You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2009 12 16Article 173370

Opinions of Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

The Pathology of Our Educational System

:

The Educational Reform still Elusive, whilst The NAGRAT Is Thinking Of A Strike!

THE REPORT ON THE AUTOPSY of our” Reformed “educational “system is out and it’s not good. The standard of education in Ghana is lower than two decades ago. But our policy makers are still chanting and trumpeting about the “reform” while the system has marginalized many students from having a real education.

“A Reformed Educational system? Where is It.? When was the last time you received a readable and comprehensive letter from a graduate from one of our secondary schools?

Our educational system is in peril, but as far as we can tell the government officials and perhaps the members of the teachers’ Union (NAGRAT) and GNAT are the only people celebrating the so-called ‘reform’ achievement.

Has God stopped creating dedicated teachers? Of course, there are many negative factors and hindrances that can affect an effective learning environment. Things like alcohol, unpreparedness, emotionally -‘disengagement, trouble home, uninterested parental involvement and lack of self discipline. But, it has been proven over and over again that a dedicated teacher can make up for the resources the schools lack and make a big difference in the lives of the students, by being engaged in every aspect of the students’ lives. Research after research has proven that throwing money at education can not compensate for an access to good teachers.

This reminds me of my middle school days. I guess it’s now called “JSS”. I’m talking about back in the days when teachers volunteered to teach Saturdays and evening classes. They did that to make sure every final year student would pass the national examination. One story that stands out in my memory bank was the day the rain storm took over the roof of our classroom. So we were forced to attend classes in a makeshift “classroom” under a mango tree for almost a year.

Yes, even the rain could not stop us from learning, and the good part about it was that we did not have to worry about not getting enough breeze or fresh air. The “windowless and wall less classroom” even encouraged more effective learning because the teacher was able to focus his attention on us more than ever—there was no room to hide. What happened to those kinds of teachers? Who stop creating them?

The cloud hanging over our so-called “educational Reform” is preventing our policy makers from seeing the real CHANGES the system needs and how to fix it to meet the present and the future economic needs of the nation.

What has Ghana come to when even our relatively stable institution like education is falling apart unabatedly and there seems to be no uproar? All we hear is a strike by NAGRAT. But, if we had tsunami and part of the country is flooded and washed away with two- hundred thousand of our youth, I wonder whether or not we will be that quiet.

So far the only people making noise in town are the members of National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and their brothers at GNAT.

There is nothing wrong with voicing their concern in the public forum but, in this day and age when jobs are hard to come by and every nation is practically on life support system, it’s very, very (how can I put it delicately?)— inconsiderate and selfish for the NAGRAT to embark on a strike when our educational system needs all the help it can get from NAGRAT.

Can you imagine the thought of the Ghana Police embarking on a national strike for the failure of the government to meet their needs? Why not? They also have legitimate reasons to demand something to make the officers’ lives a little bit meaningful. Have you visited the police barracks lately? Do you know their living conditions? The fact of the matter is NAGRAT will never trade places with the Police.

Trust me I know the value of teachers and education. So I’m not by any means trying to devalue the currency of the teachers' role, neither am I trying to be judgmental—far from that. But, I question any action or reason that stemmed from using a strike as a tool to coerce the government and erode our kids’ education and future.

The fact is our mediocre school system is sentencing the majority of our children to low-lifers and losers, but the parents and policy makers and NAGRAT have no qualms about it.

I wish to commence with caution: If one is in a bad mood or is super-sensitive then one should return to this piece at a later time, as this is unplugged, unleashed, a hard-core and brutally honest—you’ll get it all. However, this piece targets no one, demeans no one, and makes fun of no one. I’m going to be realistic as much as possible!

Just fasten your seat –belt! I’m about to take you on a roller coaster ride. And I hope you’re ready!

To begin with, there is growing trend towards compliancy in everything we do, including educating our youth.

However, in a society like ours, nothing that in any way affects the lives or welfare of the public at large should ever be immune from examination and criticism. Be it traditional policy formulations, institutions, educational system, or whatever, there is always justification and need for continuing critical scrutiny .Ghana educational system needs to find new ways of addressing major educational challenges and implementing sustainable solutions, tools and practices because our system is in a mess

A shocking percentage of our secondary school and college graduates and students are deficient in reading, writing and simple arithmetic. Their knowledge of social sciences is weak and muddled. There is obviously something wrong with our educational system .So it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that there might even be something wrong with at least some of our schoolteachers. But, heaven helps anyone daring to express such heretical views.

Through some weird process of brainwashing, the Public has come to believe that our schools and colleges are beyond criticisms or questions. As for our teachers, they have been endowed and with sublime qualities; they are pictured as long-suffering, over-worked and underpaid “martyrs”, sacrificing themselves on the altars of education, patriotism and the love for their trade. Therefore any criticism of either schools or teachers brings a storm abusive protest from teachers’ Union.

In recent times school teachers’ salaries have risen considerably. However, would anyone in his right mind say that the quality of our educational standards has risen comparably –or risen at all--in the last two decades? I’m not trying to blame either lack of capital or teachers’ union for all of our educational problems. In no way do I wish to imply that I believe all our schoolteachers are incompetent in undeserving of high praise--or pay. I chose the example merely to point out the fallacy of our thinking—that our institutions---especially, our educational system need overhaul and the urgency of change.

There are many things that we need to investigate, examine, evaluate—and possibly change and improve-in all areas of our society, more specifically our educational system. We have grown indifferent and complacent. Being too comfortable, we don’t want to see, say or hear anything which might disturb the little tranquility of our rosy existence.

For one thing our educational system and the people running it are too conforming. Conformism is not born, it’s made. The brain-washing process begins in the schools and colleges .Many teachers and professors seem heel-bent on imbuing their students with a desire to achieve “security” above all-and at all cost. Also secondary school and university curricula are frequently designed to turn out nothing but “specialists ” ,with circumscribed knowledge and interests ,with the theory that an accountant should only do accounting ,a teacher should only teach and a lawyer should only practice the law. The school system doesn’t allow us too much room to be creative and therefore think out-the -box.

Oftentimes, one will come across a person with a fistful of impressive degrees, who is stuck in the classroom or government’s department permanently, with no knowledge of how to go in the field and better his life and increase his value. With an Agriculture degree in your hand, what about coming up with innovative ideas coupled with the indigenous faming methods to better farming and increase food production?

In the same vein a police officer can come up with innovative ideas to increase public safety or develop cheaper communication equipment for the Ghanaian police and other security apparatus. All that can increase one’s professional value and skill, and allow one to laugh all the way to the bank. Sadly, most of our secondary school and college graduates deliberately or by the design of our educational system stop growing mentally. The system doesn’t prepare us to voluntarily take initiative, and make strategic choices to increase our ‘value’

Interestingly, the real value or equity is not in the business, product, services or skills of the professionals. None of those things have any value if it can’t solve the consumers’’ problems .This is true in the information business which the teachers and educators fall under. In this sense, until our students can write and read better, and until they can perform creatively, the teachers’ value is meaningless. Most teachers and educators are severely handicapped in their belief in intellectual equity or value existent in their skills to teach, rather than the impacts of their skills.

It does not appear much effort is put to produce young men and women who have a grasp of the over-all business skills and intuition to start their own businesses or get equity from their ideas. Countless ,otherwise intelligent young individuals leave the universities, where they have received over-specialized education and then disappear into one of the administrative government’s jobs and or become –life- time politicians.

An “Educational Reform”! What reform? Are you willing to wager on the quality of the education our kids are getting now? So much for educational reform as I see it. We’re just marginalizing our future leaders.

Now I can see the angry crowd warming up at the Teacher’s Union head office: “What the hell are you talking about?” Well, my question is: are you proud of the performance of our students lately? Don’t get mad, get motivated and teach the kids life and leadership skills.

We all know teachers can’t provide financial resources and fix the deteriorating schools. It’s the government which takes care of those things if we want better education for our kids because it’s cheaper than dealing with the social effect of uneducated population.

However, it’s hard to create a better system when it seems no one can remove inept or abusive teachers—thanks to GNAT and NAGRAT. There are so many dead woods in the teaching profession but no one is talking against it. I hear stories of some teachers who drink alcohol before they go to school thereby marginalizing the students they teach.

Problems:

For us to get real results we need to identify the problems within the educational system. First of all the traditional teachers’ training colleges are producing teaching graduates who are not equipped to perform better in the classrooms.

1) Lack of accountability measures for the teachers, administrators and students.

2) Some of the teachers are not inadequately trained to track students’ progress.

3) They lack information about what learning tool works.

4) They have trouble engaging students in the classroom.

5) They have low expectation.

6) Lack of focus remedial classes for the students.

7) The teachers lack social and academic counseling skills to help students identify and develop their passion and talents.

Solutions: To correct some of these imbalances, Saturday’s classes should be organized for the teachers to help them hone their teaching skills and learn new innovative ways to teach. While we are at it, we must deal with the challenges that come with archaic teaching instructional methods and the weakness in curriculum that perpetuate the marginalizing of many secondary school students and leave them unprepared for college and college graduates unprepared to enter the job market or start their own businesses.

These are the areas on which the teachers’ union can focus its arsenals. Strikes and demonstrations are tools that should be used as the last resort; when the results coming from the schools can be measured or quantified in real numbers, but that is not possible when the system is turning out marginalized students who can hardly compete in any academic area. Until then the NAGRAT should use its political power and clout to police its own people and urge them to be part of the solutions.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi. (THE VOICE OF REASON) Nj. USA

.