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30.03.2012 Education

How To Improve BECE Results - District By District

By Daily Graphic
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“If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Remove from here to yonder; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” [Matthew 17: 20]

Whoever says that our African youth cannot match the world’s best does not know what they are talking about! It’s all in how the youth are raised. And further, it boils down to how the teachers, administrators and government officials develop themselves as professional educators to uplift this most important vocation on which great nations are built.

Continuous education to keep up or stay ahead of the times is in everybody’s interest.

Moreover, the nation has a moral responsibility to help our youth to be the very best they can be. It’s not that we are doing the youth an undeserved favour; it is a downright moral, social and economic responsibility of every nation to help their youth grow to reach higher grounds.

It is possible to change things for the better: Albert Einstein said it as bluntly as only Einstein can: It is the mark of folly (he used the word “insanity”) to keep doing the same things in the same ways and expect different results. Also, if you think innovations are expensive try complacency; that is, the complacency that fails half of the nation’s youth in BECE exams in public schools year in year out.

Often, the disillusioning factors come from apathetic bureaucracies; and to make any headway, that anomaly has to be factored into possible solutions, and resolved. The uncertainties - last minute directives and ambivalent attitudes of the education bureaucracies, coupled with possibilities of leaked exam questions - can be exhausting. Some private schools have opted for alternatives like the Cambridge IGCSE, and the International Baccalaureate (IB).

But for our purposes in Ghana, we need to re-focus on some practicalities even in using the GES and WAEC as benchmarks. The two bodies must be improved upon and made more efficient in practice without abandoning them.

Firstly, structurally speaking in terms of efficient curricular delivery, it is important that the use of Information Technology is considered for the following key requirements:

1) Schemes of Work / Weekly Forecasts,
2) Teaching and Learning Materials (TLMs), and
3) Lesson Notes / Methodology / Instructional Strategies. Different names may be given variously to the above: but the meanings boil down simply as follows:

Across the disciplines, the schemes of work or weekly forecasts show - day by day, and week by week - the specific topics in each subject to be taught in the course of each term. The TLMs are the very lessons that support the schemes, and they complement the use of regular textbooks. The lesson notes or instructional strategies show the step by step methods or activities in how the various topics will be taught and assessed for successful outcomes.

Those three key factors are mutually inclusive and support each other, and must be structurally sound and effectively deployed. The use of Information Technology helps to eliminate the cumbersome chores of repetitive, term-by- term, year-after-year handwritten notes which many teachers dread and do not do anyway.

The frustrations of the old process put undue stresses on many teachers, especially new teachers and national service personnel. Many handwritten materials themselves tend not to be available for immediate use in classrooms at the beginning of each term; they pile up in heaps on the administrators’ desks for “marking”.

Prepared, computerised and available ahead of time, all materials may be ready for use from day one of week one of every new term. The idea is to create, store, access, transmit and update information continually. The time saving effort will increase productivity where all materials are available for everybody in the system including the students themselves - who tend to be empty handed without the information and materials they need to study and pass the BECE.

The administrative inputs and support for developing successful lessons or teaching materials are so important that the responsibility should not be left at the discretion of teachers only. The preparation of suitable lessons has to be handled expertly. For example: Many of the “ditto, ditto” type entries in some schemes – meaningless in many instances - can be eliminated once and for all and replaced by superior details.

Once digitised, termly or yearly updates have to be undertaken; the practice will remove obsolescence, errors, irrelevancies, while adding both “supplementary” and “complementary” materials as needed.

Each district will need to select – within its defined boundary - a suitable training centre as the hub. The selected centre must have computers, electricity and internet facilities to serve as distribution point to cater for less endowed schools.

Additionally, each district must gather together the key personnel – teachers and administrative staff with the curricular and computer savvy – as the shakers and movers. Selected BECE students must be pulled in to help with the computer inputting. What better way to prepare the youth than by involving them actively! The materials produced at the centres may then be distributed to the various schools, especially those without computers or electricity.

A similar exercise I designed and led recently in Kumasi for principals and teachers of the Youth Leadership and Skills Training Institutes for the 10 regions elicited the following response from Mr Daniel Arhin-Sam, the chairman of the Principals’ Conference: “The workshop on schemes of work organised for instructors and principals in January 2012 has really helped us in our activities. Emphatically, my checks ... indicate that all the eleven (11) youth institutes are going by what was prepared in Kumasi and is serving as the measuring tool in our daily knowledge impartation.”

It is most heartbreaking to visit public schools and watch the numbers of anxious youths sitting and waiting, or sitting and listening - without learning materials - when there are ways to elevate standards all around. Something has to be done- and done quickly- to advance the education and successes of our youth. It cannot be business as usual.

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