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23.01.2005 Feature Article

RE: I have a solution to GES ghost names-Statistician

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I commend Mr. E. T Nartey's efforts to help rectify the “ghost name” saga currently bewildering Ghana Education Service (GES). The issue leading to Mr. Nartey's efforts to create the statistical model (or software) has other dimensions, which are equally important and disturbing. Interestingly, the “ghost name” phenomenon is not new in the Ministry of Education (MOE), GES and other government entities and institutions. The phenomenon is as old as the nation itself and is likely to persist for a while in the 21st century. I am not a prophet of doom but do not see the ending to this sophisticated corruption in sight. Anyway, let me not digress from the core issue I want to address in this article. In addressing the “ghost name” saga, I have tended to discuss the issue of “control of education” in Ghana. My discussion is limited to the basic education sector. I believe the problem at stake has everything to do with the management and control of our education.

Control of Education

One of the core problems with Ghana's education, particularly the basic education sector, is the control of education, particularly, the nature of “decentralization” model used at the basic education system. If anyone posses the question, “who actually controls or manages our education system?” to any top official at the MOE or GES head office, most of them are likely to sharply answer that “even though the Minister of Education at MOE and Director-General at GES are the overall bosses, we have decentralized our educational system” in a very uncomfortable mood. Mark Bray in discussing control of education observed that debates about appropriate locus of control in education systems are often heated and are usually difficult to resolve. The reasons for this are political as well as technical, for the nature and degree of centralization or decentralization influence not only the scale and shape of education systems but also the access to education by different groups.

The current apparatus and structure used in managing and controlling our educational system and the management accompanying problems are a proof that the government, MOE and GES are all entranced and seriously confused about the control model. First, there seems to be a confusing understanding of what “decentralization” is all about and entails. The education sector has conflated deconcentration, delegation, devolution models as one model (I call this the “garbage can” model) in their “decentralization efforts” probably with the motive to “centralize” and gain much control of education. Since education is a contested terrain and important social arena where the elite and the powerful forces attempt to control and shape the society, one can argue that the “decentralization-centralization” approach in place at the education sector is a possible approach to ration and control “who gets what type and to what level of education” in our Ghanaian society.

I have not seen the current reform proposal initiatives put together by the committee led by Dr. Jophus Anamoah-Mensah, but I hope the new proposals bring to fore “the issue of appropriate control of education”. I am hoping so because the locus of control of education model an educational system uses has implications for the school process and the overall educational practices such as access, teacher deployment issues, financing, resources, and provision of educational services among others. I personally believe that the “ghost name saga” cannot be fully eradicated with the current “garbage can model” of decentralization no matter how ambitious our approach and the software package we put in place.

The complex problems surrounding the control of Ghana's education and our inability to change in these changing times have more to do with our mental psyche that seems to cherish and embellish “status quoism” in this age of progressivism and globalization. I do not want to comment on any political issue here, but every educator is privy to the fact that Rawlings' implementation of the JSS concept met serious criticisms from scholars, teachers and educators alike. The 1987 6-3-3-4 reforms had its initial issues and flaws but in terms of policy direction, I admire the PNDC administration for taking a bold stand in implementing the reform initiatives in the mist of such sharp and bitter criticisms from all corners including the nations' education researchers. Successful policy reforms have taken place under the “purview” and “watch” of bold, visionary, adamant leaders. Our Ghanaian society is fearful of “change”. We get scared to death anytime we hear of the word “change”. We dare not rock the boat. The reason for this attitude is simple. Most of us are scared of the ramifications that come with change. We are scared of the ensuing conflicts that these changes may generate and the life and work adjustments such as redeployment, demotion, relocation among other things that we have to face and deal with. In a sense, change is not palatable. Everybody knows that. Some have even coined the maxim that “the more things change the more they remain the same”. Philosophically, the reverse is also true. If we want to maintain things in their best form, why should not we embrace change?

Culturally Ghanaians are a people who act collectively and communally in many aspects and practices. However, when it comes to making certain drastic changes and policy reforms, especially those relating to the work place, our collective and communal values fade into oblivion. People then begin to think and act individually and selfishly. In our current globalized world, such an attitude can cripple meaningful development. Our collective vision for the 21st century should orient our minds to distance ourselves for unnecessary traditions and “status quoism” and embrace change that seeks to promote development. Those of you readers, who have read a bit about U.S history, will corroborate my point here that the progress of the American society to democracy and the formation of a Union did not come smoothly. There were dissatisfaction and bitterness but the founding fathers always had the collective benefit of the American society at heart.

