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Balancing the Education Curriculum

Sun, 9 Sep 2007 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

After years of struggle to mint education curriculum content that actually reflects its environment, its African appendage, and its sensibilities in relation to its colonial legacies and with an eye for global progress, a new education curriculum is to be implemented this September by Ghana. Mrs. Angelina Baiden-Amissah, the Deputy Minister of Education, in some sort of apology for lapses of yesteryears explains that the “curriculum being used in schools had not promoted cultural, political and patriotic awareness among the youth.” This may explain the argument in certain circles that the national education curriculum that informed Ghanaian education system has been intellectually unbalanced and bankrupt, deeply unrelated to the realities of Ghanaians’ foundational norms, values and traditions, as obtained in the United States, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Important as it is, for the past 50 years, national education curriculum did not reflect Ghana holistically, as are those in Southeast Asian countries such as Japan, which, too, at a period, struggled with its national education curriculum, the culmination was in the Meiji Restoration during which revolution Japan adopted Western education system as a way to make Japan a strong, modern nation developmentally. The Japanese education system, rooted in its traditional cultural values such as its Oriental culture, Buddhist and Confucian teachings, and emphasizing self-criticism, stresses “respect for society and the established order and prizes group goals above individual interests.” Like what the new Ghanaian education curriculum aims at, the Japanese education system is a mixture of Western model and their traditional cultural values, dubbed “Western technology, Japanese soul,” to lessen Western influence on Japanese society and to toughen “Japanese values.”

As the key driver of progress, the inadequacies in the education system reflect a nation which national development policies are shaky, uninformed by its Ghanaian soul, and that have been suppressed for long by both colonialism and its post-independent elites’ poor thinking. This is increasingly being corrected Ghana-wide today, with education policy-makers taking good advice. This is creditable and demonstrates the emerging policy-makers’ and bureaucrats’ self-appraisal. Added to this is emerging a new generation of thinkers – Mr. Courage Quashigah, Mr. George Ayittey, Mr. Kofi Akosah-Sarpong and Mr. Bernard Guri, among others - who argue that Ghana’s progress should be driven by policies that either juggle or mix, where appropriate, its traditional values and the dominant neo-liberal ones. The attempts are to open up the long-suppressed traditional values for progress, simultaneously touting the good parts and refining the inhibiting aspects through skilled policy-making, consultancies and bureaucratization. With the intellectual and developmental climate changing for the better, detailed and thoughtful national development planning, informed by traditional Ghanaian values, has produced, as Mrs. Baiden-Amissah explains, “introduction of citizenship education in the curriculum of the new education reform to make the youth to be proud of the country's rich cultural heritage.”

This is to produce future elites who think from within Ghanaian traditional values first and take this up to the global level, as the Japanese and other Southeast Asians elites do. The current situation is opposite and that’s why the new education curriculum seeks to correct it. Despite its national orientation, the new education curriculum should play with the sensibilities of the local to the regional, dealing with their nuances. The new education curriculum, too, will help boost the dearth of confidence in the Ghanaian development process that is not strategically driven by Ghana’s traditional values. No doubt, of late, the word “confidence” has become a reality thresher among some Ghanaian elites trying to discuss Ghana’s progress. Former United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, an icon of global education, has noted the frail “confidence” in Ghana’s progress and stressed that “development is the result of transformation; no transformation could be successful without self confidence. We have to believe in our capacities.” And that “believe in our capacities” should emanate from Ghana’s traditional values.

The new education curriculum has come about because of the long-running suppression and demeaning of Ghanaian traditional values in its development process. This has had terrible implications on Ghana’s progress. In a process of self-destruct, Ghanaians have weakened trust and faith in their foundational traditional values, shaky confidence, wobbly dignity, and rickety self-respect, making many a Ghanaian think his or her traditional values and norms are not as good as that of the Europeans. This is despite the fact that, as Mrs. Oboshie Sai-Cofie, Information and National Orientation Minister, explains “We have in our culture as Ghanaians unchanging and unchangeable ethical and moral precepts that all our people believe in.” The sum of all these is a country which patriotism is psychologically disturbed – a process that tellingly indicates that Ghana has no foundational traditional values and norms to drive its progress. And this indicates disregarding the norms and values that drove its Founding Fathers like Okomfo Anokye, Yaa Asantewaa, Kwame Gyateh Ayirebe Gyan, Na Gbewa, J.B. Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, J. Tsiboe, and Paa Grant to create Ghana.

In floating a national curriculum that promotes cultural, political and patriotic awareness, the new prospectus will answer the fact that not only is Ghanaian traditional values not touted highly in its education system but also the men and women who drive country’s progress. Biographies of “successful Ghanaians to propel” Ghanaians, especially the directionless youth, “to attain greater heights,” as Bishop Agyin Asare, of the Word Miracle Church, advises, are awfully low in the country’s education system. Most Ghanaian Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers are not deeply covered across its education system, and even if covered at all, it is shallow and is not tied strategically to Ghana’s progress, as seen in the American education curriculum.

No doubt, the Accra-based “Statesman” and “Ghanaweb” columnist Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe has argued that the recent fête of the musical compositions of four top Ghanaian musicians - Dr Ephraim Amu, Professor J H Kwabena Nketia, Dr Gyima Labi and Rev. Robert Gaddiel Acquaah - as part of Ghana's Golden Jubilee festivities, wasn’t far-fetched, feeble on Ghanaian core cultural sensibilities. “In sum,” writes the inimitable Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe, “institutionalising the preceding cultural icons would enhance our knowledge of Ghanaian history and culture. Even more importantly, it would also facilitate the salutary preservation and development of our collective identity as a sovereign nation with a rich culture and an enviable place under the sun.”

This is just the beginning of the shape of things to come: balancing the education curriculum by inserting Ghanaian traditional values and norms is just the commencement. As an on-going process, the new national education curriculum, like all balanced curricula anywhere, that seeks to promote cultural, political and patriotic awareness, has to be constantly upgraded in response to emerging realities – and this includes constant infusion of emerging Ghanaian cultural sensibilities.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi