Changing The Trend Of Failed Educational Reforms: Need To Start From Scratch And Take Right Steps Towards Right Direction!
When Kwame Nkrumah declared: “Ghana, our beloved country, is free forever….”, he envisaged as many opportunities as well as threats and dreamed as much as he had experienced. He made that declaration in his conviction the potentials that our country had at the time, but trust me, Nkrumah was certainly dazed by the uproar of ecstasy that swept across the length and breadth of the then brand new Ghana. Nkrumah’s burning love for the country, back in the day, was insurmountable and his visionary policies were legendary while his peerless leadership backed by his numerous achievements is the difference between him and all subsequent ascenders of his captured throne. There is enough prove in the existing vast difference between Nkrumah’s achievements, on one hand, and what other presidents have mustered in 53 years after his painful overthrow. He remains the greatest African of all time, to date, according to many well acclaimed leadership rankings across the globe. He earned such rave reviews because he did not sleep on his job neither did he limit his plans to selfish gains nor did he allow partisanship to digress his vision of properly educating every single Ghanaian Child in the best way possible. He remained purposefully grounded in his pursuit of the national interest. Indeed, Nkrumah never dies!
Educational reforms are not anything new in this country. They began right at the birth of the country with Nkrumah’s initiation of his ambitious Accelerated Development Plan (ADP) which included the Universal Compulsory Basic Education Policy. By implication, educational reforms in Ghana are as old as our country Ghana, or even older. After the very first reforms under Nkrumah, many other reforms happened in the country’s education sector. But truth be told, the majority of them have arguably led to retrogression rather than the progress they were intended to yield in the education sector. It is valid to say, therefore, that the quality of work that went into former educational reforms has been better than the latter ones for a number of reasons. Chief among all reasons which effectively headline the root of all causes is extreme partisanship and political expediency. Until this problem is assassinated and buried forever, a thousand and one reforms will fail to yield the needed result no matter how attractive the structured policies may appear on paper.
One may argue that changing times have ensured that we found ourselves in a generation where a lot of hard work and structuring is required to make progress in the sector considering the technological demands of the era. OK… granted! However, assuming that Nkrumah was still in charge of this country, and given the kind of vision he demonstrated in tackling problems in his time, would you conceive the thought, let alone, believe that Nkrumah, too, would have plunged our education system into such chaotic state that it is now? It will be difficult for any man born of a woman to convince me against believing that Kwame Nkrumah, the man of solutions, would never have failed to find solutions to the current challenges bedevilling the education sector. Being the man way ahead of his time that he was, Nkrumah always identified and found solutions to problems long before they would come up, and that is why he was the ideal leader that he was known to be. The question is, have our current leaders cared to take a leaf out of Nkrumah’s book? I do not think so. And I will prove why.
Studies have indicated that, several reasons for the lack of success in the implementation of past reforms include: inconsistency in government policy and lack of political will to effect lasting solutions to educational problems, lack of required personnel resulting from lack of training back up when policies are designed, inadequate funding, top down approach to the development of educational reforms, lack of proper monitoring, over emphasis on paper qualification instead of placing such on productive marketable skills, and so on (Bello, 2007; Yusuf, 1998).The above findings from one of the many scientific researches conducted to identify the causes of the failure of many of the educational reforms staged in the country, emerged way before the reforms informed by the Anamuah-Mensah committee, which is basis for most of the about-to-fade-out educational policies that the new ones will replace. Will you say that the Anamuah-Mensah committee report’s recommendations that were implemented have yielded the needed results? I don’t think so. Not when we still have the education system producing about 70% illiterates and innumerates from primary school as revealed by the 2016 National Education Assessment report. This revelation is strongly backed by the World Development Report (2018) from the World Bank Group which says that our children go to school and learn little. Much of the education taking place in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana being no exception, they said, “is neither functional nor developmental”. So in effect, the Anamuah-Mensah committee’s work has yielded no fruits for this country even though its recommendations formed the basis of our educational policies from the year 2007 until recently. From the prevailing facts garnered from the above revelations, it is imperative that instead of placing premium on scientifically researched findings as the basis for solving prevailing problems in our education system, we prefer to resort to politically motivated adjustments mostly informed by political expediency rather than the pursuit of overall good of this country. That is what Nkrumah with all his shortcomings would never do. So then, has it not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that our current crop of leaders have failed to learn from Nkrumah for which reason they will inevitably continue to stumble and fall in the management of his country’s education system?
