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20.02.2005 Education

The Need For education Reform In Ghana

By Osei-Dadzie, Kwabena

This article is in response to a debate on reforms in Ghana. It was originally addressed to the Ghana Leadership Union.

I wanted to stay out of this but I am forced to come in. GLU can't do everything, that is, solve all of Ghana's problems. As I suggested some time ago, it would be better if GLU focused on one or two problem areas in Ghana. Once progress is made and the organization becomes widely accepted by the Ghanaian public, then it can gradually shift to expose and attempt to solve problems in other chosen areas. For example, the current secondary school educational system is in disarray. Under the old "O" and "A" level systems, there was a self selection process whereby only the "best" qualified attended the universities. Under the current system, you have school after school submitting over 400 or more students to the senior sec school exam at a time. There is no way on this earth that the few universities in the country can absorb every passing student who meets the university entrance requirements. This is a critical area where GLU can focus on and bring sanity to change the educational syustem and or policy. The problems modern day students in Ghana face are many. To be blunt, most students don't have adequate preparation in the writing and usage of the English language in norder to be able to undertake critical analysis as expected of students in higher education. Simply put, there are too many "unprepared" students in the univeristy system,hence the large failure rate among first and second year students across faculties. The failure rate since the adoption of the JSS system is endemic. I have spoken to many friends who are lecturers and professors at our universities. They complain very bitterly that most of the incoming students are not adequately prepared to excell in the rigors of academic endeavors of higher education. If GLU were to embark upon educational reform, many Ghanaians at home and abroad would join their crusade. Education is a non partisan issue and GLU could get support across the political spectrum. Investigating judges, complaining about high port duties, exposing corruption,etc, etc, are all problem areas in society. However, I feel that these are not the ideal places to start if GLU wants to broaden its base of support among Gnanaians world wide. Educational issues are pervasive and a concern to everybody in society. My suggestion would be for GLU to take the educational issue and run with it. I won't claim any credit for their success. I may even get out of hybernation and join them on this one issue which is dear to my heart.

Reforming the educational system in Ghana won't be easy because there are entrenched interests. The focus of any new educational system is to ensure that students who graduate from the system can read, write and have the requisite technical and other skills to either enter the universities, polytechnics, training colleges, other post secondary institutions or become employable. My solution would be to bring the old system back with modification. We can decide to make the whole system a fourteen year processs, from class one through secondary school. After all, in the western countries where English the main language, such as in the US and Britain, the system covers a period of twelve years from first grade through high school. The reason for proposing the fourteen year process is to allow many students in Ghana who hardly speak any English at home to catch up with English vocabulary, grammer, idioms, etc, etc, and be well prepared to undertake reasonable analysis in a subject area. In addition, more time could be used to teach and lay emphasis on mathematics which I think is equally important for both prospective students in the sciences and in the arts. The old saying of "chew, pass and forget" is over. Analysis is more important at the university level than in secondary school. Let's open up the thinking process and focus on preparing Ghanaian students to be able to compete in the world market of new ideas, technologies and related sciences.

The government can raise money to make this feasible by offering fee free education up and through secondary school. To fund this, the government can withdraw the subsidies for petrol and use the proceeds to fund the new educational system. Petrol prices should reflect current world market prices. Many parents complain about the high cost of school fees in the public schools. The people would have a choice to choose between free education for their children through secondary school and subsidy for petrol. The government of Ghana spends many millions of dollars subsidizing the price of petrol. Personally, I think that the focus should be on educating every Ghanaian boy or girl for free at least through secondary school. It makes no sense for the poor masses to subsidize the high living standards of the affluent in society who can afford to drive and operate their luxury private cars. Part of the subsidy withrawn from petrol could be used to embark upon improving the state of the mass transit system if it has not already broken down.

Government can't arbitrary impose this or any other policy for change or improvement on the country. It must begin by laying out the policy in open forum for public commment and discussion. To succeed, the government must work hand in hand with the formidable opposition in parliament to ensure that the policy has bipartisan support. The fear is that if it is perceived only as the policy of the government of the day, the opposition is likely to use whatever power it has to sabotage it. Misinformation, propaganda and outright lies are instruments used by politicians to achieve their aim of keeping the truth from the public. The proposal for change would also not have broad public support or appeal. The time is now and GLU has its work cut out to do some good for Ghana. I concur!

This is just a proposal. It is not written in stone. Anybody can modify or polish it to suit the needs of our society. Kwabena Osei-Dadzie, Burlington, NC Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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