The fruits of education are universally regarded as undeniably sweet. As a matter of fact, education is that tool which guarantees good health and earnings through employment for the individual at the same time ensuring that the society realizes economic growth in the long term via fostered social cohesion, spurred innovation, poverty reduction and strengthened institutions that come with it. It is the foregoing that inspired Nelson Mandela to once opine that: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Since it is widely accepted, the world over, that education strongly promotes prosperity and general improvement in the human race, it has become a basic provision in every country even though there maybe exclusive cases in some parts of the world. It is worth pointing out that merely providing education is not enough to yield these sweet fruits mentioned above. It takes much more effort than provision of education to produce those fruits for enjoyment. Learning is the only key to the door that houses the promise of education. It is also true that providing more schools and funding for more of our children to get access to education are a worthy cause, but it is not the answer to our problems. Getting our children to learn the right content in school to acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes that make them relevant, employable and problem solvers is the absolute answer to lifting our country out of doldrums. Learning hinges on curriculum which usually determines the subjects or courses to be studied in school as well as provides a basis for all syllabi to be developed. Curriculum, also, spells out the kind of competencies to be developed in the learner. By implication, therefore, our country’s level of progress or otherwise is largely attributable to the kind of curriculum run in our various schools.
Again, another academic year was treated and finally discharged on Thursday, July 25th, 2019. Of course it is not the first time an academic year has been completed neither is it ever going to be the last time. However, this particular date is going down, in our education system history, as the one that marked the end to some curriculum pending the implementation of the new one it makes way for. It is the end of an era. It paves the way, at long last, for the grounds to be actively prepared for the much touted New Standard-based Curriculum to be implemented. Welcome news! Personally, I am highly convinced about the quality of the new curriculum; at least on paper. In fact the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) has not disappointed us at all and deserves a pat on the back. They have been solid in their formulation of the new standard-based curriculum. Henceforth, the practice of forming objects that seek to get the learner (child) to comprehend, list, mention, explain, define, state items/ideas learnt (acquired knowledge) now belongs to the past. The old curriculum was a recipe for rote learning- I must confess. What educators have actually been tasked to do from September, 2019, is to develop in the learner, some clearly identified core competencies which they (learners) will clearly demonstrate after learning has taken place. At least a route has finally been found to the banishment of rote learning. That is why I am excited.
I know for a fact that the issue of the new curriculum mentioned above is news to some people. You have committed no crimes. At least you have found out way before its implementation. In fact, the training of implementers, which is a key component of the implementation process of any curriculum, is at the final stage -MMDEO level of training. All teachers in the first three levels of our country’s revised basic education systems are either undergoing or scheduled to undergo training between now and 10th September, 2019 when basic public schools will be resuming school. I hope you know that the new look of basic education system of Ghana now takes the following shape:
- Key Phase 1 (Foundation level comprising Kindergarten 1 & 2)
- Key Phase 2 (Lower Primary level comprising B1 to B3)
- Key Phase 3 (Upper Primary level of B4 to B6)
- Key Phase 4 (Junior High school level of JHS 1-3)
- Key Phase 5 (Senior High school level of SHS1- SHS3)
So, all teachers in Kindergarten and Primary (Lower and Upper) are billed to commence the next academic year as the linchpin of our country’s hope of reforming our education system. They will be tasked to spearhead a massive turn around in the country’s fortunes in education; the key to our state, standard and conditions of living. They will be expected to ensure that learning takes place in our schools. They will be charged to imbue in our children, knowledge, skills and attitudes that make them world beaters or at least, put them at the level that their peers in advanced countries have reached. Teachers will have to inculcate in the average learner, critical thinking and problem solving skills; creativity and innovation skills; communication and collaboration skills; personal development and leadership skills and cultural identity and global citizenship skills. The implementer will need to produce a digital literate, scientific literate and a functional literate; all in one. Teachers in the KG will have to imbue these competencies in the child via four (4) different subjects prescribed by the country’s new education bible (curriculum), namely: Mathematics, English, Creative Arts, and Religious and Moral Education (RME). Implementers in the Primary Schools will have a basic task of using seven subjects as a means of inculcating core competencies in the children. Mathematics, Science, Our World our People, English, RME, French, History, Physical Education and Ghanaian Language will all be studied in the primary schools, at least, at some point. From all indications, on the evidence of information gathered so far, we have such a beautifully designed curriculum awaiting implementation in about a month’s time. Great news!
