The decision by Education Minister Yaw Osei-Adutwum to upgrade the quality of the nation’s public Senior High School System from the present National Democratic Congress-fangled three-year duration, that saw the quality of Ghana’s public school system being scandalously ranked by the globally renowned and respected OECD as the very worst of its kind, among some 145 systems around the world, stands to be the only chance for our beloved country to resume its once enviable pride of place among the comity of the most qualitative, competent and progressive secondary school systems anywhere on Planet Earth (See “6 Years of SHS in the Offing – Adutwum” Ghanaweb.com 12/15/21).
But, of course, even as Lake Bosomtwe’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament and US-educated education expert was quick to point out the other day, the problem of the currently abjectly poor quality of Ghana’s Senior High School System is not only a sheer matter of a scandalously brief duration, but even more significantly and disturbingly, it also a matter of one that is unconscionably predicated on a practically inadequate curricular coverage. In other words, the current system does not permit the effective teaching of the general body of knowledge that the average secondary school student needs to become familiar with in order to favorably compete at the tertiary or university level anywhere in the world, most especially in the technologically advanced countries.
Equally important is the decision to radically shift the curricular content of our secondary schools from the old British-inherited rote-learning “grammar-based one to one that is critically focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” that is, one that is the standard epistemic and pedagogical practice in the most industrially advanced countries of Europe, Asia and elsewhere. It is a system and kind of education that studiously focuses the attention of the learner on creative production, rather than the memorization of facts and figures and the raw reproduction or regurgitation of the same in examination booklets. The current kind of “schooling” which is significantly devoid of practical relevance has long been recognized to be the primary cause of the woeful underdevelopment of countries that were formerly colonized or politically dominated by Europe and its other so-called Western Allies.
But what also needs highlighting before the country’s present Senior High School System takes on its new STEM curricular mantle, as it were, in 2023, is the imperative need for our basic or elementary school system to begin producing pupils or students who will be ready to fully take on the STEM academic and vocational curricula in the newly designed Senior High School System. I left the country when the elementary school had a 10-year curricular duration some 40 years ago. Even back then, there was a clear recognition of the fact that the old British colonially bequeathed system had long outlived its epistemic value and general practical relevance. Most of the elementary school pupils of my day and generation, especially those resident in the urban and cosmopolitan areas of the country, had already begun attending what were then known as “preparatory” and “international” schools, which ensured that a quite remarkable percentage of high school-bound students would attend elementary school for between 6 and 8 years, thereby skipping between two to four years of the 10-year elementary school system, commonly known as Standard-7.
This is where I would have been even more grateful if the Education Minister had touched a little bit more on precisely how our basic school system is apt to look like another decade from now. But that the new system will first be piloted before it becomes fully operational across the board, obviously means that great care will be taken to ensure that it becomes seamlessly successful and devoid of the sort of fits and starts that the Education Ministry has in the recent past been bitterly faulted for. We also need to significantly recognize the fact that what is being piloted here is absolutely nothing new and not quite akin to the proverbial reinvention of the wheel. Veterans like Dr. Osei-Adutwum, who have actually tried and tested this system before hereabouts, in California, already have an authoritative appreciation of the ultimate outcome of the proposed pilot project.
Which means that the need to ensure that bureaucratic red tape does not stymie this otherwise most progressive and visionary project is imperative. We shall duly touch on the various aspects of this auspicious systemic revolution in Ghana’s public education as the relevant information becomes available to us in due course.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
December 30, 2021
E-mail: [email protected]