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02.05.2007 General News

Africa’s educational system does not produce thinkers says UNESCO official

By Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY

In a scathing criticism of the curricula and course modules used in educational institutions in Africa, UNESCO's Director Basic Education Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta says the system does not allow and also prepare students to be effective thinkers.

This she says is because the current course modules imported from the west only leave students copying subjects and details they do not understand.

“What is important here is for us to understand the principles of those systems so that when we have to really import some of the practices, we'll base it on the principle that will guide, how we choose what we do, how we plan and what the benefits will be for the learners,” she insisted in an interview with the dailyEXPRESS.

Madam Ndong-Jatta observed that the wholesale importation of modules into educational curricula without understanding the principles that govern them are evident of the quality of graduates being churned out from tertiary institutions across the continent.

According to her, students are graduating from tertiary institutions with the requisite certificates but an educational background that addresses needs that are outside of their own, making it difficult for them to succeed after school.

“It explains the migration factor, it explains the brain drain factor, because they qualified, they are good but they cannot succeed in their system. To succeed they have to go outside of their system. Yes we can take the principles but we should base these principles on our own local needs. In order words, the educational system has to be conceptualized to suit our own continent,” she said with seriousness.

The UNESCO official was in Accra together with other leading educationists and educational consultants for a World Bank organised conference on Secondary education.

She noted that while the current problem has its root in colonialism, which ignored the use of indigenous languages in the educational curricula, African governments have compounded the problem by their continuous use of foreign language at the basic level of education, “which makes it difficult for students to comprehend the issues taught in a language that is completely new to them.”

Madam Ndong- Jatta stated further that “it's not that our children are not intelligent but they are not prepared enough to be able internalize what they learn in school in order to apply. So there is an application of facts with little application.”

On the issue of multiplicity of ethnic languages in a particular country, the UNESCO Basic Education Director said “the reality is that in every area there is a predominant language, a language that the child will hear in the environment, a language that possibly even could be used in the home so that if that child goes to the school system, the child will learn quicker and faster with confidence.”

She disclosed that evidence from neuroscience research on brain and mental health has confirmed that the imposition of foreign languages on pupils at the basic level tends to block their ability to think and affects their level of competence.

“One of the studies undertaken on reading using about eight European languages proved that there are certain languages that are most difficult to learn and use, and these include English, French, Portuguese and Dutch.”

She also called for the proper resourcing of teachers so they can effectively play their role as facilitators.

Source: dailyEXPRESS Newspaper