Nenty, H J (on Links)




H. Johnson Nenty, Ph.D.
Institute of Education, National University of Lesotho


Etymologically, the mission of education is to 'lead forth' and 'cause to develop' the good that is latent in every child, hence education is often defined as the process of identifying and ensuring desirable changes in human behaviour. For teachers to do a successful job at ensuring these desirable changes, they have to be equipped with the knowledge of human behaviour. Hence human behaviour must first of all be identified, studied, and understood. Doing this involves funding out the truth about, or creating knowledge of human behaviour, which is the job of educational research. The assumption is that each child has, at least one useful potential which if validly 'led forth' and 'caused to develop' will make him successful in life. For a large majority of children this unique potential is never identified, let alone developed. Just like it is through scientific research material resources are discovered and developed for the enhancement of quality of life, human resources are expected to be identified, studied and understood through educational research and developed through instruction for the same purpose. But the identification and development of human potentials on its own is not only necessary for the maximization of quality of life, but also essential for the study, identification and development of available material resources, hence it is a necessary and sufficient condition for the enhancement of quality of life.


The Call for Paper for this symposium alerted us pointedly to the problem to which our deliberations are intended to contribute some solutions. It has it that:

In 1990, there were over 5.3 billion people on earth and nearly a quarter of them (mostly Africans) were unable to meet their need for food, shelter and clothing. Half of the people in developing countries do not have safe water to drink (Call for Papers, BOLESWA '97).

Earlier, this condition was best accentuated by Amar (1996) in the following quote:

On a cold winter's day ... I arrived in a small village without electricity or drinking water. There was no doctor or health centre, the nearest school was six kilometres away and when I asked a number of inhabitants what they felt their most pressing need was, almost all answered a cemetery. Years later, in a similar village ... I was given the same reply.

I have had this experience many times. At first it seemed extraordinary that before so many real needs, people should give such importance to a place where they would rest after they had passed on form this world. But on living more closely with them.... I came to understand that for them, death represents the last hope they may have of attaining a better life (p.1).

A little reflection over the picture painted by these quotes brings out vividly the enormous problem facing this symposium. The question before us now is: What in Eastern and Southern regions of Africa can education, research, and educational research do to contribute towards alleviating these problems, and hence enhance the quality of life of people in this area? How can this be done?

The purpose of this paper is to explore, establish, and discuss the meaning of, and the theoretical links among education, research, educational research, and quality of life. To do this, it might be appropriate to look at and analyse quality of life as the 'dependent variable' but in a theoretical, rather than empirical setting. Then explore how it relates to, and is influenced by each of the "independent variables" education, research and educational research, as well as how these "independent variables" interrelate. The results of these is intended to provide the background for as well as the ways and means of enhancing quality of life through empirical research in education, as well as through improved educational practice.


According to the Symposium's flyer "quality of life means different things to different people". In other words, it is a concept that is defined according to an individual or a given society's context. It is a multidimensional concept in that it involves the degree of satisfaction of a variety of needs given several dimensions of life. Such dimensions might include the degree of excellence in: education; product and services; environmental conditions; politics and government; ensuring basic human rights; etc. It involves all conditions that enable an individual or a people to live a good and full life.

In considering quality of life, the particular dimension of life emphasized by each individual differs. This difference depends on several factors which include: the social models and norms; one's values in life; one's experiences, developmental stage; motivational level; and especially one's level of economic and social attainment. From Amar’s (1996) point of view,

we understand the concept of quality of life as an open, unfinished project that is continually moving towards its realization. Quality refers to a number of qualities that are in constant construction. It cannot be defined as an entity with a complete, absolute nature identical to itself. Nor can it be reduced to its most visible means and product (p.6).

Quality of life could therefore be seen as involving an ideal towards which we aspire. But since we must deal with it here as an experienceable variable we must have to stagger an operational definition for it. Under such pressure, one can say generally that quality of life (QOL) could be seen as the level to, or the degree of excellence with which an individual or a people satisfy his or their basic and other life needs.

Needs reflect or carry with them the urge to satisfy that which one lacks, requires, or is necessary for survival, while human wants reflect the urge to satisfy that which one desires or wishes. As one's quality of life improves, one's wants soon become his needs and new wants tend to take their place.

