The main bane of formal education in Ghana

Mon, 30 Dec 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Lack of guidance and counselling: The main bane of formal education in Ghana

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My good friends, thanks to Providence, we are celebrating another Yuletide season and wishing each other "all the best that life offers". Good to go that way because as human beings, we are gregarious and should ensure that group interests are protected. But beyond that is the individual interest too to realize.

Here is the catch. Our celebration of the coming and going of seasons won't place us where we want to be unless we take steps to turn the table in our favour.

"Life is war", as we say in Ghana, which is why it is important for us to know where to pick the pieces and why picking the pieces should place our country where it should be so we can stop complaining about the dire circumstances in which our people live.

And it all has to do with the kind of preparation that is given the people to play their part in nation-building. That is where education—formal education, I mean—comes in. And there have been perennial complaints about the inadequacies of our education system—not necessarily because it has failed to train us into "parrots" or "copy cats" but because it hasn't helped us solve pertinent problems to move our country forward: a fact that no sane Ghanaian can afford to ignore or deny!! Ghanaians have been complaining about unemployment for many years. And there is even an Association of Unemployed Graduates in Ghana to accentuate that reality!! One thing that I have stumbled upon on my rounds to explain a particular problem that the youth in Ghana face in their struggle to chart a proper path in life is the lack of guidance and counselling, especially at the formative stages in life when they most need to be informed about the vicissitudes of life and how the career choices they settle on can make or mar their lives.

I have been to many places and seen many things to persuade me that the kind of education system that we have in Ghana (since the immediate independence era) hasn't helped the Ghanaian youth to know how to deal with life in school or after school just because of the lack of guidance and counselling. In other countries, structures are in place to help the youth know where to go after schooling. And the youth don't fear the future for as long as they know how to navigate the alleys of life-after-school.

I have known it for a fact that the youth in those systems are guided right from the moment they enter the formal school system to identify their naturally talented areas and be helped to explore those areas without spreading themselves too thin. My many years in the United States have exposed me to this reality. It may be so in other countries, which is why those countries create opportunities for the individual to realize his or her own aspirations for the good of the society. In Ghana, we have a mixed-bag kind of situation that hasn't helped us in any way. The Ghana Education Service doesn't even see anything about individual talents or future aspirations of students in the system. Neither does the Ministry of Education do so. In effect, every student entering the system is lumped up together with the rest and general education imposed on all to make them jacks of all trades but masters of none.

In consequence, then, the Ghanaian system of education is good at giving general education that produces nothing concrete to boost national development. The students take all courses and end up being confused and not really being guided toward specific strongholds on which they can depend to make their presence felt.

General education is good inasmuch as it can produce an individual who knows a bit about everything but it has its down side too, which is terrifying in our present-day Ghanaian situation. It cannot give that individual the skills to contribute anything concrete to solve any particular problem in any field. It all boils down to the lack of guidance and counselling. Let me cut a long story short to say that there are many avenues for helping the Ghanaian student to become more productive than what we have had all these years.

Why is it difficult for the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to adjust to the demands of contemporary times and introduce guidance and counselling as imperatives in the education of Ghanaian students? Guidance and Counselling units at the various schools, well-staffed with people who know what the field is about can go a long way to address pertinent needs. I have a hunch, which is that many job opportunities exist to absorb the Ghanaian graduates if only the officials at the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service can be progressive in their thoughts and attitudes to help give the requisite guidance and counselling support that the students need so they don't go about plowing the entire field and reaping nothing. The worsening unemployment problem is attributable to this condition. Will our authorities think outside the box to help our youth chart better paths in life? What is the value of education if it can't help the individual fit into the society to improve conditions? All the billions of hard-earned money being spent on education won't translate into anything beneficial for the country if the "educated" youth cannot fit into the society, that is, be employed after many years of being in the classroom. Why are our leaders so lazy upstairs?

It is annoying to realize that the Ghana Education Service has been decentralized and has Directorates in all the districts of the country but cannot do anything to improve the situation. In effect, all that the tax-payer’s blood, sweat, and tears pump into sustaining the Ghana Education Service doesn’t produce anything beneficial to assure the society of a brighter future. It has all along been a drain.

Are we Ghanaians so handicapped in our thinking abilities not to know how to make education serve our purposes so we can use education to improve our standards?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.