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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Columnist: David Baganiah

Understanding the Ghanaian context of the learning crisis

Reports and evidence of the existence of lapses and inefficiencies in our education system are no historic news. The fact that four out of every five learners go back home from school, at the end of the school day, without learning a thing are not entirely new developments in the world's records.

In fact, even Finland and Japan-today’s benchmarked education systems- are both in the records to have operated faltering education systems at some points in times past. Yet they are the standard of measure when we talk of successful educational systems in the world today. This indicates that our system might be stumbling, faltering and staggering at the moment but not necessarily down and out altogether.

All hope will only be lost if we do not manage to recover from the lack of commitment that has largely precipitated the actions of controllers of the system that is the Government of Ghana(GoG), Ministry of Education(MoE).

Where do we start then? That is a tough question but we need to provide solutions to the problems induced by culturally inclined practices, behaviours, notions and beliefs. For instance, high teacher attrition rate is induced by the Ghanaian society's attitude of according high levels of regard for people who have acquired wealth but showing no respect for people who make any other kind of unmaterialistic impact.

The respect for the rich has become a culture not only in Ghana but worldwide, however, unmaterialistic achievements are also respected elsewhere but not in Ghana. Hence, fulfillment in Ghana, is largely tantamount to acquiring mass wealth through your job. Ninety percent of teachers can not acquire wealth through teaching, and will mostly miss out on that high amount of respect that the affluent enjoy in our society. Which sane human being does not want to be respected and regarded positively? That is why there exists a high teacher attrition in the country at the moment.

Something will definitely have to change in that regard if the ghost of high teacher attrition is to be exorcised.


By committing to scaling up the requirements for recruiting teachers, we will be recruiting some of the best brains we can possibly find in our society. But that will not appeal to those with the required quality if we do not give them decent salaries that they need to repair the damaged image of the teaching profession which is seen as one for the poor.

So the solution is simple, recruit the best brains with high qualifications (maybe master's) like is done in Finland but pay them very well so they earn respect through their quality standard of living. The reason this will do the trick is that, the teacher can be traced to every nook and crany of the country.

No other group of professionals have that extended level of representation as they do. That means that, as familiarity breeds contempt, the commonest professional in the country will be way too familiar to the majority of the populace but in this case, will have been well resourced financially to maintain a certain standard that exudes high positive regard, rather than the contempt it usually breeds. That is likely going to work magic in curing the problem of high teacher attrition and low standard which is the bane of our educational system.

As a key stakeholder within the education set up, the education provider (GoG- MoE) is the driver of the vehicle (education system). When there is little commitment on the part of this stakeholder, it affects the other components of the system such as teachers, etc.

Therefore, GoG-MoE must show commitment by adequately resourcing all its appendage entities to make them functional. Again, there must be commitment to providing in a timely manner, all the necessary resources and logistics required for operating in an effective and efficient results oriented system.

Textbooks, computers, curriculum, teacher guides, teacher notebooks, capitation grant, fund for school feeding, transportation allowance for Circuit Supervisors, salaries of newly trained teachers, etc. must always be provided more promptly if learning is to take place. The education system can only become efficient through coordination of efforts/roles of all the main players within the system.

What this means is that if we have textbooks supplied at the right time while Circuit Supervisors are not resourced at that particular time to supervise and monitor the activities of colleagues on the ground, there will definitely be inefficiency because some schools maybe doing the wrong thing due to lack of supervision. Concerted efforts must be made by government to oil the system in such a way that resurrects, maintains and ensures coordination of efforts by every player within the system geared towards achieving results.

Honestly, the extent to which our new curriculum serves the purpose of solving prevailing problems in the Ghanaian context is not too clear to some of us, right now. However, it is a fact that some of the key pedagogies outlined in it encourage active learning. Again, the issue of content overload, which characterised the old syllables, has been effectively dealt with in this one.

But how do we measure the effectiveness of implementation or the impact it is making?
I think the MoE should have prioritised the system evaluation as much as the change of curriculum. System evaluation would help us identify the areas that require modification and adjustments for efficiency and effectiveness of the system. Therefore, some metrics for measuring the performance of the system from hair to toe should have been rolled out along with the new curriculum, and it is not too late to do this.

Again, GoG has not demonstrated enough commitment to the cause of systemic and curriculum change because the second phase of the implementation process has been unduly delayed, creating a gap.

The point is that Basic Seven (JHS 1) students were part of the first phase (New Standards-Based Curriculum) and were earmarked to be pioneers of the Common Core Programme Curriculum which is the phase two of the system change. This plan has been held up due to unclear reasons though it is suspected to be as a result of financial constraints on the part of government.

Whatever the reason, our commitment to making learning happen is definitely questionable and must change if we want to see a turn around of fortunes, as a country. How can we grow as a country if we approach issues with such shakable manner of commitment? GoG/MoE must wake up from the slumber.

Overall, that little trick that is missing in our system which is making it lame and making the learning crisis persist is not cluelessness. It is a lack of commitment on the part of key players in the system, not least the education provider herself, the GOG. If the GoG, will shelve all lustful tendencies such as operating good policies like the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) as one used as a means of rewarding party loyalists, good policies would achieve their purpose.

For instance, an effective GSFP would help us bin stunting- a challenge which is projected to be affecting 19% of children in our schools and militating against the effectiveness of their learning abilities.