my mind was running wild about what the purpose was and why I had to take the course. It occurred to me that even though the program is generally about creative writing, those who formulated the program knew of another reality which the student might not know. The question that the course was indirectly answering was: What if you don’t make it as a creative writer? The answer was clear: you can teach creative writing.
Personally, my aspirations in education were to climb to the highest rungs of the academic ladder with a vision to become a university professor. However, after attaining the highest academic degree, personal reflection tells me that there are some fundamental courses that would have prepared me for a greater purpose than that which I had defined for myself. These are courses are indispensable for students in an emergent economy like that of Cameroon. I will briefly make a case for Entrepreneurship, Professional Ethics, and Fundamentals of Statistics.
How to Enter (Entre) and Take Over (preneur)
Entrepreneurship involves the teaching of skill related to business but also the inspiration for young minds to be able to enter (entre) and takeover (preneur) in anything they do. It inspires risk taking and self-confidence while instilling a sense of financial investment, management and responsibility. An educational system that does teach students how to be creative, adventurous and self-confident has two major negative characteristics: i) a public sector that is bigger and stronger than the private sector, and ii) an uncontrollable unemployment rate resulting from the uninspiring hope that the government will recruit someday. Unfortunately, this is the kind of system in which I was educated – a system in which self-confidence is considered pride and quickly related to one of the seven deadly sins; a system in which the teacher’s notes is the answer to all questions and “thou shall not venture into new areas” was the unspoken dictum.
The economic development of any country is the product of purposeful human activity, and so it is important that the country makes a purposeful effort (in its educational system and public policy) to inspire young people to aspire toward being part of the trend. Entrepreneurial development is a source of employment to the entrepreneur and for the many people affected directly and indirectly by his/her activities. But the first step is to let the student know that he/she is capable of taking the entrepreneurial bet. In Cameroon, earning a Ph.D. is not synonymous to having a job or earning a big salary. In an emergent economy, a Bachelor’s degree with a mindset prepared for risk taking and business acumen is better than a Ph.D. hoping for uncertain government recruitment. One of the major weaknesses of the Cameroon education system is that it does not teach students the general concept of business, finance, and investment. This is partly a consequence of over specialization. In relation to my domain of study, the question is: what is the relationship between entrepreneurship and Literature/Language? Based on what I was taught, there is absolutely no relationship. BUT, based on what I have found out and what I know now, the relationship is as useful as it is for students of business administration, management, finance account etc. The answer to the question is best illustrated in another question: Can a Literature/Language student start, own and manage or invest in a business? The answer is YES because there are thousands of opportunities. So, why doesn’t the system of education provide the basic knowledge needed in this domain?
Religion or Professional Ethics
One of the defining challenges of public service work in Cameroon, and most developing countries, is corruption. Advocates of Religion have made the case several times that religion is the answer. Unfortunately, the reality in Cameroon shows that some of the most corrupt state personalities have a religious educational background. A course in Professional Ethics could be a good starting point. Professional Ethics moulds professional consciences while Religion moulds sentimental consciences. Corruption is a professional issue not a sentimental one. The problem of corruption cannot be solved by adding Religion to GCE O/A Levels or at University. Religion postpones the consequences of unethical and unprofessional behavior to an afterlife in a place called Hell. But Professional ethics teaches people to see the effect of their action immediately on the other person, on performance, on productivity, and on themselves. A course in Professional Ethics should have a direct bearing to the profession and should address the realities of the profession because the ethical dilemmas of the medical profession are different from those of an Engineer.
Professional Ethics must have a component that addresses social responsibility and cultural nationalism. Most Civil Servants or public service workers in Cameroon are actually Civil Masters. They do not serve; they want to be served. This is because they do not have the inbuilt compass which tells them that the essence of public service is not to enrich oneself, lazy around in the office, and take office supplies home but to serve the needs of the public. People need to understand not necessary the theoretical aspect but also the practical consequences. It is not a surprise that some people are employed; they work their entire life, and retire without ever hearing about professionalism at work. When a Laquantinine Doctor abandoned Monique to die with her babies, everybody cried foul. Yet, nobody asked themselves how they are failing the system in their own little way. Do we ever consider how many people have died because we gave a bribe or took a bribe and their position in school, in recruitment or at work was given to us or one of ours? This is what properly taught professional ethics does. It awakens a certain part of you which always asks how your actions affect others and your job. It brings people to consciousness to stop the blame game and take responsibility. It is not always the other person’s fault! You don’t have to do it because everybody is doing it!
A Dreaded Discipline: Statistics
In Secondary and High School, I was amongst those who thought that because I was in the Arts, Statistics like Mathematics has no relevance to me. Well, I was wrong! But did I know any better? Equally, most Science inclined students thought Language and Literature was irrelevant to their life quest! Were they wrong? One of the major characteristics of American higher education institutions is the focus on courses like English 101 +, Mathematics 101 +, Statistics 101 + etc. This is an indication that ALL students need a foundation from which they can communicate effectively, and perform basic calculations.
Fundamentals of Statistics provides a tool box for people to react intelligently to information and carefully assess the validity of claims or decisions that affect their lives and that of others daily. The general tendency amongst university students and even some teachers in Cameroon is to make unverifiable statistical claims and sometimes argue with passion rather than data and reason that the claim is true or right. For example, I have come to the reasonable conclusion that no sound decisions can be made in any field of study or domain of career practice without the necessity of statistics. One of the domains where Statistics seems to be completely irrelevant is mine - Literature. However, as a literary scholar, I have realized that lack of knowledge of statistics can affect literary analysis in severe ways. No real literary analysis will make good sense if frequency of occurrence and distribution of words/phrases is not considered. Well, today there is an entire domain of literary analysis known as statistical stylistics.
Quick example, I have read and hear several literary critics of Anglophone Cameroon Literature who claim that Anglophone Cameroon writers are obsessed with the Anglophone problem. This claim is made even when basic statistical questions have not been answered and so there is no data to validate the hypothesis. Questions like: how many Anglophone Cameroon writers exist? How many of these writers talk about the Anglophone problem? How many talk about problems other than those of Anglophones? Or pick a poetry collection and ask: how many poems are in the collection? How many of the poems address the Anglophone problem? What percentage deal about love or romance? What percentage deal with nature and the environment? Hypothetically, I read a collection of 60 poems, 10 talk about the plight of Anglophones, 14 are dedicated to the poet’s romantic quests from youth to manhood, 12 are about religion, 6 about nature and environment, 14 talk about his troubles as a student in university of Yaounde, and 4 is about war. Statistically, can I say that this poet is obsessed with the Anglophone problem? Notice that only about 16.66% of the poems deal with Anglophone problems while 23.33% is about his travails as a university student and 20% deal with religion. But, since we are accustomed to making unverified and unverifiable claims, it is enough to read the first 6 poems on Anglophone issues and then conclude that he is obsessed with the Anglophone problem. This is how lack of statistical knowledge leads to false results in literary analysis. If a Literature student needs some knowledge of Statistic, the every other discipline does.
In Conclusion, do I want all students to be experts in these subjects? No. I want all students to have investment and financial knowledge, I want all students to be able to perform basic statistical calculations to prove their point; I want all students to understand how basic ethical decisions affect others, productivity, and themselves; overall I want a generation of students that are self-confident and ready to take risks and not be buried in the fear failure. As I stated earlier, if I had studied Entrepreneurship, Professional Ethics and Fundamentals of Statistics they would have provided a greater purpose for me than that which I envisioned. I do not which I had changed my academic discipline from Literature to something else. But, I wish I had been taught these courses at some level because they would have directed me on how to use the knowledge of Literature to make a living without necessarily waiting on the government to employ me. What is the essence of a doctorate degree if the holder cannot make a better living because the government has not employed him/her? As far as I am concerned, the essence of education is to teach people how to make a better living out of the knowledge acquired. As an emergent economy, Cameroon cannot remain stuck in the colonial humanities system that was intended to train public service work force. The LMD model currently in place is a rephrasing of the same old system. The HND programs have major defects that need to be addressed because they produce students who are mere replicas of the old system. As part of the team formulating the program structure for St Lawrence University Ndop, I am placing overwhelming emphasis on the importance of these courses. Cameroon needs a generation of highly inspired, creative and courageous entrepreneurs to drag it out of the economic sludge into which the country is buried.
The Implementation of the 1993 Higher Education Reforms in. Cameroon: Issues and Promises by TERFOT AUGUSTINE NGWANA
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Cameroon is one of the only countries that has two educational systems operating simultaneously: one that is based on its British/Anglophone colonial past and one on its French/Francophone colonial past.
Admission to higher education requires a Baccalauréat de l’Enseignement Secondaire, Baccalauréat Technique, four passes on the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level or two passes on the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level. Universities are either Francophone or Anglophone, or offer programs in both languages.
Anglophone university education closely mirrors British higher education. Admission requires sufficient passes on the General Certificate of Certificate of Education Advanced Level. Undergraduate programs leading to a bachelor’s degree consist of three years of study. Graduate studies include a one-year Postgraduate Diploma and master’s programs that are one to two years. All graduate programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission. Doctoral programs are three years and require a master’s degree for admission.
Francophone higher education is virtually the same as higher education in France, including the adoption of the L-M-D (licence-master-doctorat) system that France implemented in response to the Bologna Declaration. The L-M-D system was introduced in the 2007-08 academic year with the Université de Buea being the first to adopt the system, and other universities are in various stages of implementation.
Prior to the introduction of the L-M-D system, Francophone university education consisted of a three-year first cycle (premier cycle) that began with a two-year program leading to the Diplôme d’Études Universitaire Générales/DEUG (Diploma of General University Studies) which was followed by a one-year Licence (Licentiate program). The second cycle (deuxième cycle) included a one-year Maîtrise (Master) program that required a Licence for admission. Third cycle (troisième cycle) studies began with one-year programs leading to a Diplôme d’Etudes Approdondies/DEA (Diploma of Advanced Studies) and the Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Specialisées/DESS (Diploma of Higher Specialized Studies). The DEA or DESS were required for doctoral studies. Doctoral studies consisted of at least three years of original research. Upon defense of a dissertation based on the research, students were awarded a Doctorat du Troisième Cycle (Third Cycle Doctorate).
Admission requirements to universities did not change with the implementation of the L-M-D system. First cycle studies begin with a three-year Licence (Licentiate). Secondary cycle studies are a one-year Master (Master) program. A one-year Maîtrise Professionnelle (Professional Master) is also available, but does not lead to doctoral studies. Third cycle programs require a Master for admission, and are three years of original research leading to a Doctorat du Troisième Cycle (Third Cycle Doctorate) following defense of a dissertation.
Post-Secondary Vocational/Technical Education
Post-secondary vocational and technical education programs are two years. In the Francophone system, they lead to a Brevet de Technicien Supérieur/BTS (Higher Technician Certificate) or the Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie/DUT (University Diploma of Technology), and the Higher National Diploma/HND in the Anglophone system. Students enter the workforce after completion of these programs or can continue in universities studies, usually in the third year.
In 1995 the gross enrollment rate for higher education in Cameroon was only 4 percent, with significant gender disparities: 7 percent of males and only 1 percent of females of higher-education age were enrolled in tertiary-level education and training programs. By 1998 enrollments had increased and were almost equivalent to what they had been before the higher education budget was trimmed in 1993. At the start of the new millennium Cameroon had six publicly supported universities—the Universities of Yaoundé I and Yaoundé II, plus the Universities of Buéa, Douala, Dschang, and Ngaoundéré. In addition, specialized institutions and schools of higher education offered students higher-level degrees and diplomas in various professions and occupations, with a gradually increasing emphasis on linking training opportunities to conditions in the labor market. The Catholic University Institute, established in 1990, was the main private university in the country.