Quality of life could not be validly defined devoid of the context of human needs and need satisfaction because the idea that life is qualitative implies some degree to which such needs have been satisfied. In other words, it reflects the extent to which an individual or a society has met their basic and other human needs. Such human needs are in a hierarchy (Maslow, 1943), from the most basic or rudimentary to the most sophisticated, or from the lower level life needs to the higher-level intrinsic needs. According to Maslow (1943) these are:

(a) physiological needs of air, food, and shelter including clothings;

(b) safety and security needs for physical, health, environmental, economic, and social security and safety;

(c) social needs for love, sense of belonging, affiliation, association with, and acceptance by family, peers, colleagues, supervisors and society

(d) self-esteem needs for autonomy, independence and responsibility through which one can achieve and thus earns respect, recognition, prestige, reputation, and status, and hence develop some-worth; and finally;

(e) self-actualization needs for personal intrinsic growth and development, self-fulfilment, worthwhile accomplishment reflect ones potential and capability, and ultimately self- realization.

Given this understanding, the people in Amar's (1996) experience might be said to be at pre-Maslow's level of need satisfaction. They are deprived of the very basic motivation to live, to strive for food, shelter and clothing. In other words, their quality of life could be said to be almost zero. Fear of death seems to serve as a fundamental motivation for one to strive for the achievement of the first of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. Maslow's theory therefore provides the different levels at which quality of life could be defined and the relative differences in the ingredients involved in these levels. The need to achieve through education presupposes the satisfaction of some basic human needs life food, shelter, clothing, safety, security, and love, hence our attempt to educate children must involve efforts at ensuring that these needs are taken care of.


A student’s answer to be question "what is education?" tends to depend on which course be finds himself. In an educational philosophy class, he may see education as an environment-sustained process of finding out the truth about oneself. A process of enabling an individual become, in time, what the person has meant to be (Brubacher, 1939, p. 39). To some it is an experience based prompting of the mind, heart and muscle in order to evoke and develop to the maximum, the good out of a person. To Dewey (1953), it is a continuous reconstruction of experience. In an educational sociology class however education is often seen as a process of identifying and developing the inborn potential of every individual for the benefit of the person and his society.

Whichever way we look at it, two important processes underlie the process of education - the identification; and then, the development of potentials. In other words, education involves first, the identification of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor endowments of each child; and then ensuring the growth and development of the desirable ones. Growth and development imply changes in the desirable direction. In this case, they imply desirable changes in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor behaviour of the individual learner. Hence education is often operationalized as the process of identifying, and ensuring desirable changes in human behaviour.

Etymologically, the mission of education is to "lead forth" and "cause to develop" the good that is latent in every child. The basic assumption of this definition is that each child has, at least, one useful potential which if validly "led forth" and "cause to develop" will make him successful in life or will enhance his quality of life. 


Research is an operationalization of science as a process of searching for truth about nature. Kerlinger (1986) presents two broad view of science: the "static" and the "dynamic". While the dynamic science is any activity or a process that "leads to a contribution of a systematized information to the world", static science is the result from such an activity. That is "a body of facts" new facts, discovered and added to the already existing body of knowledge. Hence valid knowledge is created through the research process. Science as process is research, and the product of research is a body of knowledge often called science.

Thorndike (1918, p. 30) sees the world as ultimately made up of "pre-existing entities, independent reals, and their relationships". In other words, there exist some universal statements which reflect, or correspond to the facts of nature which are independent of human mind (Ziman, 1974). These independent existing truths exist in nature and it is the job of science to discover them through research, or at least produce better and better approximations of them (Hindess, 1977). Most of what we know today as facts of nature, or knowledge, for example, "the world is not flat" existed independently in nature prior to our knowing them. It takes persisting, inquiry, and objective mind to find out such truth. Hence research is a process of searching for truth about nature. The aim of science, therefore, is to get nearer and nearer to truth through continuous reconstruction of experience (Dewey, 1933) in a way that the results of the initial construction provides the theoretical and empirical bases or foundation for subsequent reconstruction towards the truth.

According to Ziman (1974), the fundamental assumption of scientific objectivity is that truths pre-exist independent of man's knowledge and opinion of it, and can be attained by anybody only through an objective process. Hence research has to be an objective process or else it could not lead to objective truth. In such a process man can only speculate, or ask probing questions, but it is only nature that can confirm or refute such speculations, or provide answers to such questions. As it must lead to a "systematic information" it must follow a replicable orderly set of methodological procedures with built-in checks at each step to ensure objectivity. Hence it uses logical and carefully planned reproducible observations and investigation procedures to enable a deep and full understanding of the true nature of what is being studied (Popper, 1972; Mouly, 1978).