Coming back to the control of education issue here, I personally do not see the relevance of having the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service (GES) operating together at the same time. In the early postcolonial dispensation, the two educational entities served their time. Presently, I believe the coexistence of the two entities has led to unnecessary bureaucracies and hierarchies that are detrimental and counterproductive to school management, teacher accountability and the overall school improvement.

According to the current educational policies, the Ministry of basic education formulates education policies and GES implements it. I have observed that both the Ministry of Education and GES have not been effective in these roles and responsibilities. As a comparative and international education researcher, one of my numerous observations with the two bodies includes their inefficient approach to providing up-to-date school statistics. I personally do not know how both MOE and GES are able to make budget and provide resources to the districts and schools when they do not possess up-to-date school statistics. I also admire how they are able to build their case and convince other transnational advocacy agencies to support their reform initiatives in a context of lack of school statistics. These inefficiencies in educational statistics are partly to blame for the “ghost names”, inequities in teacher deployment and its accompanying redundancy and overstaffing in some urban schools. I see these two issues alone as justifiable reasons for the present government to implement drastic changes and overhaul the control of basic education in Ghana.

My proposal

My proposed control of education model is as follows; the present government should plan and gradually dissolve GES and in its place create school boards or school districts. Such a district/board will have permanent workers and other elected members (which may include parents, community activists, community members, organizations with a stake in education, teachers, among others) who will serve as board or district members for a specified term. The education ministry will then allocate budgets to each school board based on the number of schools, teachers, students, other workers and the needs of the jurisdiction. The school board would be empowered to control basic education in the district. Their power should include hiring, firing and teacher salary issues, provision of educational resources and services, infrastructure and all issues related to basic education. The reform should also include giving schools owned by the churches back to those churches and empowering the churches to form their school boards where allocation of funds will follow as with the public boards. What I am suggesting here is that, the education sector can borrow models of control of education from other organized school systems and jurisdictions around the world and adapt it-contextualize the models to suit our educational systems. The education sector should not be comfortable and pride itself in a school management apparatus that is inefficient.

The government should also create an entity in every regional MOE to govern and collate the delivery of education by private schools. Regional MOE should create a strong partnership with the private sector to ensure acceptable standards for operating a private school and provision of support where necessary.

Coming back to the issue of change, it appears that we as a nation have become so entranced by or enmeshed in “status quo' that we have forgotten about the ultimate objective of our sense of being-“growth and development”. When it comes to school practices we realize that our current educational practices do not take realistic approaches, and decisions about what is “real” or “important” in learning are set by people who are far removed (geographically, experientially, and socially) from the lived reality of many children. Change can be unpalatable but ultimately pays if it is pragmatic and seeks to serve the collective benefits of the whole. Depending on which side of the change line one locates, one can view educational reforms and changes as either satisfying and empowering or dissatisfying and disempowering. However, the ultimate should be the collective good of the system as a whole. Our educational practices have reached a point where policy makers should dare to seriously overhaul and reform the control of education. The educational system needs to borrow practices that work in other contexts and operationalize, modify and adapt to suit our context. The goal of our educational system and policy makers should be to promote progressive education that will continue to evolve holistically with changing times. When Dewey promoted educational progressivism in1916, he had the mind of the 21st century educator. His was to discourage educators from thinking within “a box”. Whether centralization or decentralization, the underpinning understanding is that of the word “izations” which connotes a process rather than a static situation.

The decentralization literature draws the connection between the “locus of control” and such issues as equality of “access”, “learning”, “output” and “outcome”. The equality concepts that I point out here, broadly defined, are the probabilities that all children (regardless of their geographical, social, economic, cultural and religious and exceptional contexts), will have access to equitable quality basic education, survive in the educational system, be taught by teachers who have similar educational and certification credentials, learn or achieve similar learning abilities, and ultimately have the potential to turn out as all other children.

The locus of control of education has everything to do with the degree of efficiency and effectiveness of an educational system. I believe Mr. Nartey's model will help to address some of the “ghost name” issue. There are however many dimensions to this issue that would require pragmatic uncompromising management reforms. It is my hope that the present government will use its political capital, which it has gained after re-election to shape Ghana's educational system for the 21st century. Obed Mfum-Mensah, Ph.D. International Education Researcher London, Ontario Canada Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Obed Mfum-Mensah
Obed Mfum-Mensah, © 2005

The author has 2 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: ObedMfumMensah

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