The Influence of the Print Media on Gov't Educational Policies
Call them the bashers. The bashers of the education bashers. Informative. Educative. Entertaining gossipers. Well, they are called the media. Specifically, the print media! Year after year, month after month, week after week, and day after day, their duty is to educate, inform and perhaps entertain the public. Do we take them serious? Sorry. Do they take us serious? In this brief write-up, I will examine the role of the media, especially the print media and their influence on the management of education with special reference to the governments of Ghana and Ontario. The Role of the Media: The media, referred to as the fourth estate of the realm, undoubtedly have a crucial role to play in the development of any society. In the course of discharging their functions of informing and educating the people on matters of importance to the society, the media play a pivotal role in raising the understanding and appreciation of the people on those issues and events for which they have interest and contribute to shape their destiny. Both the electronic media (i.e. radio and television) and the print media (i.e. newsletters, newspapers, magazines and journals) continue to play this role effectively in any society. The Print Media on Educational Policies: One of the areas that affect the destiny of any group of people most is education. Education is a universal practice engaged in by most societies at all stages of development. It implies the way into new knowledge and experience and the process that leads to growth and development. Education, generally, describes the total process of human learning by which knowledge is imparted, faculties trained and skills developed. Schooling is one of the many forms in which education is provided. As we enter the year 2002, school education faces great challenges. In Ontario as well as in Ghana there is growing fear among the critics of present education systems in these countries that our classrooms are not preparing students adequately to face the challenges ahead. Education bashers have used the mass media to attack classroom teachers and curricula used in our schools. In like manner, the defenders of the classroom and the curricula have also used the same media to bash the education bashers. What then is the influence of the print media on the many educational policies embarked upon by the governments of Ghana and Ontario in recent years? How has such influence either promoted or stifled recent reforms in education in the two countries? Over the years these publications in the mass media, especially the print media (herein referred to as newspapers, newsletters, educational magazines and journals) might have played a major role in shaping the educational policies of government in Ontario and Ghana. Issues: Some the issues raised in the print media range from school funding to curriculum, classroom size and teacher recertification. Others include extra-curricular activities and nonperformance of government officials in the Ministry of Education (MOE). Investigative reports, editorial comments, feature articles, letters to the editor, debates, opinion polls and cartoons on educational issues carried by the print media more often than not have influenced governments to rethink their policies or even change them totally. For example, the Ontario government had to amend its stand on class size and extra-curricular activities as a result of concerns raised by teachers’ unions, parents and some education bashers. Also, the government of Ghana is reorganizing teacher education in the country as a response to the analysis of, and persistence call for improvement in the teaching profession by the mass media. Both governments have in recent times embarked on educational reforms to bring improvement to secondary school education in particular, and pre-university education in general. Such reforms have come under scrutiny by the press. This crucial role by the fourth estate of the realm has caused the Ghana government to set up a committee to review the whole educational reform package so as to make it more meaningful and beneficial to the people of Ghana. It’s my hope that Kuffour’s administration after receiving the committee’s report will not make it gather dust on the shelf. The press will not spare Kuffour if that happens! Suggestion: The role of the media in the shaping of educational policies in any society could be described as “sacred”. As much as I agree that the media should be a watchdog of government policies I would caution publishers to be wary of negative articles and comments, which undermine positives changes and initiatives embarked on by governments for the betterment of society. On the other hand, governments ought to take the media seriously on any constructive criticisms that the press may carry on educational policies launched by them. Governments must not consider the media as being antagonistic and therefore ignore the views expressed on their policies (for this purpose, educational policies) in the mass media. I will specifically call on the Ghana government to take into consideration the opinion expressed in the print media that its restructuring of the MOE by appointing a minister responsible for secondary and girls education in addition to a substantive Minister of Education is doing the ministry more harm than good. The hierarchy of the MOE is now “bewitched and be twisted” by two bosses with personal acrimony. This situation does not serve the better interest of education in Ghana. Also, the debates on school funding and teacher recertification in Ontario carried by the print media have important suggestions which if taken seriously by the Troy government will ensure peaceful school years for all the stake holders of education in that province of Canada. It could be concluded that the print media play an important role in shaping the educational policies in Ontario and Ghana. Arguably, the impact of the print media on the management of education in these two states has been largely positive. It is therefore imperative for the government and the media to respect the “assigned” role of each other and cooperate substantially to bring quality and inclusive education to their peoples this year and in the years to come. Happy school year. May our actions in and contributions to the field of education bring us many happy returns in the years ahead. God bless!