Opinions Thu, 22 Nov 2012

Lee Ocran Is Wrong

Lee Ocran Is Wrong: Curricular Duration Matters in SHS Education

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

The Minister of Education is quite accurate in his observation that the debate on whether to maintain the current National Democratic Congress-minted three-year Senior High School system or to extend the SHS curricular duration to four years, as highly recommended by the Ghana National Conference of Catholic Bishops and staunchly promoted by the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), is far less about curricular duration than pedagogical content (See “Debate on Duration of SHS Curricula [sic] is History” GBC/Ghanaweb.com 11/19/12).

Mr. Lee Ocran is, nonetheless, grossly mistaken because for learning and teaching to be effective, the amount of time in which it takes teachers to present course material to students – assuming that the current system is adequately funded – and the students’ ability to fully imbibe and digest and make meaningful sense and use of such pedagogy, or teachable knowledge, is very relevant. The preceding, of course, has quite a lot to do with how students perform at their promotional and exit examinations; and to-date, the Government of the National Democratic Congress has yet to satisfactorily demonstrate that during the nearly four years that it has held the reins of governance, students have consistently and steadily performed at a higher efficiency rate – as well as passing rate – than during the previous four years that the NDC served as the main opposition party.

You see, the problem that Mr. Ocran has in so off-handedly dismissing the request by the Catholic Bishops Conference for the Ministry of Education to seriously reexamine the SHS curricular duration, is that quite a remarkable percentage of the Catholic bishops are either themselves veteran educators of great distinction who know as much as or even significantly more about the practical relationship between teaching and learning than the sector minister and thus are in a far better position to make such judgment call.

In other words, what politicians like Mr. Ocran ought to be doing is to be seriously consulting with experts in curricular development and educational psychology in order to devise a more culturally organic and technologically progressive curricular agenda for not only our Senior High School system, but for the entire Pre-K through G-20, or the college/university curricula. This is precisely what Vice-Chancellor Ernest Aryeetey of Ghana’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, meant when during a recent congregation of the university, he poignantly called for the ongoing national debate on education to be all-inclusive and organic. I seriously doubt that during the period that he has been serving as substantive Minister of Education, Mr. Ocran has sat down and had any serious discussions with the heads of the major government-sponsored universities in the country to talk about the state, nature, condition and quality of higher education in the country, and the forging of a meaningful way forward, if Ghanaian university and college graduates are to be able to effectively compete on both the local and global labor markets, as well as in the critical area of knowledge – or epistemic – production.

Recently, for example, when a section of the student body on the Wa campus of the University of Development Studies (UDS) went on a protest demonstration and rather sophomorically and gratuitously demanded that all classes held after 6pm, or some such evening hour, and later ought to be cancelled, because several female students had been sexually molested, I wondered at the sort of “development studies” which these students were being taught. The fact that the students appeared not have meaningfully brainstormed in order to come up with a far more productive and effective means of protecting themselves and their classmates against perennial neighborhood predators and bullies readily told the critical reader, and observer, that there could not be much by way of pedagogical relevance that was being taught these proverbial leaders of tomorrow. And to say the least, this state of affairs was nothing short of the downright pathetic and outright embarrassing.

And, of course, what the preceding evinces is that as eloquent as the Minister of Education may wax in the court of cheap electioneering point-scoring, on the ground, or when it comes to having any practical achievements to show for his stewardship, Mr. Ocran’s job description is as good as being re-designated as MINISTER OF EDUCATION IN ABSENTIA (MOEIA).

Indeed, what belongs to the metaphorical dustbin of history is not whether the duration of our Senior High School curriculum ought to be pegged at three or four years, but the rude and abrupt temerity of a Minister of Education – a supposed public servant – to be able to so cavalierly tell off his academic and intellectual superiors such as the former NDC-MP for Jomoro Constituency, in the Nzema district of the Western Region, did to the well-considered call of the Ghana National Catholic Bishops Conference. And it is this kind of Rawlings-minted NDC rudeness that Ghanaians need to set aright, come December 7, 2012.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net. ###

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame