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16.01.2017 Feature Article

  Government Should Get Out Of Teacher Education

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Ghana needs professionally trained teachers who have gone through programs recognized for their unique features, including their structure, partnerships, and curricular emphases – programs with significant contributions to the theory and practice of teacher education which are enhanced by a strong emphasis on pre-professional field experiences. The new Ghanaian teacher needs both academic and professional preparation that combines rigorous general education, subject matter specialization facets and professional training.

To achieve these there is the need to review the caliber of personnel who are accepted for training and preparation into the profession. The existing structure appears to be weak in terms of selection of students for training into the profession. The requirements for admission into a college of education is almost the same as those for a university – a significant pass at the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). Those accepted into colleges of education are given diplomas at the of their course work while those who attended universities graduate with degrees. Why should students with the same qualifications be made to pursue courses with different emphasis?

Consequently, after a three-year stay in a college of education, the teachers go ahead to be re-admitted into degree-awarding institutions to eventually become degree holders. This explains why Ghana Education Service (GES) is the only institution in the country that gives study leave to a large number of its personnel every year. Available data indicates that teachers on study leave peaked at 9,814 in 2000 and since then averaged around 6,000. The situation has become so disturbing that GES has now resorted to issuing quota for the number of teachers approved to proceed on study leave every year nationwide. In 2006/07 the quota was 3,000. These figures indicate a system that is sick and needs to be treated. Almost all those granted study leave pursued various courses leading to a degree. If the Cert A or diploma holding teacher was satisfied, would he go to a university for a degree?

It has been the intention of almost every Ghanaian teacher to possess a first degree. If this is the ultimate why then would government continue to spend resources on their training when there are countless of graduates who wish to be teachers but for whatever be the reason are denied the opportunity. Government should go for graduates and spend less resources to train them to become teachers. By bringing them in as college graduates government would not be burdened with the constant demand for study leave with pay. It would also bring stability into the system since almost none would be looking forward to upgrade himself/herself as it exists now. Those who would go for advanced degrees would do so at their own time and financial expense

The graduates already have the required academic qualification to be teachers. All they needed would possibly be a one year professional training to become accredited as teachers. This one year training could be done through sandwich classes during the school break periods at their own time and cost - that is for those who want to be considered as professionals and qualify for positions and promotions. On the other hand there could be a three-month intensive classroom academic work for all the jargons needed to be a professional teacher to be followed by three months of teaching practice.

Accepting only graduates into the profession would make it easy to diversify the personnel into the various aspects of the profession. The existing method of training adopts the one size fits all approach for all teachers at the expense of the various specializations – Guidance and Counselling, Special Education, Early Childhood Education; Educational Psychologists, Administrators, Curriculum developing; subject specialization and others more.

When government gets out of the training of teachers, there would be enough funding available to give reasonable pay to teachers or competitive remuneration package for the profession. This would make teaching attractive to those with passion for the profession who had shun the initial call into the diploma awarding institutions to become teachers. It would also bring out the best in teachers by the exhibition of love and compassion for the profession. Ghanaian students would be the eventual winners since standards would be raised in the long run.

Among other things, one of the major requirements for the success of fee free senior high school (SHS) education in Ghana is the availability of professionally trained teachers. Available data indicates that the Ghana Education Service (GES) has a teacher-deficit of about 60,000 throughout the country. The GES is unable to fill these vacancies because of the low number of teachers that come out of the 38 colleges of education every year. How then would the GES respond to the pressure that would be exerted on the system by the fee free SHS so far as teachers are concerned?

On the other hand Ghana has 12 Public Universities, 64 Private Universities and 10 Polytechnic (Now Technical Universities). These sum up to 86 Universities and each is producing graduates every year. Combined these institutions send out about 65-70,000 graduates for the National Service Scheme (NSS). (Each graduate is required by law to serve one year under the NSS). Since both the public and private sectors are unable to absorb all of them after their NSS duties, they have become a public burden. One area in the system that can absorb them in their numbers is the teaching field.

The system has already overproduced graduates and is unable to absorb them. Why would the government spend resources to train someone for a diploma while somebody had already been educated by a university for a degree at a relatively no cost for the same teaching position? As part of its commitment to employ the multitudes of unemployed university graduates in the country, it would be prudent for the government to cease from the training of teachers in its present form and depended on the universities for their graduates.

For a while the payment of stipends (alawa) for teacher-trainees has become a problem for the government. President Nkrumah introduced it to woo people into the teaching profession. General Afrifa’s National Liberation Council (NLC) cancelled it. The Rawlings’ administration restored it and was maintained by Kuffour’s government only to be cancelled again by the Prof. Mills regime. It became a campaign issue for both the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. The On/Off again payment of alawa to the students is a problem that needs to be tackled once and for all instead of the ad hoc solutions proffered to it. A permanent solution would be the employment of degree holders into the profession and the cessation of training of teachers by the government. If you do not train them, you do not pay them alawa

Is the government not discriminating against teachers in terms of conversion of all tertiary institutions into degree awarding ones? A case in point are the polytechnics. If anything at all the polytechnics’ Higher National Diploma (HND) was almost the same as the diplomas given to teachers. Effectively almost all the polytechnics are now awarding degrees to their products. Why cannot the same be said about colleges of education? Discrimination in any shape or form is disrespectful and dangerous. The Government of Ghana should at least stop this type of discrimination, show some respect to teachers by upgrading their minimum qualification to a degree and their institutions to be at par with all tertiary institutions in the country.

It is high time government paid attention to the employment of college graduates to make university education more meaningful and rewarding to those concerned. What is the purpose of encouraging students to pursue higher education only to end up roaming in the streets begging for peanuts or settling for crumbs? My argument is that government should go for university graduates as teachers and spend little or no resources to train them as teachers and stop the “financial loss to the state.”

Ghana Government should get out of teacher education!

OPANIN KWABENA MENSAH
NB: The same argument is being made for the government to get out of the training of Nurses

Opanin Kwabena Mensah
Opanin Kwabena Mensah, © 2017

The author has 37 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: OpaninKwabenaMensah

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