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Papa Ankomah And Science Education

Owusu Ankomah

Tue, 10 Apr 2007 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong on why the talks for science education in Ghana should be driven by Ghanaian and African norms, values and traditions, as Nigerian traditional rulers are saying

For sometime Ghana’s Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Paapa Owusu Ankomah, has been talking about education reforms. The talks such as grounding Ghana’s future education system in communities reflect the global proclamation that the 21st century is the “Century of Knowledge.” While most of Ankomah’s statements may be viewed as testing the grounds in order to come out with a more holistic education reforms, his statements, carried by the Ghana News Agency (April 1, 2007), that a new educational reform will focus on applicable socio-economic needs by adapting to the “rapidly changing technology and information driven global economy” demonstrates a education system struggling to fit the Ghanaian and African environment in its progress bid.

Ankomah made this at the prestigious Opoku Ware Secondary School (OWASS) in Kumasi, which is increasingly being turned, through the efforts of its old students abroad, into leading science and information technology school. Kumasi, too, is the centre of Ghana’s premier science university – the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The scene calls for critical assessment of Ankomah’s education reforms remarks. While Paapa Ankomah’s attempts to reform an education system that is inadequate, it also tell us that the formal education system is yet to relate to Ghanaian/African norms, values and traditions, as ex-colonies in South East Asia have done. Japan Education system, which ranks among one of the best in the world in both science and technology, for instance, aims at creating a citizenry that is both literate and attuned to the basic values of Japanese culture and society.

For durable Ghanaian education system, Ankomah and his bureaucrats need not rush to hatch another education system just in the name of education reforms, as has happened in the past that cannot stand the test of time. For 50 years since independence from British colonial rule, various Ghanaian governments have been struggling to reform Ghana’s education system. From the heavily colonially structured education system to the Dzobo Report of 1973, which set the tempo for new thinking about reforming Ghana’s education system, to the 1987 attempts to restructure the content of Ghana’s education, with initial spotlight on the implementation of the now wobbling Junior Secondary School program, Ghana’s education system, as a vehicle for progress, is yet to be tailored to fit into the nucleus of Ghanaian/African norms, values and traditions with that of the dominant British/Western ones as the South East Asians have done for their progress.

Whether science and technology driven, part of the attempts to reform the Ghanaian education system should include consultations not only of educationists but also as broad as possible Ghanaians, Africans, diasporans and some of the South East Asian countries, and more seriously the Ghana National House Chiefs and its regional entities. As Africa’s development process increasingly opens up to its norms, values and traditions, nowhere do we see this than in Nigeria, where its growing educated traditional rulers are calling, as the Nigerian journalist Abiose Adelaja, of the Norway-based Afrol News (26 March) reports, for Nigeria's native languages, norms, values and traditions be used to promote science and technology application. “Nigeria's traditional rulers have launched a new initiative to encourage the development of science and technology by using local languages. Using Nigeria's three main native languages in science aims at making science results more easily applied by the country's regional and local administrations. The Council of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria says that science and technology is not perceived as culturally relevant, and is not being used in local situations because development strategies are communicated in English - a language not spoken by a large percentage of people.”

The Nigerian initiative, of which Ankomah and his bureaucrats need to borrow for the sustainability of the Ghanaian education system, aims to “develop teaching and communication materials on science and technology in Nigeria's three official languages - Ibo, Hausa and Yoruba - to promote a culture of science and innovation for building local innovation systems. Scientists, engineers and information and communication technology experts will participate in the scheme, working closely with institutes and universities, according to the scheme. Oba Okunade Sijuade, the Ooni ("King") of Ife, southwest Nigeria, pointed out that Nigeria constitutes over a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa's population and that as the initiative develops, the traditional leaders would "reach out to other monarchs not only in Nigeria, but also other parts of Africa."

In a measure of African values-driven science education system, King Sijuade announced that there are “plans to establish a science academy - the Yoruba Academy of Science - to promote collaboration throughout sub-Saharan Africa.” Perhaps drawing from his nature Japanese education system and UNESCO’s policies, Koïchiro Matsuura, director general of UNESCO, told the keen Nigerian traditional leaders that, "By promoting science teaching in your mother tongue, you are helping to preserve Nigeria's linguistic and cultural diversity, as well as expanding access to scientific knowledge…Above all, [you are] working to raise awareness at all levels of the importance of science and technology to national development." By constantly talking of reforming Ghana’s education system, Paapa Owusu Ankomah and his bureaucrats at the Education Ministry are progressively more opening the education system for scrutiny and better reforms. But what will sustain a Ghana education system driven by science and technology is an education system driven first by Ghana’s and Africa’s norms, values and traditions. It is from such strategy that Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Malaysia are among the first ten leading countries in the world not only with better education systems but also their “children consistently rank at or near the top in successive international tests of most mathematics,” as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) reports.

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Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi