10
MenuWallOpinions
Articles

Is the departure from the old educational system a good decision?

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 Source: GNA

A Ghana News Agency Feature by Sepenyo Dzokoto

Ho, Dec.5, GNA-Some 30 years ago, a primary 4 pupil on the instructions of his mother took his wobbly kitchen stool out to find a carpenter to mend it.

Around the Post Office, he saw a man thrusting nails in some pieces of wood and approached.

“Please Carpenter; my mother says mend this stool for me.”

The man in his 50s produced a wry smile, and replied: “I am not a carpenter, but, bring it”.

He wrenched the parts apart, pulled out some rusty nails and refitted and nailed the stool into place, strong, but would not take any cash for the job.

The little boy dashed away happy to report to her mother, who retorted: “That man is not a carpenter but the Postmaster”.

This happened somewhere in the Volta Region.

Mr Postmaster, off-course, not his real name, exited from the school process after 10 years basic school.

He joined the Postal Services as a clerk and after many years, became the Post Master, still holding on to the skills of carpentry learnt at school.

There are so many of the Postmaster’s kind; men and women. The women still have the skill to stitch their own clothes, know crocheting and can still produce simple recipes learnt at school.

The school system then gave the Postmaster and others some inkling into skills so as to make the choice of livelihood not so difficult.

Can we say the same about the hordes of graduates from the Junior High Schools today?

During the Postmaster’s time, many of his contemporaries who had 10 years of basic education were literate enough to branch into several spheres of life-civil service, security service, teaching, private corporate world and self-business. Many in fact, excelled.

Today, it is unclear where and which are the opportunities provided by the current first tier education.

The impression one got from gleaning the media anytime BECE results were released lately was that passing to gain admission into secondary school represented the ultimate goal of attending Junior High School.

Students who failed to make the grades, therefore, would drop out of the system; not traced not tracked.

It was the same this year. The media in the past few weeks was so full of issues about Basic Certificate Examination (BECE) results to almost make it monotonous.

Information attributed to Mr. Samuel Oppong, National Coordinator of Computerized Schools Selection and Placement System (CSSPS), indicated that this year “176,128 candidates, representing 46.93 per cent of the 375,280 passed for placement for Senior High School and Technical Institutes”

The Education Authorities do not think the 53 per cent who had not made the marks for placement had failed the exams since the “examination was both terminal and continuous”.

That is right and it had in fact always been so.

During the Postmaster’s time, the system gave the opportunity to students from primary six in a few cases and mainly from forms one to four in the middle schools to take competitive exams to enter secondary schools.

The rest continued to complete basic school at form four, from where they moved on into secondary school, training colleges, commercial schools, skills training institutes.

There is the impression that products of first tier education, ending at Middle School form four in the past were literary and functionally superior to today’s first tier leavers, which is the JHS.

Another dimension of the scenario is the geographical and perhaps demographic imprint on the results, which makes the candidate at Borkorvikope or Anyiboboe both outlandish areas in the Ho Municipal Area for various reasons less likely to compare to the candidate at the Garrison schools in Ho.

Another worrying variation is the performance divide between private and public schools, where the former does well and the latter marginal to poor, that is generally.

It does appear also that much more basic school leavers recede into illiteracy today, than was the case during the Postmaster’s time.

Could this be because of the higher numbers in and coming out of school these days?

The keel is off the ship of education and so it is sailing and berthing rough, and could sink.

It must be put right and early too, before the ramifications create socio-economic situations that could threaten the development and even the peace and stability of the country.

It was bewildering for me, the Writer, a General News Reporter, attempting to define education as the experts provided many to confound you.

WHAT IS EDUCATION?

Let us settle on that by Manali Oak found while gleaning through the Internet which stated partly thus:

“Education, if simply stated, means the process of gaining knowledge, inculcating forms of proper conduct and acquiring technical competency.

“It involves the cultivation of an innocent mind, the instilling of values and principles in the minds of children.

“It includes the development of skills along with the achievement of one's physical, mental and social development.

“To put it in technical terms, education consists of defined phases starting from formal education that consists of primary, secondary and higher education and ideally it never ends.

“The process of education that is believed to begin in the womb continues throughout life”.

The stress is on values, technical competency and achievement of one’s physical, mental and social development.

In Ghana, all indications are that access is improving and there is a law backing it, that all should go to school.

What is worrying is system now however sifts many out.

Mr Japhet Buama said in a report presented to the Ho Municipal Directorate of Education on the low performance in schools as measured by the BECE results that “the system is skewed towards the exceptional few students who have the gift of reading, writing and calculating figures.”

For Mr Buamah, the flawed educational system, was denying majority of students the study of “their gifted and talented subjects” and so therefore, BECE percentage scores “will be dwindling between 47.5 per cent and 60 per cent”.

He said school “curricula and system of examination should as well change to suit the needs of all pupils in school for better results”.

Further references from the status quo of education in the Ho Municipal Area was used to illustrate some of the points made as in the case of the performance divide between private and public schools and demographic dynamics.

The article therefore can be said to be peering at the dynamics of the BECE supposed mass failures through the prism of Ho Municipal Area.

Let us take a glimpse at the table for 2011. Mater Ecclesiae, a private Junior High School (JHS), at Sokode-Gbogame, was the overall best, followed by Holy Spirit Cathedral JHS, in Ho, both Catholic Church schools, and Mawuli EP JHS also in Ho, third.

A total of 10 schools had zero per cent, with Bokorvikofe JHS, at the bottom of the table.

Bokorvikofe is a hard to reach area about five kilometers off the Ho-Accra Highway, most of whose school pupils live on the other side of the Tsawe river, and skip school when the river is full and dangerous to cross.

The table in the Municipal Area followed the general trend in the country for private JHS’s to do better.

It is worth noting that some public schools defied the trend, posting very good results.

All 28 candidates presented by Sokode-Gbogame LA JHS attained aggregates 30 and below, so also were the 29 pupils of the Nyive Lume JHS and the four presented by Agogoe Lume JHS.

Other public schools which got 100 per cent pass were Tanyigbe- Kpodzi JHS, which presented 14 candidates, Saviefe-Gbogame JHS, 11 candidates, Agogoe Lume JHS, four candidates.

Ho-Kabore and Volta Barracks School, both Garrison Schools, which presented the highest numbers of candidates, 161 and 80 respectively, got 95.5 per cent apiece and Prince Charles in Ho, a private school, which presented the lowest number of 3, had 100 per cent.

Mr Emmanuel Keteku, Ho Municipal Director of Education, who gave this statistics out to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) said the barometer for measuring BECE results should be more analytical than being done.

That is going deeper than the plain; this school and that school scored zero percent, to tackling the tangible and the intangible reasons, with the import of education, generally, as the basis.

THE FOUR FACTORS

The Ho Municipal Education Directorate diagnostic conclave listed 17 points under four major factors as problems besetting the education sector in the Municipality which in every certainty is same for other areas in Ghana.

The four are; school factor, teacher factor, pupil characteristics and parental support.

The 17 listed points under the various factors include inadequate teaching and learning materials, inadequate professional teachers, teacher indiscipline, poor grasp of English Language, non-completion of syllabuses, low teacher interest in students, poor parental support and inadequate external and internal teacher supervision.

Mr Keteku said a major challenge for education management is inadequate funding by government and that I believe should wrap the problem.

He said budget is woefully incommensurate with the tasks, so much, to make recompense administration, for example, a nightmare.

Mr Keteku said Ho Municipal Area with far more numbers of schools to manage, receive the same cash allotment for administration as Adaklu Anyigbe-District.

That means officers cannot get to the schools for inspections or other meaningful interactions.

There was a time in the history of educational management in Ghana when a teacher on transfer from Tsito-Awudome to Winneba, stopped over at the Methodist Educational Unit in Accra, got his travel and transport allowance to pay for the truck, already loaded from Tsito.

These days, teachers hardly got those payments and even if they got it all, it was after so many humiliating experiences at the hands of schedule officers.

Low teacher morale might be due be to the perceived poor pay, a generally misplaced low esteem for the job, and perhaps, a management systems failure as happening in many other public institutions.

Come with me to Tacks’ Corner rpt Tacks’ Corner, a secluded community, with houses segregated by fields of coconut trees whose hisses, crackling and groans in a storm in the night could make a visitor go into jitters.

Mr Jones Ansong Nyameye, not his real name, as a teacher in that community, had to travel in and out of that community 20 times, spanning a year and half before he could get an input on a salary raise implemented.

This is an example of how simple interplay of human resource management among the various internal and external teacher management offices, had gone rusty to affect teacher morale in the country.

Teacher efficacy is also a problem though. Why there is a lot of talk about non-availability of qualified teachers as cause of poor educational results, hindsight, would however counter that presumption.

