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Opinions of Saturday, 6 January 2018

Columnist: Musah Abdul Razak

The tragedy of our education system

In 1956 Ghana, the then Gold Coast gained internal independence. In 1957,Ghana gained total independence and was free from internal and external suppression.

Among the four countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia) that were colonized by the British, Ghana was the first country to gain independence. In West Africa, Ghana was the first country that gained independence. She even helped Guinea to gain independence.

So why is Ghana still behind development? This is very pathetic. Isn't it? Ghana is blessed with many natural resources such as gold, diamond, bauxite, timber and many others. It is currently the second largest producer of cocoa in the world. Not only that but also the second largest miner of gold in Africa.

But why is Ghana still a developing country? Why is she still dependent on other countries? High rate of unemployment, high child mortality rate, hunger, poverty and many others are the challenges we are still bedeviled with. Why mother Ghana?

It was last night they announced of his coming. A lot of people have left their daily activities to see him. Yes their 'Messiah'. Wow, what a flashy car! Look at the number of cars and his entourage. What a handsome man! Look at the way he has dressed. Like he is from a different planet. His hair is cut and brushed nicely. What a neatness! His coat is well ironed and very neat.

His shoes are well polished that one can use as a mirror. Look at the way he speaks. He can really rattle the queen's language with ease. Everybody wants to hear him talk. Yes. This is how I want my child to be like. I wish I were him. I wish he were my child. I wish he were my relative.

But did you know how this man became who he is? Everyday and night we are exposed to new things. Aren't we? This means we have to always learn to cope with the present environment. That is why no one can say that he/she is done with learning. Learning is a lifelong process.

It is from generation to generation; very essential in every country since each country's progress is premised on education. No wonder Nelson Mandela ever said it is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.

Education has been in Ghana since time immemorial but it was rather informal (where a person was taught outside the classroom without any structured curriculum) and non-formal (where a father could teach his children how to farm or tell them a story about the past). Indeed, knowledge was imparted onto the Ghanaian child orally and through apprenticeships.

Now, Ghana's education system is killing creativity, it is too bookish, responsible for unemployment and doesn't teach the Ghanaian child to be self-reliant.

The bookish nature of Ghana's education system compels the Ghanaian child to memorize what is in the textbooks. It is based on mastering the principles and theory of dead people. But why should we spend much time still learning the principles and theorems of dead people? Can't we instead do more to what is already being done?

As an educationist, one thing I have noticed among many students is that they memorize words that they neither understand or could pronounce them well. This is really sickening. Isn't it? I remember I could define what matter was for my teacher to say that I was intelligent. I memorized the definition for exams sake but the truth is I didn't know what it really meant. Funny right?

In subjects like Mathematics which I know my colleagues in other schools did same, I had no option than to memorize most of the formulas I didn't know what they meant. Interestingly, the people who have the ability to memorize are considered 'the intelligent. How? Students who have the ability to memorize past questions are seen as brilliant students whilst the unfortunate ones who don't get past questions to memorize are seen as weak students.

The Ghanaian child reads nothing else apart from the books given to them. Seriously if the students who got aggregate 6 in the WASSCE are to write those same papers again, I promise you most of them would not be able to even get aggregate 10. why? 'Chew and pour', 'past and forget'.

Our education system kills creativity. Is the Ghanaian child receiving quality education? Are they being taught to be critical thinkers so that they can be creative and solve problems? Can they compete with students from other countries?

Unlike the saying by Jean Piaget "the goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities of a child to invent or discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things", Ghana's education system is based on producing what is being taught in the class.

This has made the Ghanaian child part of those who cannot think outside the box. Apart from what is being taught in the class, the Ghanaian child does not bother to learn things outside the course they study. Those that are creative are still struggling, re-writing failed papers to better them.

An example is Yvone Nelson who re-wrote failed papers several times to better them but look at where she is now because of creativity. What baffles me is that these people are made by their teachers, friends and relatives to feel that their contributions outside the classroom is worthless.

In the BECE and WASSCE, students are compelled to produce precisely what is in the textbook. Credit is not given for creative thinking, think outside the box rather penalizes the Ghanaian child.

The education system is responsible for the never-ending unemployment in the country.

'The true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers', said William Deresiewic. The notion implanted in the minds of the Ghanaian students is that they will go to school, get job, marry, retire and enjoy their pension pay. An irony in itself. There is a subject that has attracted so much public attention which is the high rate of graduate unemployment.

This has been a major problem for Ghana for decades. Government goes and government comes but no government has been able to solve this unending problem as expected. People enter the tertiary institutions and become less creative because they focus only on books and do not even read outside their courses.

There is a big difference between academia and industry but our education system only focuses on producing academicians. This makes graduates become more than the jobs available. It makes it difficult for the Ghanaian graduate to get job. A lot of graduates are still in the house searching for jobs.

The fortunate ones who get jobs are unable to do it effectively because they are not practically oriented.

Also, business students whose field is concern with marketing are never bothered to sell because they see selling as the work for the uneducated. Yes.They think educated persons must only work in offices. They would want to work in the cities.

They would want to search for jobs with good working conditions and remuneration so that they can be rich within the shortest possible time, forgetting that all the annoited ones started as church goers.

The system doesn't teach the Ghanaian child to be self sufficient. What kind of education is the Ghanaian child acquiring from the school? Unlike the informal education which is more into the practical, formal education delves less into the practical aspect. For instance, a science student can give the functions of burette, pippete, measuring cylinder and many others but if he is sent outside the classroom to select burette from many scientific apparatus they cannot.

Why?Could you believe that at the end of some lessons, most students might not have seen computers and scientific apparatus. Astonishing right? It baffles me why the Ghanaian child would be taught ICT in class without ICT tools. The Ghanaian teacher would teach students what the mouse is when the child has not seen mouse before. Is the child educated well here?

In conclusion, education as we all know, is very important for the development of every country hence there is the need for us to restructure our education system to commensurate the ever emerging technological growth in the world.

We must place priority on the gifted and technical education in order to lessen the bookish nature of our system of education so that Mother Ghana can also beat its chest in competing with other already developed countries. The Ghanaian child who can use their hands to manipulate materials and bring out something meaningful but cannot pass exams should be made to feel worthwhile and not the other way round.