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05.01.2008 Education

Catholic Bishops Educational Reforms

By Daily Guide

Formal Education was introduced into the then Gold Coast by the European traders. Later, the European missionaries were to play a leading role in the development and growth of schools and colleges at a time when the colonial government was not willing to assume full responsibility of education of the colonial peoples of the then Gold Coast.

The lands on which the churches built those schools and colleges belonged to the people who released the lands to them as trustees.

Before 1951, there were few Government and Local Authority schools and colleges. The majority of schools and colleges were founded, built, developed and managed by the churches.

In 1951, the Government assumed full responsibility for the formal education of the people of Gold Coast through the Accelerated Development Plan for Education.

Since 1951, the objective has been to provide basic education for all children of school-going age. The policy of Government was that no private person or body should set up and operate any school or college without the approval of the Government.

It was also the policy of the Government that schools and colleges funded by public taxes were to be managed by public bodies, which were accountable to the people through the Government.

The Government enacted the Education Act, 1961, Act 87 which tasked the Local Authorities with the following responsibilities:
“1. (a) build, equip and maintain all public primary and middle schools, in its area of jurisdiction;
(b) establish all such public primary, middle and special schools as are, in the opinion of the Minister, after consultation with the Minister responsible for Local Government, required in its area;
(c) advise the Minister on all matters relating to primary and middle school education in its area and such matters as may be referred to it by the Minister;
(d) perform in its area all the prescribed functions of a Local Education Authority.

2. A Local Education Authority may perform an educational function approved by the Minister, and shall perform any educational function conferred by any other enactment on the Local Authority of its area. The Act also established Boards of Governors to control public, higher educational institutions as well as those schools and colleges assisted by Government. Before 1961, Government had assumed the payment of salaries of teachers and other educational workers in the country.

The Government of the National Redemption Council (NRC) in 1974 established the Ghana Teaching Service under the NRCD 247, which was subsequently amended to perform the following functions:
"(a) to manage, supervise and inspect pre-university educational institutions;
(a) to register, supervise and inspect private schools;
(b) to provide teacher education, general education, special education such as education of the handicapped, technical and business education;
(c) to arrange to register teachers;
(d) to encourage the development and publication of textbooks;
(e) to maintain professional standards and conduct of its members;
(f) to promote the efficiency and the full development of talents among its members;
(g) to maintain a code of ethics and good conduct among its members;
(h) to draw up educational policies and programmes;
(i) to carry on such activities as are conducive or incidental to the attainment of its objectives under the 'Decree'.
The Decree absorbed all the then managers of the church founded schools and their supporting staff into the Ghana Education Service. The legal effect of the absorption of the managers and staff into the service was that they ceased to be the employees of the churches.
Thus the churches had ceased, since 1951, to play the leading role in the development and growth of education, and had become a junior partner to the Government in the education industry.

Thereafter, the churches could not legitimately continue to use, in a secular state like Ghana, the public schools and colleges as a vehicle for propagating their partisan religious beliefs.

The central Government assumed its rightful responsibility in 1951, to provide an educational system geared towards producing a scientifically-technically minded people to tackle the problems of nation building. The aim was also to provide basic education to every child of school-going age irrespective of the religion or economic circumstances of the parents. Government was also to ensure that all levels of education were made available to all those who could benefit from such education irrespective of their economic status. These educational policies remain unchanged as of today.
The Catholic Bishops demand an immediate inclusion of Religious and Moral Education in the syllabus as a subject on its own.
They want schools and colleges founded by them to be headed by Catholics.

They are insisting that the Catholic Church should be allowed to manage those schools and colleges.

They are not happy with the present system for selecting Junior High School pupils into Senior High Schools.

The Bishops also called for the amendment of the Ghana Education Service Act 506, 1995.

Their demands may be categorized into two main concerns:
(a) Immediate inclusion of Religious and Moral Education in the syllabus
(b) Return of the management of the schools and colleges founded by them.
The Catholic Bishops have received support from some other churches, the laity as well as the Muslim community.

