MY STANCE ON GHANA’S EDUCATION

goodEducation has over the years been a useful resource to many in fostering national development and a major conduit for knowledge sharing. Indeed, much as every good thing comes with its own demerits, the benefits of education far outweigh its demerits.

It would be noted that, nations who have invested much in education have developed faster than others who haven’t given much attention to it. It doesn’t come as a surprise to many, if nations coming out with new ideas and solving some of the world’s most difficult problems are those who have accepted education wholeheartedly.

Evidently, these developments are clear to reach a conclusion that education is more of an asset
than a liability and should be taken seriously. The purpose of education is not limited to the educated person but goes a long way to help society and the world at large.
Education can therefore not be overemphasized as far as national and human developments are concerned. As countries that make education a priority enjoy great benefits, Ghana cannot be left out as education has always been at the heart of the country.
In our various schools, students and pupils get the opportunity to meet others of varying idiosyncrasies, intellect and ethnicity as well as cultural backgrounds. This goes a long way to deepen their understanding of how the factuality of diversity enriches human existence and make life worth living.
Needless to mention, Ghana’s educational system has faced many changes since its inception.
Elementary education metamorphosed to Junior Secondary School and the duration was affected.
The ordinary level and advanced level system at the second cycle level also underwent a change
and the duration was reduced from seven academic years to three academic years. The three-year
secondary educational program saw another change to a four-year program and saw a sharp
change to its former position when a new government was put in the helm of affairs.
The computerised selection and school placement system was also introduced to curb some of the
lapses of the former system when selection was done manually in various schools at Second Cycle
institutions.
Names of Junior and Senior Secondary Schools were changed to Junior and Senior high
Schools. Time and space may not allow me to bring out all the changes. Some questions began to
flood the minds of some Ghanaian scholars when these changes came to bear.
They find it difficult to understand why successive governments change educational policies without considering the long term effect(s). Unfortunately, some of the changes only consider the short-term effect, and the long-term effect is left to suffer. For instance, in 2013, there were two year groups of students who wrote the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) as a result of the changes in the four-year program, to a three- year program.
Consequently, students who enrolled for the three-year program as well as those on four-year program were compelled to write the examination in the same year. It seems the long term effect of this change was not taken into consideration and the repercussion was dire.
It became much more competitive for those students who applied for various programs at
the country’s tertiary institutions. Thus those institutions did not have the capacity to admit all
qualified students.
These are changes that would have to be swallowed in acquiescence as the
government of the day has a final say in our educational system. Our educational institutions have
been structured in a way that, knowledge acquisition is limited to passing examinations only. The
pedagogical skills adopted by various institutional instructors are more often that which will take
pride in students passing examinations only.
Questions are set in a way that students reproduce what has been given to them by tutours, often
termed as ‘’chew, pour, pass and forget.’’ In most instances, they have not physically seen most of
what they learn and most of the questions are not set to equip their intellect.
Quintessentially, technical and vocational education which became an integral part of the Basic education system, that is the Junior High level to be more precise has not met its purpose fully.
One may not be far from right to conclude that, the sole purpose for which this aspect of education
was introduced has been defeated.
Technical and vocational education should provide a very great opportunity for students to unearth their potentials as far as creativity is concerned. In this form of education, students are able to learn carpentry, construction and metal works including catering, sewing, basketry, and graphic design among other vocations.
Students who miss the opportunity to further their education become employed for the knowledge they gained there. Alas, the practical aspects of this education are treated with contempt and the student gains no practical knowledge at the end of the day.
Tertiary institutions have also had a fair share of this educational menace, where most of our
institutions lack the necessary commodities to enhance teaching and promote the students intellect.
Most of our laboratories lack certain equipment needed for students to perform practical studies
even at the tertiary institutions.
Again, the country doesn’t invest much in research as developed countries do to deepen their
educational system and promote problem solving and also come out with new ideas. Research in its
entirety, be it that in various disciplines in academia and that which is done to check the weaknesses
of certain policies implemented in our educational institutions.
Most of the challenges facing our institutions are not necessarily insurmountable but if researches are not carried out, challenges are not easily fished out.
Even in certain instances when challenges are identified, measures are not put in place to either ameliorate or eradicate them due to less commitment in research and development.
Moreover, education should also not be predominantly a prerogative of the rich but should be
extended to all others irrespective of their class. We hear of various educational funds set up to
support brilliant but needy students.