Tell you what, if all that this country needed to rise above this plummeted economic situation was educational reforms, we would have been there long before. I believe vehemently that the very cause of the economic crisis in the country is squarely attributable to the poor education being ‘sold out’ in our schools. The result is a poorly educated citizenry who can hardly contribute to the economy. The quality of human capital in every country is believed to contribute about 23% to that country’s economy; the very reason why every country’s commitment to developing its human capital should never be taken for granted. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our country. Everything must be politicised and pursued based on the projected number of votes such a policy can help a sitting government win, its efficiency in turning around the nation’s economic situation notwithstanding. Quality education is a secondary matter in Ghana. Even though the 2016 NEA report revealed that 30% of pupils in basic 6 were found to be unable to read at all while another 34% was discovered to merely be sitting precariously on the minimum reading competency level, the government did not see the need to focus much attention on improving things at that level - first to improve quality. Rather, they partnered with USAID to pilot the Learning programme at the basic level while investing heavily in educating largely illiterate SHS students who will most likely graduate from that stage, still, unable to read English fluently or speak eloquently despite all the investment by government. Is that how a problem should be solved? You solve a problem from the symptoms rather than the root causes? Who does that? It is only here in Ghana that leaders will act like this. Nkrumah would never behave like this and that is what makes him Nkrumah. That is what makes him stand out. That is why he is the legend that he is! We need leaders who are committed to the common cause of the ordinary citizens rather than the ways and means of winning the next election. We need another legend not a PR genius who will market their image very well in the international media to win accolades which are not going to inure to alleviating the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian or put food on their table. After all the hype, our country’s economy is still rooted at the bottom of rankings of economic activities of countries but that is to be expected because on the rankings of education systems also the country is only doing well when ratings are considered from the bottom. Embarrassing!
I am aware of the new curriculum and uniforms that have been lined up for the next academic year, though. It is expected to be the Messiah, after all. That is normal because that has always been the case heralding all new policies that have been implemented in the past. There is usually this buzz, and in some cases, amid pump and pageantry just to create awareness before they are eventually rolled out. But is that what we require to be effective? We need to tackle the root causes of the spectacular failure of past educational reforms. It has been the same old problems that have existed since time immemorial, and until the problems of a poorly motivated teacher work force; low teacher standards caused by poor teacher education; poor supervision; lack of TLMs; lack of adequate resources, facilities and infrastructure, etcetera are arrested no educational reforms will result in a turn around. There must be conscious and genuine commitment, on the part of government, to stamp out these problems, but not just initiate politically motivated moves to heal the problem on the surface while the real cause is covered up to rot beneath only to crack up tomorrow. The new curriculum is absolute quality which is banked on to yield the needed results if all the other factors are properly taken care of. Do not forget that our learners must not be merely schooled, this time round but must, in line with best practices, learn and acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes that make them employable. The fact is that, this new curriculum which is standards (not objective) based is setup to produce these qualities. My fear however is that, how will we achieve this when many teachers are less motivated to commit to the cause? How will we achieve learning in schools when there is no proper supervision? The standards and quality held by a lot of teachers leaves much to be desired so how have we prepared to counter that problem? Infrastructure, TLMs, facilities and equipment are almost non-existent in many schools, how then will such schools effectively ensure learning? If today’s leaders wish to leave a lasting legacy like Nkrumah did, they need to be proactive rather than the reactive measures that they keep employing to solve problems.
Therefore, I would have a lot of hope in the potentials of the new curriculum if 90% of the teachers involved in implementing it were abreast with the contents, methodology and pedagogy underlying its implementation. If there was a high standard set as requirement for working at the levels where the curriculum will be implemented with special remuneration lined up for qualified personnel while unqualified ones are retained amid clearly outlined conditions and terms which would virtually push them to strive to meet the set standards. Effective supervision by empowering headteachers, and remunerating them adequately to strategically put them in a much better position to enforce rules and regulations effectively. Set out a clear strategy and plan aimed at effectively equipping all KGs across the country with adequate infrastructure, facilities, equipment, resources and TLM, within a period of time, to enhance learning. Find and implement an effective and efficient assessment plan that will help us measure the progress of our education system at the very basic level; it must not necessarily be an exam.
No child should complete lower primary without being a literate. The situation whereby our children complete SHS with no critical thinking skills, problem solving skills or logical reasoning abilities; lack patriotism and good attitude towards work; lack creativity and innovation; etcetera must all, hopefully, be a thing of the past within the shortest possible time! September 2019 is when the opportunity to enforce this change starts. From the next academic year, our children must learn in school to become digital literates, develop adequate cognitive skills, and acquire relevant Socio-behavioural skills to become adaptable to changing times just as the modern regime demands. We have failed catastrophically to make an economic breakthrough despite possessing so many natural resources in abundance. Our cocoa has failed to rescue us from poverty; the Quality Gold we have produced for years has not cured our hardship; the bauxite and diamond have given us little returns; even our hope of salvaging our doldrums via the crude oil we recently discovered, has waned now. It is obvious that we need to emulate the South Korean model of economic development by building our economy on the quality education that we will provide for our wards. Let us ignite the spirit of Nkrumah now; let us rescue the sinking boat immediately!
David Angangmwin Baganiah