Come September, 2019, the curriculum currently in Ghanaian schools is going to be changed from the objective-based where the teacher sets his own objectives and tries to achieve them with learners to standard-based curriculum where teachers are expected to negotiate meaning and understanding with learners, help develop specific competencies with the view to making teaching and learning a learner-based activity.
The idea of new curriculum is good, considering the fact that many stakeholders in education have over the years called for a curriculum that meets the aspirations and needs of Ghanaians. There has been for example issues of Ghana producing examination passing graduates not fit for industry, memory and recall students and graduates which achievement is the basic and simplest in educational attainments and finally, job-seeking but not job creating graduates from our tertiary institutions. All these have been sincere diagnosis of our educational system in Ghana especially if one looks at the problem from the perspective of street debaters on education rather than from a professional point of view.
The recent case that perhaps necessitated government’s action on a new curriculum development might be the news that Ghana education system has been downgraded internationally as one of the worst in the world. Whether it is this news or some other motivation that has moved government to hastily and in the usual copycat style, design and introduce a new curriculum for implementation in our schools is very immaterial. The issue is, we need a new curriculum but are we ready for the implementation of same?
Theories of education from behaviorism to cognitivism all the way to constructivism abound in education. The truth is that there is no hard and fast rule about the methods of teaching and learning. Success in teaching and learning is highly dependent on availability of teaching and learning resources, quality of teachers, learner preparedness and prevailing environmental and cultural conditions. Even in situations where all these variables are satisfied, the national objectives of a country in terms of educational achievement, commitment of government and other stakeholders go a long way to determine the success or otherwise of teaching and learning in our schools.
Curriculum development and implementation is only one of the variables in the attainment of stated educational objectives. Let us take for example a good curriculum that is not supported by the necessary educational infrastructure like classroom blocks, tables and chairs for learners, availability of teaching and learning materials, quality teachers, effective learning environment, availability of funds for educational development and many others, can a new curriculum just in itself transform our education to what we expect or want it to be? Your guess is as good as mine. In developing a new curriculum, there is the need for an extensive consultation between all the stakeholders as the contribution of each is necessary in the attainment of the objectives of the new curriculum. For example, teacher unions have to be abreast with the tenets of the new curriculum and train their member if necessary on same, government needs to provide the needed funds for the implementation of the new curriculum, parents and guardians need to understand their roles and responsibilities in the implementation of the new curriculum and the teacher training institutions need to train and educate teacher trainees in terms of the new curriculum. Unfortunately in Ghana, consultation is very minimum in the development of this new curriculum. The teacher unions especially GNAGRAT has complained of being left out, changes in the course outline in our various teacher training institutions in line with the new curriculum has not been done and thus, there is a lack of synchronization in the whole educational value chain in terms of the new curriculum. The attendant effect is that the new curriculum is dead on arrival. The focus should not be on how quickly we change the old curriculum to get results because everyone is complaining, rather it should be on how we gradually transform our education from kindergarten to University in order to attain the national educational objectives of Ghana. If we hastily implement the new curriculum in the manner in which we are doing now, the effect will be a call for another curriculum in the not too distant future. This is because we might probably be looking at only one aspect of the problem and not the whole scenario.
Education like many other fields of study is a professional area which should be left to professionals to develop. It is a reversal of fortune that in Ghana, education is left to politicians to play “jaskele” with. The executive secretary of the National curriculum and assessment Dr. Prince Armah on joy news’ PM EXPRESS for example says that the purpose of the new curriculum is make students challenge teachers and become critical thinkers as if the existing curriculum is lacking in this regards. This is preposterous to say the least. The existing curriculum equally provides an opportunity for learners to challenge teachers in terms of questions and do critical thinking. The problem of education in Ghana, is not per se about ineffective curriculum but that of inadequate funding as can be seen and heard from the teachers who are undergoing training on the new curriculum, unnecessary political interference from government, inadequate educational infrastructure, lack of parental guidance and commitment among others. The irony about the whole new curriculum saga is that, the teachers who are the vehicles for the implementation of the curriculum are completely left out of the process. How is the success of the new curriculum them certain?
We live in a country today national policies are based on political capital rather than professionalism. You cannot develop education in Ghana this way. Leave education to educationists to attend to. Have we for example address issues of class size? In classes where there over eighty students and the classroom is packed in such a way that the teacher cannot even have a space to pass through, how interactive can such a class be? Let us take the issue of pupils in many of our basic schools seating on the bare floor in the classroom for lack of furniture, how effective will it be in developing competencies like writing under the new curriculum?
The more practical approach towards solving the issues of education in Ghana will be to solve the fundamental problems of financing education not necessarily from government coffers because that would obviously not be enough, looking at the quality, retraining and motivation of teachers, stakeholder engagements among others. I also agree that there is the need to change and redesign a new curriculum but this is a secondary issue that we can look at once we get the fundamentals right.
22nd August, 2019