These funds are sometimes misappropriated by those who are in charge and do not account for them. The Ghana Education Trust fund should be enhanced to go beyond its functions now to helping poor Ghanaian students.
The challenges may be an endless one and I may have to write a book if I want to get to the nitty-
gritty of it. Factually, challenges are bound to happen in pursuing any endeavour in our part of the
world.
It only becomes a headache if the challenges are not given much attention. One may see most of these challenges as so insurmountable that they should be left untouched.
However, the challenges facing our educational system are nothing above the heads of Ghanaians.
Ghana is endowed with great academics and educationists who can help with some of the challenges. The design of policies concerning education should not be left solely in the hands of
successive governments. A committee of distinguished and eminent academics and educationists
can be set which is independent and protected by statute to set up educational policies.
In such instance, it becomes difficult for successive governments to change educational policies anyhow. A change may be effected only when a research has been carried out to establish that the change indeed merits the benefit. The committee should be made to account for their work periodically and members may have to be changed on a timely basis. Laws should also be made to govern them so that no individual would have unfettered powers.
Some of these professionals have done greater things in other countries and even in Ghana so their competence would not be doubted in such situations if given the opportunity.
Equally concerning is the pedagogy adopted to train students, where education in Ghana is more
often limited to passing examinations only without giving prominence to incisive thinking and using
knowledge to solve practical problems.
Martin Luther King Junior puts it succinctly, ‘’Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.’’ If education lacks the ingredients required to prepare the trainee, then most of the difficult problems in industry, politics, business, and health among others may be left unattended to.
Medicine, Accountancy, Law and Teaching are few professions where training doesn’t limit the
trainee to only ‘’book knowledge’’ but practical knowledge is also very much considered. The
student should go beyond being able to memorise what has been given to him/her by the lecturer or
teacher.
Practical problem solving using knowledge gained in the classroom should not start at the
tertiary level but at the basic level. In so doing, the child becomes equipped and gets acclimatized to
such a condition even before he gets to the tertiary level.
Worthy of discussion is the little or no attention given to effective research concerning the various
challenges facing various institutions in the country. While I do not totally condemn change in our
educational system, it’s imperative that any change whatsoever should be made if and only if
rigorous research has been carried out to draw a conclusion.
In such situations, the change may not only consider the short term effect but a long term effect, the impact on students, industry and any other stakeholder. The benefits therefore become profound among other stakeholders.
Mention was made of bad stewards of certain educational funds which are purposely set to help
brilliant but needy students. Poor controls have also given room for people to manipulate the system
and if nothing is done about this the poor may not get access to education even if they have the
intellectual capability.
These stewards of this fund should be made to account for any amount given them and should be dealt with by appropriate independent authority if found guilty. This may serve as a deterrent to those who are may have the intention of engaging in such acts.
Thrown into the mix is the leakage of examination questions which dents the image of Ghana’s
education. Such leakages become a fertile ground for breeding doubts in the educational
qualifications of people who receive training in Ghana among other countries.
Many a time examination papers are cancelled by the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) due to leakages. One may wonder the source of these leakages as WAEC is the body that’s responsible for keeping these papers confidential. As worrying as the situation has always been, WAEC is not blamed for such leakages.
It’s not late for Ghana to put in strict measures in arresting this anomaly. If there should be leakages, then WAEC should be the first body to be blamed. It’s time strict controls are put in place to curb leakages of examination to either assuage or prevent any doubts in the way examinations are
conducted in Ghana.
Instead of our examination bodies being reactive to such examination leakages, they should rather
be proactive by putting in measures to discourage leakages. Many countries have been able to do it
and it may not be too difficult for Ghana to follow suit. The effects of some of these problems may
sometimes not be immediate but prospective.
Teachers who play an ancillary role in Ghana’s education should not be treated as mere cogs in the
wheels of the educational machine. They should be encouraged and the national budget may also
have to take into consideration the remuneration of teachers. Arrears in salaries on the part of
teachers should be strictly discouraged to motivate them in providing services to the utmost of their
abilities.
Their works should be subjected to scrutiny by various bodies and should be treated with all the seriousness needed. Further, other parameters should be ‘’woven in’’ the educational system to
firmly hold the anchor of the purpose of education.
We have come far as a country to leave education entirely to the vagaries of the political weather,
where politicians change the educational policies only because they disagree with their political
opponents. Every country in the world faces one or few challenges but those in the advanced
countries do not leave them to rest. They have been kept on their toes to deal with them. We can do
better.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our educational institutions stronger enough to solve
most of the world’s most difficult problems.
Author’s note: The opinions expressed in this piece are persuasive and not conclusive.
By: FRANK KYEI BAFFOUR