During the time of the Postmasters, there were the management competencies and the wherewithal to make the many Pupil Teachers in the classroom get the right results.

AN EDUCATIONST NIGHTMARE

Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, a celebrated educationalist, then as Principal of the University College of Education, Winneba (UCEW), observed that at the time that the training colleges took form four leavers as students and their tutors, mainly Associate Certificate holders, they produced better teachers than now when students of training colleges students have all attended secondary schools and many masters have second degrees.

He was the guest speaker at the launch of the Jasikan Training College Silver Jubilee celebrations which was held in Ho in 2002.

It was like a lid taken off the Pandora box containing the reasons for increasing teacher non-performance in the public schools in the country.

Inside the box are cocktail of reasons, often repeated and perhaps stale in the ears but yet the very ones that must be tackled to get education back on track and then negate the dangerous fast ingraining bi-polar, private-good public-bad structure concept.

To get the system respond to school management improvement programmes, Mr Keteku suggested replicating the school work enhancement projects, such as the USAID sponsored EQUAL and GAIT projects.

But this time we must ensure that their verifiable successes outlived the duration of the projects.

The projects mainly aimed at enhancing accountability and transparency in educational management through District Education Office, community and civil society collaboration in school management.

It (projects) supported partners to build networks and increase management capacities for improving multi-sector development as well as ensured effective decentralization, through improved collaboration between the District Assembly and the District Education Office in education delivery

Mr Keteku said similar projects could help tackle the parent and community factors contributing to poor performance in schools.

He said studies in the Ho Municipal area indicated that “less than 50 percent of the pupils in the low performing schools had all their school basic needs, such as school uniform, school bag, exercise books, pencils, ruler and pen provided”.

The Ghana News Agency on the trail of reasons of the poor 2011 BECE results in the Ho Municipal Area visited the Sokode Gbogame EP JHS, a public school in a peri-urban rpt peri-urban setting, which has consistently performed well in the past five years.

It got 100 per cent in 2011, while the rest six schools in the circuit got between 0 and 58 per cent.

Mr Forster Kwatsikor Headmaster told the GNA that besides meeting a good management tradition at the school, he (Kwatsikor) was passionate about work and ensured all factors interplayed to make the school a good one.

He said the Sokode-Gbogame EP was a complex, from kindergarten to JHS 3, and therefore “the advantage of grooming most of its pupils from the beginning to the end”.

Mr Kwatsikor said the school signs an undertaken with final year students and their parents to severally, be of good behavior, study hard and provide the school needs of wards.

He said staff welfare was a priority for his administration and that the PTA contribution to school work was tremendous.

How many of such calibers of teachers do we still have in the system, at a time when evaluation for raises in salaries and promotions had ceased to be hard work but rather academic qualifications.

Let us take another thought from Prof. Anamuah-Mensah, speaking on teacher evaluation at the same Jasikan Training College Jubilee Launch in Ho.

Teacher education and I suppose evaluation, should move away from "a single event" that takes place in training colleges, “to a comprehensive model that embraces initial pre-service teacher education, in-service training to improve qualifications, recurrent in-service training and teachers orientation at cluster, zonal and district levels to improve skills and continuing professional self-learning”.

For him, Professor Anamuah-Mensah, “a professional teacher should remain a self-motivated and self directed learner throughout his or her life".

That is, teaching as a job for the teacher should cease to be transient as is largely the case now where large numbers of people in the profession use teacher-pupil contact hours for private studies, mainly in waiting for the opportunity to dump the most important profession in the world in search of a supposed fulfillment.

Examples of rather strange movements by teachers leave one in a quagmire and should receive attention of educational planners.

Teachers are known to have left the classroom for the Ghana Immigration Service, Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Police and the Military, Ghana Health Service, among others.

Out of the gloom, there appears a glimmer of hope. That is the establishment of the National Inspectorate Board (NIB) an independent agency of the Ministry of Education, authorized by the relevant legislations to oversee quality assurance issues of pre-tertiary education in the public and private sectors.

It is important that agency succeeds but succeeding would be difficult as the problems to tackle would make any expert on education quiver at the knuckles.

Hard or simple that change must come.

So that a woman who decides after JHS to venture into her family tomatoes retailing business at the Ho-Central Market would remain literate 29 years after that decision just as the Postmaster managed to save his skills in carpentry.

Columnist: GNA