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Opinions of Monday, 15 January 2018

Columnist: Okota-Wilson Nicholas

What is the essence of basic education in Ghana?

Is it just to equip pupils with fundamental numeracy and literacy skills or just a passage through which pupils can get to the senior high schools?

Times have changed; the way things were done in the year 2008 when the Educational Reform was rolled out is entirely different now especially with how technology has become relevant in all we do with the kind of socio-economic problems facing the nation.

This change in general normal life should influence what we expect from our basic education now. It should influence the number of subjects taught there, the number of years a pupil is supposed to spend there, the teaching methods there alongside the materials provided and possibly its administration.

Therefore, the general expectation of just having pupils start reading and writing, speak the official language (English) and do basic calculation should be redefined and expanded to include the pressing needs of the nation.

From the start, the pupil must be prepared and positioned to relate to the national dream and to be equipped to be resourceful in order to contribute in achieving it.

For some time now, there has been much talk about instilling entrepreneurship in young Ghanaians but why do most young Ghanaians find it difficult to stand up as entrepreneurs in their own small way even if they will run a business along their main occupation?

One problem is, the basic education system tends to condition pupils to learn hard in order to be employed in both public and private sector. When pupils in junior high school classes are asked the work they will do in future, about ninety percent (90%) will be talking of being doctors, bank managers, nurses, engineers,etc.

The few out of the lot who will talk of running their own businesses like being fashion designers (dressmakers) ,carpenters,etc will be subjected to such a ridicule that the pupil will regret thinking of that. Most of the Ghanaian youth do not show interest in agriculture because from the basic school especially at primary level, farming is painted as a kind of occupation that a student should never dream of.

But if agriculture is well packaged as one of the ‘white collar’ jobs, the future generation of this nation will embrace and have interest in it from the start. The business aspect must be well delivered to pupils so that they will even have the desire to venture into it even right after school.

Unfortunately, we are stuck in the reality of just getting pupils write and pass exams. It is very worrying that each level of our basic education cannot signal what the child can and cannot do. What are the basic life and survival skills a pupil in form one(1) at the junior high school can display.

The system should be able to make it clear that primary six (6) pupil who should be of eleven(11) years all other things being equal, should be able to ride a bicycle, be able to access the internet, mend shoes and cloths when torn, swim, climb trees, be able to calculate income and expenditure (in words they can relate to) of small business, etc. Each level on the basic school ladder must help tell the capabilities of a pupil.

It is time to move away from just seeing the basic school as the red sea for pupils to cross before going to the senior high school. Something more serious and progressive should be demanded of the basic school.

‘Creation’ of responsible citizens begins from what pupils are made to go through in the basic school. How are the subjects taught in the basic school relevant to the present needs of the country? How are they delivered in the class so that the pupil will appreciate the need to put into practice what has been learnt?

How is assessment done so that it does not just reinforce rote learning? In this sense, teachers have critical role in preparing pupils to become patriotic and useful nation builders.

The methods and approaches used by teachers will enable pupils to make proper use of what they learn. If pupils are oriented to see the essence of learning to be only passing examination then, the nation has a lot of work to do. So therefore, the curriculum should be designed in such a way to make each subject at all levels practical as possible.

A subject like Basic Design and Technology can be treated in such a way that , during vacations, a student will be made to spend about a week with a professional carpenter, mason or caterer depending on the option he or she is on.

When school re-opens, the student comes to share his or her experience with the class. At least it will help pupils relate what they have learnt in school to daily practical happenings.

Citizenship education can be pursued in the basic school by not just having a subject called Citizenship Education. It is about its content and how it is delivered that will make pupils responsible citizens.

The lax with which pupils of today sing the national anthem and recite the national pledge is enough to say they cannot relate to such inspiring patriotic tunes. Basic schools must reinforce the process of nation building started by the home institution.

Rhymes and verses at the kindergarten should contain nation building themes. Basic education as ran in Ghana should go beyond just preparing pupils for the senior high school to preparing them for the task of nation building.