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Calypso Dancing – Step Forward, Step Back

19 August 2009 | Feature Article

Those of us who had the benefit of a sound and solid uninterrupted educational system definitely will be worried about how the system is being tuned in and tuned out for the young ones today.

The technocrats who have run the economy of our beloved country up to this ninth year of the new millennium are all beneficiaries of a system that was built on solid foundations and which saw us through competitive education. The type of education which left one an all rounder and where knowledge and the liberation of the mind, soul and body prevailed in abundance.

Through competitive examinations, some of us from a very tiny age acquired independent minds in an environment where there was stability and coherence in the educational system. This was the period where even the middle school leaving certificate was enough for people to rise to competitive heights in employment. People spoke and wrote distinctive English and vernacular.

For second generations, our parents might not have been as lucky as we were in terms of the learning opportunities and the openings that went with it but come to think of it, my father with his middle school leaving certificate had a great analytical mind and contributed solidly to great debates on the floor of the First Parliament of the First Republic where he served as a Member of Parliament.

He was an avid reader who made sure that he built his own library starting with the entire series of Encyclopedia Britannica. He was always keen to go through whatever text or course books I brought home from the University. It made getting money to buy books so easy for me. With the level of educational standard he reached in his time, he was even ready to enter the Law School but had to give up his ambition for a reason that had nothing to do with his level of intellect. The Gold Coast and Ghanaian education had high standards.

No two ways about it. We have had quality learning in this country days past. The country has consequently produced world class professionals through that educational system that we once operated. These professionals continue to make Ghana proud all over the world.

That is why it gets worrying to see the not too smooth road down which the educational system has been traveling for almost two decades now. We still have not reached the desired destination.

Anyone who has sat on an interviewing panel where the potentials of SSS and even polytechnic and university graduates are being assessed either for a job or a scholarship offer over the last ten years or more will know what I am talking about. The shallowness in the arguments put forward, the mix up in grammar, the interchangeable use of she and he are all worrying signs of an ineffective system. It gets even worse when it comes to the construction of sentences. The use of the pigeon English is gradually creeping into formal dictum too.

Agreed. We need to move away from the colonial system of education and get on with our own innovative “home grown” and “home harvested” educational system. Yes, we need to put a bridge between the top and the bottom levels of our educational ladder so we can create a middle platform for those children, particularly the slow learners, those with learning difficulties as well as those who cannot afford the high cost of private education to also become useful in future, at least with a trade.

The turning from the good old British system of education to a total of six years of Junior and Senior Secondary created some panic in parents to the extent that those who had the money and even those who did not have, resorted to bank borrowing to send their children outside to complete their education. The trend is gradually gaining grounds and more children are finding their way out to continue with their education elsewhere.

That has created and will continue to create a vacuum for us as a nation. Very soon when we take stock, we will realise that a generation of young Ghanaians who, in the process of dogging a weak educational system, have found homes in other lands and contributing their skills to the development of those economies. But not only that.

Having settled out there, this generation of Ghanaians is going to select their future partners most likely than not from among the majority of the population there and raise up children who will not know their ancestry and may never even bother to know.

The deduction here is simple. Our educational system is grooming a generation of Ghanaian youth and future professionals who are fast acquiring second nationalities and raising families elsewhere at a time when we need all hands to continue to shape a better Ghana.

As we watch the drift of our children to seek better education outside, we seem not to have been perturbed and so not much has been done to either stem the tide or improve the lot of those who are in it and who may never be able to afford it elsewhere. We are still experimenting with the education of our children and in effect, their future.

So, once upon a time, we were told by some educational experts that the six years of secondary education was not yielding the best results. They proposed instead, a seven year tenure that will crystalise knowledge and build sound practical and academic base for tertiary education and beyond. And so we took off barely two years ago with a four year senior high school programme.

Even before we could assess the viability of that programme, another group of experts have dismissed it summarily and suggested a “sankofa”agenda which will bring back a six year system with three years in the senior high school.

Definitely, we have succeeded in bringing some calypso dancing into our educational system. We take one step forward and dance one step backwards. The Ministry of Education and our politicians may be enjoying the calypso but certainly our children are the ones caught in the middle of those dance steps and their future hanging in the balance.

Can anyone imagine two siblings, an older one and a younger one entering the University the same year simply because by somebody's decision, the older sibling was caught in the crossroads of a four year system whilst the younger one goes along with the new system of three years? It can have a lot of demoralizing effect. Parents who are faced with that kind of situation will need to manage it well. Elsewhere, education psychologists and welfare officers would be brought in almost immediately to start counseling the children.

With the current argument, we are being told that the decision arrived at in 2007 to go for a four year senior secondary system was without much preparation for there is no infrastructure to cater for the four year system, plus, the cost to parents is just too much.

Whatever the duration, should we not rather be looking at what impact or benefit an educational system will bring to our children? Since the announcement was made, countless arguments have been made to the effect as to whether whatever educational system we look at is bringing the best in our children. Is it making them all rounders? Are the infrastructure, the text books and even the syllabus good enough to support effective learning and teaching? Are they equitably distributed?

Unfortunately, the announcement last Tuesday by the Minister of Education on the return to a three year senior high school system has opened up yet another partisanship approach to such a high priority national issue as education. The debates that have come up are being taken on unnecessary partisan lines rather than looking into the merits and demerits for Ghana and its future human resource skills. That is the worry as far as the current debate on secondary education is concerned.

We cannot continue to loose our future brains to educational systems elsewhere because the one at home is not up to it. Ghana will be the looser in the long run. I believe that with a little effort, we can put the infrastructure together to drive at a world class senior high school educational system and leave out any misplaced emphasis such as the length of time children should spend in school.

It is time for us to do away with calypso dancing and get back to highlife for we need quality life in our troubled educational system. The beat is not in synch and the children are messing up their dancing steps unfortunately.

Credit: Vicky Wireko
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