Away from all the convincing paper work, a lot needs to happen on the ground to make the new basic curriculum a hit. The Ghanaian has gained a huge reputation for developing exciting plans on paper. The converse is the case, however, when effective implementation is mentioned. I hope, fervently, that this practice of poorly implementing cutely designed policies becomes a thing of the past this time round. At least in this particular instance when a critical thing such as a curriculum is being implemented, we must, by hook or crook, pull the right strings. There is no room for hit and miss. We cannot stumble and fall and reboot over and over again as we have become noted for. It is a mission impossible, but we must, for once, prove our doubters wrong as we silence our critics. We must prepare our house so well that when we take off, there will be no chances, whatsoever to get scathed at any point. We must employ carefully planned strategies to ensure that the orchestration will be devoid of unwelcome drawbacks. It is an opportunity to restore hope to our country; a chance we cannot squander. My plea is a humble one to every stakeholder. Arise, one and all, take up the mantle and do your best for mother Ghana. Making our children learn to become relevant to our country and the world is a nonnegotiable task that calls for all hands on deck approach. If you happen to have a role to play, it will be a privilege to be a member of the team on a rescue mission. You have a great chance of making history. Stand up and be counted!
While the clarion call is being made to all the actors in our educational sector, I will not forget to appeal to policy makers especially the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) to eschew politically motivated moves in the course of implementation of the New Curriculum. For it is believed by our elders that while it is urgent to chase away the preying wolf to save the life of the chicken, there is an equally important need to, afterwards, warn the chicken to also desist from aimlessly wondering into the bush. In fact, our greatest setback in this country has been political expediency. Please, let us for once, focus on the needful. Let no ephemeral pleasures gain prominence over critical goals. We have to remain committed to the course of quality and proper education. We must operate a system that produces learned (not schooled) citizens. MoE and GES know, very well what is required of them. They need to create an effective teacher-learner relationship in the classroom, and this does not come easy. We know the learner is at the center of education (New Curriculum) but do not forget that the key implementer of same is the teacher. Also, put politics aside; we need to “align actors to make the entire system work for learning”-World Development Report 2018. We cannot make any progress if we ignore the critical key conditions required for the system to work. We must operate a religious (or if you like) scripted system which will leave little or new room for bending of policies and principles.
Having put together such a great framework for learning to replace schooling in the new Ghana, one would genuinely expect other bodies within the MoE to think ahead in terms of adducing solutions to teasing age long challenges that have the deadly potential of annulling our efforts to turn around our educational fortunes via the implementation of a seasoned system. Unfortunately, much preparation is not visible on the grounds, as of now. It looks like teachers, many of whom are below the required standard due to poor training systems, will be required to do too much of improvisation as usual since no adequate equipment, facilities, resources and TLMs have been supplied to schools yet. No infrastructural improvement and/or provisions have been made; not much effort has been seen yet, with regards to arrangements to beef up supervision, save the provision of transportation for various officers aimed at easing mobility deficits. Poorly motivated teachers have not received any morale booster yet, at least, as a plan; many learners will still arrive for learning unprepared to learn, but we have not received any hint of any plans to tackle the debacle for now. In view of all the challenges outlined above, it is conspicuously evident that we are in for a herculean task, and may have a torrid time facing a tough hurdle. Nonetheless, there is still time to plan adequately and strategically. Without that, trust me, it will be another case of wasted resources. It doesn’t matter what percentage of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product is spent on education; what matters most is how wisely the money from the public purse is spent to get results. The choice will always be in our hands, anyway!
David Angangmwin Baganiah