In an era when quality education is a concern for education focused international organizations and dominates national debates, teacher quality must equally be a priority. The central role of the teacher requires that, teacher education must be of the highest quality towards achieving any educational agenda. It is therefore commendable that government has decided to implement the Colleges of Education Act, Act 847, which was passed to give legal backing to the new status of the institutions in 2012. By that Act, Colleges of Education have therefore been placed under the National Council for Tertiary Education (NTCE), being the government agency responsible for the regulation of tertiary education institutions in Ghana.
This was announced at the 170th Anniversary celebration of the Presbyterian College of Education in Akropong, in the Eastern Region on the 16th of June 2016, by the President Nana Akuffo Addo that from the 2018/19 academic year, all Colleges of Education in the country will be upgraded to University Colleges. This simply implies that, a first degree will be the minimum requirement for teaching at any level of our education.
Over the past forty years, teacher education in Ghana has seen many face-lifts. These modifications are as a result of policy changes which are supposedly aimed at producing well trained teachers to meet the educational needs of the country at various times. As to whether these modifications have produced the needed results is another question we need to answer. These changes though, have resulted in the production of different cohort of teachers with different types of certificates.
Teacher Training Colleges; Colleges of Education or otherwise now to be known as University Colleges, initially offered 2-year Post Middle School Certificate ‘B’ program, followed by a 4-year Post Middle School Certificate ‘A’ programs. The 2-year program was later extended to a 3-year program which ran alongside the 4-year Certificate ‘A’ programs until it was curtailed in the 1980s. In the 2000s, following a comprehensive review of the Ghanaian educational system, government published a White Paper declaring that all Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs) will be upgraded into Diploma awarding institutions. This did not take effect until 2008 when all 38 TTCs were re-designated as Colleges of Education.
As has been the trend in rolling out educational policies, inadequate preparation and foresight has already delayed the start of the 2018/2019 University College calendar which was designated to start on 1st October but has been rescheduled to start on the 29th of October due to unexplained circumstances. Since successive governments are in a hurry to make political gains from implementing their policies, mostly, things are done haphazardly. This fate is undeserving of education which undoubtedly is one of the tools that will prepare and propel our development into deeper waters.
There is a school of thought that teachers graduate to teach exactly the way they are taught. If this is true, then there is more work to be done than we foresee. The new generation of teaching has gone beyond the era of “A for Apple; B for ball” to mention but a few. Today, teaching has been transformed to the degree where the teacher must find ways and means to help each and every student unlock their potential in life. This agenda can certainly not be realized if we continue the orthodox method of packing a group of pupils into one classroom and forcing them to learn whatever has been written down. Governments both past and present have shown little commitment in improving classroom conditions which are very crucial to the teaching and learning process. Surely, teacher qualification cannot be underestimated in the delivery of quality education. Similarly, the importance of teaching aids should not be deemphasized.
The question of what knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and skills teachers should possess is the subject of much debate. This is understandable, as teachers are entrusted with the transmission to learners of society’s beliefs, attitudes and deontology, as well as of information, advice and wisdom, and with facilitating learners' acquisition of the key knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that they will need to be active in society and the economy. It is therefore a good thing that as part of the upgrading of the Colleges of Education, a new curriculum has been designed by five public universities to focus on practical learner-centred approaches so as to encourage critical thinking amongst students. This intervention comes on the back of calls by stakeholders to the Education Ministry to the change the current theoretical teaching approach. Some colleges of education have already started taking steps to facilitate the smooth running of the new curriculum with the aid of the 'Challenge Fund', a government aid package, under the Transformation Teacher Education and Learning programme (T-Tel), a four-year government Programme financed by the UK Aid which has released £17 million to fund for its implementation. According to the program, once student teacher's have completed their four-year bachelors of education degree, they will then spend one-year teaching in basic schools, employed by GES before they will receive their license to practice and achieve qualified teacher status.
Those training to teach in rural and remote areas face different challenges from those who teach in urban centres. Therefore, a different approach to teacher before can improve on education is needed for those who aspire to teach in rural and remote areas. It therefore is prevalent we pay attention to our teachers and their needs both in their training, line of duty and in their personal lives. Because it is only a crop of well trained; adequately motivated and most importantly fully equipped teachers that can help deliver the educated and skilled workforce we require to transform our economy.
“The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher” as the theme for this years’ World Teacher Day Celebration honestly points to the fact that teacher education cannot be underestimated if quality education is to be assured. A major problem in our part of the world though is the little price tag placed on the importance of the teacher in the society. Duly, a dozen leave the field for greener pastures every year. But our effort toward reversing the trend is always dwindling. Certainly, this is not the time and place to start tooting about the poor conditions teachers are forced to go through just to deliver on their mandate. Perhaps, this elevation in rank may lure some to stay a little longer in the service to mother Ghana. This should not be the end of the road to elevating teachers to the level they deserve in society.
As University Colleges resume today after the long and preventable delay, let us forge in unity and make our nations education to be as malleable as ever so as to contain useful modifications on its structure, content and management for it to keep up with changing trends. How we position our education to contribute towards our keeping up with this dynamic world is very important and needs to begin now. Certainly, effective teacher education and a corresponding teacher empowerment are the best tools.
Long live teaching and those who sacrifice to do it.
Teacher, Tokuroano M/A Primary “A”
Krachi East Municipal