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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Columnist: Dr Albert O. A. Tsolu

Is our educational system in shambles?

The Oxford dictionary defines education as a process of teaching, training and learning, especially in schools and colleges/universities. This denotes the ability to acquire and improve knowledge and skills through tutelage that is done in a systematic manner over a period of time.

The acquisition of knowledge depends on the ability of the acquirer to do this in a way that is either quick or slow. This attribute may rest on the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) of the recipient and may relate to the environmental condition of the beneficiary.

Knowledge can be dichotomised by natural endowment or acquiring it through study. Knowledge is, therefore, the pivotal power of humankind.

Child education

Education of the child, consequently, comes to play as the most important tool for adequate nation building. Child education usually serves as a strong cornerstone for the development of the child mentally to be useful in society.

Therefore, there must be no substitute for child education no matter what.

The characteristics of child training that enables the child to grow well educationally are mental, moral and physical training. As children cannot concentrate on one thing for a long period, it is propitious to tutor the child through play/ storytelling or else interlacing teaching with music/singing that will refresh the child’s mind to concentrate better on whatever he or she is being impacted on.

Once any of the above qualities is lacking, development of the child becomes deplete and incomplete as all these attributes are intertwined. For instance, a child who is interested in sports especially football will grapple with geometry and trigonometry faster and better than the child who has no interest because of the angles, circles, diameters/radius etc. linked with the football field.

This scenario goes with other games and the interest in other extramural activities such as music that involves calculation. Extramural activities boost the ego and morale of the child and makes him/her perform well educationally.

The known to unknown

It is propounded, also, that children must be tutored from known to unknown that will make them assimilate lessons properly. Based on this, local languages are used to commence tutoring the child in our basic schools. I see no virtue in this philosophy as any child born anywhere and introduced to learning in any language at any time will do well once the approach is apposite.

For instance, I was born by Ewe parents at Larteh in Akwapim. Therefore, my first contact of diction was Ewe. Due to the colonial policy of teaching from the known to unknown for the first three years of our education at that time, I was saddled with starting with Ewe at home, then switched on to Akwapim Twi at school.

Larteh had a dialect that I needed to learn to be able to associate well with my peers. By the time I was 10 years I had to migrate with my mother to the Volta Region to start all over again with Ewe relating to the wobbling language policy in schools then.

At this stage, I became confused and was frightened any time there was a subject called language be it local or foreign. This is what happens to children of my calibre. My gigabytes were full language wise, so there was little room for important subjects such as mathematics/science that is the logic of reason/knowledge.

For instance, we normally pronounce Tomato - “tomanto” and pear-“payer” in the local languages. Switching on to spell or pronounce these words and other similar ones correctly was a very daunting task and nearly ended up my struggle for education.

Most of our English essays were marked; vernacular English with copious red ink marks that discouraged most of my mates and consequently ending their ambition for education.

This is the problem linked with teaching from known to unknown relating to language as introduced to us by our colonial masters.

At my middle school years at Gbi Wegbe, Volta Region, the head teacher in trying to upgrade our competence in English language drew an ugly huge monkey that was worn on the chest of any student caught speaking the vernacular. The last person that wore it for the day was severely punished.


Language is a means to communicate and it does not matter what language one is introduced to begin with. If teaching from known to unknown by using accustomed parlance is credible, then our cultural practices must be taught first in our schools before any foreign ideology is imposed.

English has assumed universal communication platform that has clustered the world together with ease. Swahili was adopted in most Eastern African States as lingua franca but did not survive and that called for its reversal.

Africana was imposed on the Southern African States but with fiasco. China is a big country and can survive without the outside world yet English language is common there. What I try to expand is that language does not matter that much in knowledge acquisition.

After all, private schools with lesser-trained teachers that do not tow this language policy perform better than those of the public schools that adopt this practice no matter what environmental parameters that are used as contemplation.

Lackadaisical performance in public schools, in particular, hinges on lack of adequate supervision/inspection, seriousness and respect for teachers and education in general to encourage the downtrodden to pursue it. We need inversion of the policy by introducing vernacular at a later stage as our alphabets and numerals are derived from foreign ones. No one will send his or her ward to private schools if the public ones perform well.

A broken system?

Ghana’s education that was the envy/cynosure of Africa has dwindled chaotically with majority of students in many of our institutions hardly able to spell/pronounce words appropriately, do basic mathematics correctly and being oblivious of geographical locations due to wrong calculus in educational policy implementation over the years.

I listened to some officials from the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) defending a book written by an educationist that heads were created to carry loads just in the measure of known to unknown. I thought they could add defaecating in bushes/gutters/beaches or throwing rubbish indiscriminately and noise making to their policy repertoire as that is the practice in our society today that most children are accustomed to.