Understanding the Ghanaian context of the learning crisis

Angangmwin Baganiah67. Educational Consultant|Advocate|Volunteer, David Angangmwin Baganiah

Wed, 28 Apr 2021 Source: David Angangmwin Baganiah

We can squarely pinpoint the MoE's handling of disbursement and allocation of resources as an area that has often revealed cracks within the system at the top level. There are so many basic schools in the country which do not boast of a teacher per class, today.

For such instances, one teacher may be tasked with handling two or three multi-grade levels at the same time so you wonder how effective teaching can be, in such peculiar situations. And if you heard that the Pupil- Teacher Ratio (PTR) at the pre-tertiary level is respectable and is around 47 for KG; 34 for primary; and 20 for JHS, you might joyously conclude that we have come a long way in terms of our PTR even though it is misleading.

Research also shows that at a point in time, while deprived areas boasted trained teacher rate of 37% and 63% for primary and JHS respectively, the national rate stood at 59% and 76% for primary and JHS respectively.

Meanwhile, the overall trained teacher rate at the moment is quoted to be 77% of those in the system, almost 20% more than deprived area figure. This is a documentary prove of the long held assertion by many that most resources are centered at the urban areas to the detriment of the rural communities.

Even in the distribution of the main resource in the system (teacher), deprived areas have been short-changed. Personal experiences and sufficient anecdotal evidence available affirm the believe that teaching-learning resources such as text books are also distributed inequitably with rural based schools being underserved.

Those few policies such as capitation grant, etc. that have been carefully crafted to reduce the instance of capricious application of discretion have also been poorly managed, in that, the money is always late. These situations are a huge disincentive to effective teaching and active learning, which must be averted with immediate effect.

Furthermore, there is no known concerted effort made towards combating stunting, a silent but strong factor working against active learning. The World Bank estimates that 19 out of every 100 children in the country suffer from stunting (World Bank, 2019).

This is not surprising, given that the poverty rate in the country also almost correlates to this figure at 23.4%. Stunting is the result of poverty. And the situation must be tackled head on to ensure that children’s development at the early childhood stage is not hampered since stunting has grave implications on brain development at the early stages of life.

With effective implementation, the school feeding programme is perfectly cut out to curtail this challenge once and for all.

Yet, the too many loopholes found in the programme’s implementation means, it needs some restructuring before we can count on it as a means to end stunting among poor children; a development which would directly impact learners' learning abilities.

One other area requiring urgent but receiving little attention is monitoring, measurement, evaluation and supervision. GoG has shown very scrappy commitment to ensuring that the system works effectively, in this regard.

This is a major reason why the education system is failing. Recently, motorbikes were procured for all Circuit Supervisors to help ease job related transportation constraints, and that is a good move. But fueling these motorbikes will be done in a delayed and inconsistent manner hence rendering that whole move a waste of resources.

Again, what co-ordinated measures have they put in place to ensure that even if the Circuit Supervisors frequently supervise the work of the teachers in the schools, it yields positive dividends? There must exist metrics for consistently measuring the output of the system against inputs.

This will help us monitor the progress or regress of our system and to inform us to make prompt adjustments for improved outcomes, and to engender improvement within the system as a whole. Unfortunately, GoG continues to show no commitment to operationalising a co-ordinated system.

Rather, most adjustments made to the system are tied to political agenda and geared towards promoting their grip on power. We cannot make any headway if we maintain this posturing.

In concluding this piece, it is worth emphasing that: if a country adopts a new curriculum that increases emphasis on active learning and creative thinking, that alone cannot engender much change. Teachers need to be trained periodically so that they can use more active learning methods.

Teachers need to care enough to make the change because teaching the new curriculum may be much more demanding than the old rote learning (World Bank, 2018). Therefore, the fact that we have merely changed curriculum and claim to be implementing the New Standards-Based Curriculum and Common Core Programme Curriculum is not enough to cover up for systemic lapses and inefficiencies causing its ineffectiveness and failure.

Until our Policy Makers and Education Providers make the necessary adjustments to ensure that active learning becomes inevitable in our schools, we shall forever remain buried in sub-standard status and eternally play second fiddle to countries with superior commitment to same. God bless our homeland Ghana.

Columnist: David Angangmwin Baganiah