World Bank analysts noted that a variety of factors led to significant flaws in many of the higher education institutes in Cameroon during the 1990s, the chief ones being that technical schools were "not providing meaningful job-oriented practical training due to a lack of teacher motivation, poor planning of the disciplines that are taught, resource constraints, and a complete separation between the colleges and the world of work" (World Bank 1997). Furthermore, management deficiencies associated with overly centralized decision-making often made it hard for schools to respond to local conditions and to the needs and preferences of students or faculty. By the turn of the millennium attempts were being made to correct these problems; both the Government of Cameroon and outside actors appeared to be well aware of the need for significant reforms.
The demand for vocational and technical education carefully matched to labor-market needs increased appreciably during the 1990s. By the end of the decade, government ministers and educators placed greater attention on trying to develop a model that could be successfully replicated throughout the country to train youth for jobs and secure higher levels of employment for the graduates of both secondary and tertiary education programs. One model that appeared promising was an experimental university at Douala, started after the university-level reform decrees of 1993. This school, the Institut Universitaire de Technologie de l'Université de Douala (University Institute of Technology of the University of Douala, or IUT Douala), enjoyed close linkages with employers and entrepreneurs and was strikingly more successful at jobplacing its graduates. Over eighty percent of IUT Douala graduates found jobs not long after graduating, compared with the graduates of most other university programs who rarely succeeded at finding employment directly after graduation. Based on the success of IUT Douala, the World Bank in June 1998 offered four years of credit totaling US$4.86 million from the International Development Association to supplement funds from the Government and self-generated monies derived from the institute itself to further support and test the development of IUT Doula so the successful elements of the model could be replicated throughout the country.
In their 1998 project-appraisal report reviewing the conditions in Cameroon that inspired this Higher Education Technical Training Project, World Bank analysts noted key problems in Cameroon's higher-education system which a public-private model of training might be able to address. According to the analysts:
The higher education system in Cameroon has its roots in the traditional francophone African model, with almost all students in full degree courses, few links to the labor market, no involvement of the private sector in program selection and curriculum content, and virtually all financing (apart from small student fees introduced in 1993) provided and controlled by the Ministère de l'enseignement Supérieur (MINESUP) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MINEFI). This model, initially designed to produce personnel for the civil service, no longer conforms to the economy's needs in the era of shrinking public services, nor to international best practices. (World Bank HDN II)
Moreover, the analysts noted that the high number of Cameroonian students already enrolled in highereducation programs in 1998 precluded the Government's being able to find sufficient funds on its own to support more traditional university training. The Bank analysts spotted curious contradictions in the financial costs of traditional higher education in Cameroon, with potentially deadly, unanticipated, negative consequences:
Few graduates from the ordinary universities find employment within a year of their graduation and the overall unemployment rate of university graduates is around 30 percent (unemployment rates rise with qualifications—only 6.5 percent of unschooled young people are unemployed, compared with 30 percent of university graduates). Such figures put in question the validity of the 24 years of schooling bestowed upon graduates. Furthermore, the defeated expectations of many of the youth introduce a dangerous element of instability into society. (Ibid.)
The Government of Cameroon and the Bank thus attempted to collaborate to introduce new forms of higher education where students could enter the job market directly after graduation with valuable, marketable skills attuned to the needs of the labor market and Cameroonian society. The differences between regular higher education programs in the late 1990s and the type of training programs the Bank intended to support were that institutes following the IUT Doula model would provide diploma-level courses instead of degree-oriented academic training, the institutes would limit course and program enrollments to the number of students the institutes could effectively teach, they would use private-sector internships to give students in training specific job skills directly transferable to paid employment after graduation, and the institutes themselves would generate income through courses offered on a part-time and "à la carte" basis where students could more easily pay for their own training. By April 2001 the National Assembly had passed a new law concerning higher education which reflected some of the same principles and understandings as the Higher Education Technological Training Project, including the key principle that private enterprise and public organs should be encouraged to work together to provide coordinated training opportunities for students beyond the secondary level of education.