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29.09.2008 Feature Article

Do We Improve Education By What We Teach?

Do We Improve Education By What We Teach?
29.09.2008 LISTEN


Many are not happy with the products of our schools and colleges. We therefore come out with proposals to improve the education system. Sometimes the suggestions could be clearer.

For example many have advocated moral education in schools. But it is not clear whether that means religious instruction or something more.

 

 The other day it was advocated by high authority that the financial system should be part of the school curriculum.

But is it financial knowledge that the school or college leaver should be armed with or some form of understanding of the world around him or her?

We sometimes say that the aim of education is to prepare the youth for life without appreciating the full significance of the statement.

 

Borrowing money from the banks, buying shares and taking mortgages are now part of normal life.

 

 The school leaver should, therefore, have a fair understanding of such matters and also of a company's financial statement.

The British prepared their middle and upper classes especially for the life to be encountered.

 

College students were therefore introduced to the financial system. As a colony, the Gold Coast followed the British educational system and we had to answer questions on Stocks and Shares at the Cambridge School Certificate examination.

I did not realise that the subject was difficult and not of much interest to many students because it was not part of our social or cultural system. I learnt a lot at a stint of teaching at New Juaben Grammar School, Koforidua when Clerence Sarkodee-Addo was principal in 1943.

I, therefore, improved my presentations when I taught the subject at Achimota. I described the market and illustrated by stock certificates.

 

The majority tried to understand enough to work the sums and pass the examination. Only a few really got the feel of the subject.

It was then that it dawned on me that I had a rare advantage. With the Kwahu blood in him, my father could not but have a go at business.

 

He bought the appropriate machines sold by the Takoradi Harbour Contractors with the aim of setting up a saw-mill factory in Accra.

He, therefore, had many books on business and I often browsed through them. Moreover he often discussed with me the importance of captains of industry on whom rapid development of the country depended.

Building houses he said was not the way forward. Spare money should be used for investment and he bought shares in the mining industry.

 

 At school therefore Stocks and shares were not strange to me. They were part of the living environment.

It will, therefore, not be difficult to introduce some study of the financial environment into the school curriculum today, because the matter is now part of the life of the many who need financial or banking mediation in life.

 

Recent events in the financial capitals of the global village show the importance of familiarity with finance and the money market.

The lay man cannot know as much as the financial expert. But the educated person including our politicians should know enough not to allow the experts to lead the nation into disaster.

 

It has been revealed that some Directors of major banking institutions did not understand the terms used by the smart financial experts.

 

They approved the huge bonuses for these smart alecs so long as big profits were made.

Greed blinded them to the fact that money is created by industry and services and not by smart financial paper transactions.

 

We should all know a little about the financial system so that the experts do not take as for a ride.

So far as education is concerned, we cannot be taught everything at school or even the university.

 

We should be given the tools to learn as we go through life. New ideas and technical innovations will crop up. We should be able to learn and deal with them.

Our educational system should enable our science and technical graduates to learn and deal with new subjects such as oil technology.

 

There is no magic about scholarships in America. We should identify what we want and assist our young experts to acquire the new knowledge here and if necessary abroad.

 

That is what education is about. Attitudes and behavioral patterns cannot be taught directly at school. Moral education belongs to this category. Societal values and the school environment greatly influence moral education.

The Presbyterian values and behaviour many admired were not acquired through direct instruction.

 

The atmosphere excluded values. The teachers lived and practiced them. We cannot improve education by what we teach alone.

 

The school must live what is valued. That is why teachers are important. We cannot improve education by placing low value on teachers.

By K. B. Asante

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