The previous proposal under the 1951 Accelerated Development Plan for Education was that no religious body or private person would be allowed to set up any new school, but owing to strong and various presentations, some compromise was arrived at; people would be allowed to start new schools provided they got permission from the various Local Education Authorities. At that time, it was expected that considerable numbers of educational units (i.e. church schools) would be handed over to the Local Authorities. When the Accelerated Development Plan for Education was being debated in the National Assembly, a number of people in and outside the Assembly feared that handing over of church founded schools to the Local Authorities would pose a threat to the teaching and learning of religion in schools. There are still some people in Ghana today, including the Catholic Bishops, who harbour that fear.

The argument for character training of the pupils in our schools is being used to call for immediate inclusion of Religious and Moral Education in the curriculum. The presumption is that the principles that the churches enunciate are necessary conditions for molding an upright righteous individual. It is pertinent to point out that pupils begin formal education when they are about four years old.

At that age, it is claimed that about 70% of their aggregate personality dispositions have already been formed. It is also relevant to note that school is but one of the many agents of socialization through which individuals form their super-ego. Of all these agents of socialization, the most important and potent is the parent, in so far as character formation of a child is concerned.

Notwithstanding these observations, no one can dispute that education, which neglects moral and spiritual values, is less than full education.

“One cannot however accept that the indiscipline and lack of respect among school children and the youth of today may be traced to the weakening of the influence of the churches in the education of our children.

The indiscipline we have in our country originated with mature adult citizens, many of whom were educated in mission schools.
The root causes of indiscipline in the country are much more complicated than the churches seem to realize.

Furthermore, it may be difficult to find adequate justification in the record of the churches in the assumption of moral righteousness on the part of churches themselves” (Mills Odoi Report 1967, paragraph 73).

Character formation of the pupils may therefore not be enough grounds for making Religious and Moral Education a subject in the school curriculum.

The Catholic Bishops want to have Religious and Moral Education as a subject on its own in the school syllabus but authorities are saying that the subject has been integrated into other subjects. It may therefore be necessary for the authorities to assure the churches that nothing is being lost when the subject does not stand on its own in the syllabus. However, it is the duty of the State to determine the content of school education and not Religious Bodies.

The churches or the state; which party is the more suitable and effective educational agency in a secular country like Ghana? From the point of view of efficiency, one must say that it will be better to have the State manage our schools than the churches.

If the objective of management by the churches is to inculcate discipline in the pupils, there will inevitably be a tendency to give preference to pupils of the management's own denomination.

There is no empirical evidence to the effect that educational managers of Educational Units are better than their counterparts in the Local Authority schools in matters of school discipline. It is pertinent to observe here that the most progressive systems of education are to be found in those countries where education is under secular control - Scandinavia, Russia, United States - and not in countries such as Spain, the Philippines and some Arab countries where education is closely controlled by religious bodies.

Education is concerned with character formation and moral values as well as the acquisition of knowledge. But this is not sufficient reason to hand over the management of the educational system of some of our schools to religious bodies. The management of educational services paid for from public funds should be in the hands of a public body representing all sections of the tax paying community.

From whichever facet one looks at it, the state is more representative of the people than the churches. In the same vein, the state is better resourced to fund schools than the churches. In our democratic system therefore, it is simply fair to give the management of public-funded schools to agents of the state rather than to parochial religious entities.

After the overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's regime, there was an upsurge in demands for the return of the church schools to religious bodies to manage. At that time, the arguments appeared to have been:
“(a) that the buildings either belonged to the churches or were built on land belonging to the churches;
(b) that the Local Councils in the past proved to be ineffective managers;
(c) that in the interest of character training, it was necessary for the churches to exercise control over the management of the schools with the minimum of outside interference”.

The Government of the National Liberation Council was at the point of handing over the schools to the churches, when Mills - Odoi Commission advised against it in its Report as follows:
“In the interest of efficiency and economy of management, of public representation in the vital field of education, and of ensuring a liberal progressive approach to educational content and programmes, we strongly recommend that the decision we have referred to in paragraph 70 regarding the management of schools should be reconsidered. The objectives, which prompted that decision, can, we firmly believe, be achieved by a system, which in the long run is more in the national interest.

We should make it clear that we see no objection to churches running schools for their own members provided they are fully financed by the churches themselves.

While we do not think that missions should have responsibility for the management of schools, we agree that the public-spirited persons who belong to the missions have a real contribution to make towards maintaining the standards of the teaching profession. This will be provided for in representation on the Teaching Division of the Public Services Commission and on the District and Regional Boards of Education which will be responsible for the appointment, promotion and discipline of teachers”. (Mills Odoi Report, 1967 paragraphs 70-78)
The Government did not hand over the schools to the churches. Since then, the churches have not stopped the pursuit of the objective of management of the schools.

The state and the churches have always been partners in the development and the growth of education and this partnership should be sustained. The management of the schools is not the only way in which the churches can contribute towards the development and growth of education. It will not be democratic for the churches to be allowed to manage public funded schools since their interests and values may not coincide with those of the entire society.

The CSSPS, which was introduced in 2005 to select Junior High School pupils into Senior High Schools and Technical Schools, has not succeeded in removing the anxiety of pupils and parents concerning admissions into those schools. Notwithstanding the current problems associated with the system, it is certainly better than what we used to have. This is not to say that the system cannot be improved upon.

I share the concern of the Catholic Bishops that pupils should not be put into schools they have not chosen. Everything should be done to make the system transparent and reliable so as to engender public confidence in it.

It may also be realistic to allow every school board a quota of the admissions to be administered by an appropriate authority of the school in accordance with policy guidelines to be determined by the GES.

Since 1974, the Ghana Education Service has been mandated under various laws to manage all the existing church founded, Central and Local Authority schools and colleges.

Currently, under Section 3 of the Ghana Education Service Act 506, 1995, the functions of the Service are as follows:
(1) The Service shall be responsible for the implementation of approved national policies and programmes relating to pre-tertiary education.

(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) of this section it shall be the duty of the Service
(a) to provide and oversee basic education, senior secondary education, technical education and special education;
(b) to register, supervise and inspect private pre-tertiary educational institutions;
(c) to submit to the Minister, recommendations for educational policies and programmes;
(d) to promote the efficiency and the full development of talents among its members;
(e) to register teachers and keep an up-to-date register of all teachers in the public system;
(f) to carry out such other functions as are incidental to the attainment of the functions specified above; and
(g) to maintain professional standards and the conduct of its personnel”.

The GES, like the other public services, has a governing Council. The religious bodies have three representatives on the Council and therefore they already have an opportunity to influence policies.

The Ghana Education Service has so far performed well and it would have done even better if there had been no undue political interference.

The current thinking is that the management of these public schools and colleges should be given to the various District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies who better know the needs of the local people. The move will offer opportunities for the local people to be more involved in the development and growth of education.

These assemblies are more representative of the people than the churches. The churches at the district level will also have opportunities to influence the development and growth of education. If there is any appropriate authority to manage the pre-tertiary education system today, then it is the district political authority.

One of the demands of the Catholic Bishops is that the schools and colleges which were founded by them should be headed by Catholics. The practice in the GES is that second cycle institutions founded by the churches are always headed by teachers who belong to their religious denominations. The churches are always consulted before appointments to such educational institutions are made.

Probably, they want this concession to be extended to the schools at the basic level. If the churches want to manage schools and colleges founded by them, then they should be prepared to fund them. If they fund them, they will certainly charge fees and that will make education more expensive than it is now and deny poor pupils and students access to education, thus defeating Government's policy of fee-free basic education. In the second cycle institutions, Government provides subsidy to the students and tuition is completely free.

The churches still have their Regional and General Managers, to some extent, responsible for the schools founded by them. Yet no Government has been able to abolish their office because of the powerful position of the churches in the politics of the country. All these concessions are in recognition of the past and present contribution of the churches to the development and growth of education in this country, even though there is no justification for such concessions any longer.

The people of Ghana will remain grateful to the churches for their monumental role in education. We thank and congratulate them.
In spite of this appreciation, the churches do not have a better claim than the Central and Local Governments to the development and growth of education in the country.

It is a political and social imperative today for the state to assume paramount responsibility for the provision of educational facilities for the citizens of the country. Partnership, Local or International, is welcome.

The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies must be given the management of public pre-tertiary educational institutions and not the churches in order to be responsive to the needs of the generality of the population.Paul Osei-Mensah