Most problems that prompt research activities are such that imply relationship between two or more variables, and the attempt to solve such problems inevitably involves finding the nature and degree of such relationship (Nenty, in press). To ensure a valid solution to such problems, the researcher must make sure that all other factors, for example, personal biases, that could distort such relationship are controlled for. Hence a research, whether qualitative or quantitative, whether it is done in the laboratory or in the field, is primarily concerned with controlling for extraneous sources that might prevent the researcher form attaining the true relationship between the variables involved. According to Popper (1972), research is a process of critical thinking during which judgement is reserved until empirical evidence shows our speculations to be right, or provides answers to our probing questions. Therefore, the methods used must be such that can stand both internal and external criticisms, and ensure the creation of valid knowledge.

Taking all these characteristics into consideration, it might suffice to say that research is an objective, systematic, controlled and critical activity, planned and executed for the discovery and development of dependable or valid knowledge (Nenty, in press). The product of research often termed scientific knowledge, must be valid to be useful. It serves as a reliable input into theory development and sustains practice. It is only a practice that is sustained by, or based on valid knowledge that can be effective or lead to desirable results.


As indicated earlier, there are truths hidden in nature which science is to find out. Since human beings are a part of nature, there are "truths" hidden in each child which education is to "educeree" that is "lead forth" or "bring out" and develop. In other words, there are some truths, in terms of potentials, traits, or generally, behaviour, latent or inherent in every human being which the purpose of education is to find out and then develop. Finding out the truth about human behaviour is tantamount to creating knowledge of human behaviour, and the process of creating knowledge has been developed and validated through science. According to Brubacher (1939), "like medicine, education science is based on other sciences" (p.15), it does not have a science of its own. Education science, or educational research is therefore, the application of scientific methodology in the search for truth about human nature (Nenty, 1991/92).

While physical sciences study and try to understand and explain the physical or material world, education science studies and tries to understand and explain the world of human behaviour. This it does by using the process of scientific inquiry to study in an attempt to understand, explain, predict and to some extent control human behaviour. This leads to the creation of valid knowledge; and the results serve as input into the development of theories of human behaviour, and provide valid guide and input into the practice and process of education. As indicated earlier, in the practice of education, desirable results can only be achieved if it is based on valid knowledge. The science of education does not see experience as a source of valid knowledge but as a rich source of speculations which can be turned into valid knowledge through research.

There are two phases to the process of education, that, like science, is involved with finding out the truth about human behaviour, and that like technology, is involved with developmental or instructional application of these knowledge created through research. While the former constitutes the science of education, the later constitutes the art of education. The art of education, or pedagogy, on the other hand, is involved with the application of the product of the science in the actual attempt at ensuring desirable changes in learners’ behaviour.


According to Amar (1996), "to think about quality of life implies understanding the relationship between the meaning and process of human development" (p.5). Human development is achieved through education, hence thinking about quality of life implies understanding the relationship between the meaning and process of education. The statement tends to imply that quality of life is influenced by the quality of human development, that is the quality of education. And also that the relationship between the meaning of education, that is how it is expected to be practised, and the actual practice of education, is a determinant of the quality of life. The question here is, how can education be practised to reflect what education actually is?

For an educational process itself to be valid, it must be adopted to suit the needs of the individuals and the community for which it is intended. It must start from the individual learner, that is with "the reality of each child" (Amar, 1996, p.2). The process of education necessarily has to vary from one society to the other. Defined in this context, validity of an educational process would mean the degree to which the school curriculum, the process and the products of education emanate from, suit, and contribute to the satisfaction of the needs and aspiration of each individual child as well as those of the community. For a high level of validity of an educational process, the following four concerns must be met:

(a) the curriculum must be based on the results of a valid assessment of the individual and community needs;

the system must make adequate provision for the potentials and talents of every learners in the community;

(c) instruction must be geared to the development of knowledge and skills that would contribute maximally to be survival and development of all aspects of the community life; and

(d) the assessment system must be developed to document the level to which each learner develops and possesses knowledge and skills necessary for this success in the community.

If quality of life is defined within the context of the same social-model for which education is defined, within this context valid educational practice will invariably lead to maximum quality of life. But when there is a discrepancy in such definitions, the relationship between "the meaning and process of human development" will be low and quality of life will be adversely affected.

Decisions that lead to successful results are always sustained by valid input. Similarly in education, a valid educational system can only be effectively established and efficiently operated based on valid knowledge. This include: knowledge about the needs of the learners as established through need assessment; knowledge about the behaviour of the learners in terms of potentials and talents; knowledge about the suitability and effectiveness of different instructional as well as administrative methods and processes; knowledge about the quality and suitability of different assessment methods and tools; as inputs into decision making in an educational system. These must all be valid if they are to lead to desirable results. Several innovations in the process of human development do not yield desired results because their curriculum and implementation processes are not based on valid knowledge.

Research, as pointed out earlier, is the only source of valid knowledge. This is knowledge generated through both theoretical and empirical testing and confirmation of speculations (or questions) about nature through scientific research process. The failure of most educational systems to achieve acceptable level of quality of life of its people is mostly because policies, models, and practices used by these systems are theoretical and far removed from the empirical, or from reality, given the society directly concern.

6.1 Needs Assessment for Curriculum Development

The result of a valid needs assessment operationalizes, in order of priority, the needs, yearnings, and aspirations of the people in a community which is influenced by a prevailing social model. If it is within the same social model that quality of life is defined, then any education system designed to meet these identified needs will certainly enhance the quality of life of the people. For Amar (1996), "taking quality of life into account means starting from the parameter that define it, and the social model being sought" (p.5). For education to contribute maximally to the attainment of the quality of life desired by a people, there must be a congruence between the parameters that define quality of life for the people, and that which underlie their educational process. And these can only be established through a valid process of needs assessment. Quality of life is defined in terms of people’s needs and aspiration, and it is the place of education to operationalize the mechanism for the realization of these needs.

Needs assessment as a research process provides the necessary ingredients for the objectives, contents, and emphasis of any curriculum design that is to meet the genuine needs of the people through education. Since it is education that provides the wherewithal for enhancement in quality of life, educational system must constantly be revised, based on the results of need assessment, to keep pace with the desired level of quality of life.

A valid curriculum must be based on the results of needs assessment of the people for which the curriculum is intended. A curriculum is a reflection, or an operationalization of the values, goals, needs, and aspiration of the individuals and his society. The quality of life of a given society cannot advance beyond a level supported by its educational curriculum. If it attempts to do so, the level of quality of life would be superficial. A superficial quality of life is imported and is enjoyed by a few at the expense of the general populace. These very few people often through corruption or exploitation manage to accommodated bogus wealth. Since such quality of life is not sustainable by the education system, it is bound to remain alien, to provoke crime and dissatisfaction among the general populace.

Any educational system that is not based on the result of a valid needs assessment of the people for which it is meant is invalid, and results in the production of people that are misfits in terms of skills and knowledge that are not directly relevant for the enhancement of the quality of life of their community. So through needs assessment, research contributes valid input into the process of ensuring a suitable level of quality of life for the people.

6.2 Identification of Individual Talents and Potential

Just as needs assessment is the process of finding out the prevalence and severity of needs and the aspiration of a given population as input into human development programme or a school curriculum, educational research is a process of determining the truth about the potential or behaviour of the learner as a guide to effective human development through instruction. Human potentials and talents are human resources just like gold or petroleum are material resources. They are not often obvious and easily accessible but have to be identified and explored before they are developed. As indicated earlier, the assumption is that each child has at least one useful potential which if validly "led forth" and developed, will make him successful in life. For a large majority of learners, this unique potential is never identified. Education, or human development cannot be effective in trying to develop that which is not identified. Quality of life would be greatly enhanced if each child is afforded the opportunity to show up his unique potential, and this is developed to its fullest capacity. The process of human development through instruction must be guided by the result of valid research on human behaviour. If not so, such process is bound to be fruitless to most learners, to few it may catch on, but to must it does not, and these are branded "failures." Education must start from the child, in terms of what he has brought into the world.

Research has the potential of empowering education to do a good job at fulfilling its mission of "leading forth" and "causing to develop" that which is hidden in each child (Nenty, 1997). Education for the enhancement of quality of life must see every learner as a total human being, body, soul, and spirit. Each of these involves developable human talents which education must provide for. The colonial legacy of elitist education which tended to separate these by assigning the development of the brain to grammar schools, the muscle mostly to craft school, and the heart to the church tends to have failed Africa. Most of those who have contributed to the lowering of our quality of life, for example: the corrupt and despotic leaders of today; the inefficient and narrow-minded civil servants; the engineers who build bridges and high-rise houses that collapse under or on us, the undevoted medical doctors who kill instead of saving our lives; the selfish manufacturers with their shoddy goods; and the uncommitted teachers or professors who fail to ensure effective development of our human potentials are almost all products of this legacy.

6.3 Human Development and Quality of Life

A valid human development process is the application by well trained and equipped professionals, of the results of research in the areas (a) curriculum content and materials; (b) knowledge of the potential and behaviour for which the development process is intended; and (c) appropriate method and process of instruction; in an instructional setting to ensure desirable changes in the participants' behaviour. The meaning of education calls for a system which does not pay a lip service to the valid saying that "effective education must start from the learner and centre around the learner". Many plans for the development of human resources do not, in the first place, study, understand and take into consideration the child's needs and aspirations; never provide the child the opportunity to show up his developable potentials and talents; nor try to determine which method is most suited for motivating and instructing him, before embarking on the development process. Some attempt to operationalize the development process based on, or guided by theories that are alien to the child's individuality and environment. Such systems end up with a process that does not appeal to, or motivate the child, but alienate him. This encourages poor enrolment, poor level of performance, high drop-out rate, and thus high level of underdevelopment and wastage of human resources.

Little can we imagine the standard of life we all would enjoy if every member of our society has had his or her potential developed to the maximum in the different areas of their talent. The popular saying that "every body is not equal" is true to the extent that every body does not have the same talent. But everybody has some developable talent, but a great majority lacks the opportunity or what it takes to detect such talents and develop them. Unlike undeveloped material resources, undeveloped human resources constitutes an unrecoverable loss to the society, and deters progress. There are some nations in the world today who do not have mineral resources, but have attained great economic heights and enhanced quality of life for her people though an effective and dynamic process of harnessing and developing their human resources through education. Even for those nations that have vast material resources, efficient exploration and effective development of such resources, and conscious utilization of the proceeds to enhance the quality of life of their people depend on the quality of their human resources. I need not give examples of countries, especially in Africa, with tremendous amount of material resources in the form of minerals, but who, due to poor leadership quality (human resources), their citizens are suffering in penury and cannot even meet Maslow's physiological or basic human needs. Material resources therefore are not as quality-of-life enhancing as human resources. In other words, the identification and development of human potentials on its own is not only necessary for the maximization of quality of life, but is also essential for the exploration, identification, development and responsible use of the proceeds from available material resources. Hence the development of human potential is a necessary and sufficient condition for the enhancement of quality of life. 


Philosophy, science, law, and education, all are involved with the core theme of searching for truth about one or the other aspect of nature. Science as research searches for truth about the material nature, and the results are used through technology for the improvement of quality of life. In the court of law, the lawyers and judges search for truth about human conflicts and disagreements in order to enhance peace and justice which are necessary ingredients for quality of life. Education, through educational research, searches for truth about human behaviour in order to ensure, through pedagogy or instruction, desirable changes in these behaviour as a necessary ingredient to improved quality of life (Nenty, 1991/92).

Quality of life is a relative standard of satisfaction or non-satisfaction of one's human needs. It tends to be directly related to the congruency between the need of the individual and the society on one hand, and the process of human development on the other. This congruency can only be increased if education in its contents and procedure starts with the reality of the child (Amar, 1996), and his society; revolves around them; and feeds back into them. No society can improve its quality of life beyond that sustainable by its education system, because it is this system that trains and equips its manpower with the cognitive, psychomotor and especially affective skills which explores, engineers, services, sustains and provides the foundation and direction for its development.

Societies and the individuals within them are not similar in their needs and aspiration. Therefore the content, psychology, and methods of education developed based on studies in other cultures can only, at best, provide guides for the development of "indigenous" knowledge that could support education on each cultural context within which our quality of life is defined. This is what this paper terms valid knowledge given each society.

Quality of life of a society can be effectively enhanced only though education that is based on valid knowledge. Educational research, with the different groups in our society as its populations of study, is the only valid means of generating this type of knowledge. Experience feeds richly into this as a source of speculation that could be turned into valid knowledge through research. Such research calls for the involvement of all teachers, administrators, educational officers, etc., and to be carried out on the variety of problems we are facing based on our current educational inputs, process, and products. These problems include: (i) lack of motivation to enrol in school by many children; (2) lack of parental and community involvement; (3) high drop-out; (4) irrelevance of some content; (5) lack of contents that appeal to some learners; (6) ineffectiveness of teaching and assessment methods; (7) lack of teachers in general and well trained teachers in particular; (8) high rate of teachers' turn-over; (9) lack of adequate resources and facilities. These result in wastage of a high proportion of rich human resources which if developed would have been available for development, and hence the enhancement of quality of life. They also lead to the development of skills that are not suited for the developmental demands of the society; and finally to poor and deteriorating performance by the learners. The cumulative effect of all these shortcomings in the process of human development is the continuous deterioration of our quality of life.


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Nenty, H.J. (1997). Basic assessment skills for classroom teachers. Unpublished manuscript. Institute of education, National University of Lesotho.

Nenty, H.J. (in press). Fundamentals of research in education. Obosi, Nigeria: Pacific Publishers.

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