The essential and copious examination of issues relating to the widely raved New Standards-Based Curriculum vis-a-vis how the key seeming factors affecting its implementation process could be effectively aligned to guarantee a successful education system which started some weeks ago is all but over. Dilation of the most topical educational subject of the moment continues, this week too, along with the developing process as we continue to delve into it by looking at how supervision, as a key factor, has been adequately catered for or where we could do better. Please note that in our last three editions, the all important subject of curriculum politics titled: “All Hail the Standards-Based Curriculum!”, we expounded very much, the issue of teachers, learners, and generally, what encapsulates the New Curriculum in respect to most recent to oldest issues treated. This piece will briefly highlight some equally important burning issues that have come up, via recent developments, especially with the training of the arbiters (facilitators) which is key to the process of implementation.
It is noteworthy that the commitment of policy makers, GoG (MoE), to the effectiveness of the implementation process is highly questionable, at this point. I have assumed this conclusion due to the shambolic handling of the orientation programme which supposedly for teachers. Apart from the error plagued training resources supplied to participants and limited practicality involved in the process, the unnecessary politicisation of the programme, the glaring disregard to ensuring the welfare of teachers evidenced by the poor quality of meals, poor remuneration, etcetera are catastrophic developments. They have the tendency of stifling the already fleeting and unreliable commitment that teachers possessed prior to the programme. In fact, for some teachers, they expected a reduction in number of subjects studied at primary to authentically corroborate the much talked about elimination of content overload, but had such hopes dashed as it turned out that the cut in content to be studied rests solely with the reduced number of sub-strands, indicators and in some cases, strands. The increase in contact hours without the mention of a corresponding increase in motivation via remuneration couldn’t stir up the indignation of the talk and chalk fraternity any further with the redefining of their role which now requires them to merely guide learners and/or the re-branded accolade- “facilitator”, doing little to appease them either. The atmosphere is polluted already and the grounds are nothing to write home about for the accomplishment of the task at hand- Implementation of the New Curriculum!
But is it a conspiracy by people in key positions to continue to subdue the ordinary Ghanaian and keep them submerged in perpetual ignorance and abjectness so as to retain their dominion over us till Satan repents and worships God? It seems so! Otherwise, who will truly seek to achieve a goal but decide to neutralize all the elements that precipitate the goal? May be only GoG! Even before the implementation stage starts, we have demoralised teachers with our disrespectful treatment of them at the training workshops. I believe it is deliberate! Trust me, the education system’s struggles and failures are set to continue unabated if the glorified signals of widespread discontentment among the arbiters of the implementation process is anything to go by. In all of these manipulations, bamboozles, manoeuvres and calculated blackouts involving poor victims -the underprivileged citizens - one thing is unavoidable; posterity! It will surely judge every one of us!
Do you know that another very critical factor that practically facilitates the implementation process as much as possible – supervision - is also being handled shabbily? As far as I know, and at the moment, the old ineffective and difficult to sustain approach of relying on Circuit Supervisors to do all the ‘dirty’ work in ensuring that things ran effectively in our schools- a situation which is impossible- is what is being retained. We need to shift from practices which have been operational for long periods of time which have proven to either be outdated or ineffective, or adapt workable results oriented practices and policies. "Despite the seeming gloomy picture of education in Ghana today, the good news is that we can change the situation in a very short time if leadership is prepared to take the bold decisions and steps."- Prof Adei. Unfortunately, the unpreparedness of leadership to take the bold steps is so loud and worrying. I know ignorance could also cause some of the situations we are witnessing, but that is the last thing I will ever believe is at play in our situation, given the power that the policy makers retain and the abundance of competent technocrats that are at their disposal to choose from to spearhead such reforms. That is why I always maintain that the Ghanaian politician has become so merciless, ruthless and above all, selfish to the extent that they will stop at nothing in their quest to manipulate and control the intelligence and levels of enlightenment of the ordinary citizens. OK, they have acquired motorbikes for Circuit Supervisors and pick-ups for DEOs, how will that cure the current supervision challenges in the schools? Very soon, there will be no money to fuel these motorbikes, and the Circuit Supervisors will be unable to carry out their duties but will get paid every month for no work done! What a country we live in. That is the current situation we are in so why seek to continue along the same line?
Again, such a move, if it were initiated, would help reduce corruption in the system. Imagine a corrupt or ineffective Circuit Supervisor superintending over a cluster comprising ten or more schools. What do you think will work effectively in such a cluster? His sluggishness could result larger numbers of learners' future into doom and damnation. We however have the chance of forestalling, or should I say averting that situation by giving power and authority to individuals whom we can easily hold responsible for outcomes while the numbers that stand any risks of ineffective policies under them is also reduced as much as possible.
It would interest you to know that “the countries that we put forth as models today had similar challenges but were able to overcome them with the right kind of political leadership, competent technical people and willingness to confront indiscipline and corruption in the system." -Prof. Adei. Do we have the right kind of people? If we do, then it is about time they started demonstrating their willingness to confront the issues, be it indiscipline or corruption, head on. They need to, like competent technical people, exercise a clear understanding of the problems and come up with very measured solutions. Disappointingly, we are not seeing these characteristics yet. How can we trust the process? As I have been emphasising from the word “Go”, merely stringing together a fantastic piece of curriculum is not what rang the changes in the benchmark education systems and economies of today; the commitment to making it work via a carefully structured implementation process was key.
If you asked me of my views on how to maximize the improvement of impact of supervision as a key factor of the implementation process, I would recommend that Headteachers be given more autonomy and charged to be more accountable. That way, supervision would be localised as much as possible. I totally side with the school of thought that suggests that "the role of the headteacher must be redefined. They need the authority, autonomy, and responsibility to lead and manage their school including not just supervision and discipline but who they want on their staff. Let’s pay them at least 50% above the ordinary teacher, and that should be delinked from salary to be an incentive pay which makes them accountable for ensuring that learning takes place. It is the ultimate cure of the widespread absenteeism and “presenteeism” (a new term some teachers have coined to signify that if they are forced to be in class during contact hours, they will be present but not to teach). Headship should be on contract not for “MBAs” – “me baa ha akye”."- Prof. Adei.
See, all this while, the role of the Headteacher has been to deploy staff, provide teaching and learning materials, allocate time to subjects to be taught, and among other things, create an enabling environment for the effectiveness and advancement of teaching and learning in the school. In effect, the head teacher “monitors and guides curriculum implementation through ensuring that schemes of work, lesson plans and records of marks are prepared regularly”. They go further to maintain requisite tone and culture that create the climate of social responsibility- a necessary ingredient for effective curriculum implementation process. This goes without mentioning that if a headteacher is incapable of carrying out supervisory functions, it ultimately affects the curriculum implementation process very direly. The role has even been expanded, lately, per the structure of the New Standards-Based Curriculum which now demands that schools be teacher-centered while classrooms are made learner-centered. Of course, it is a laudable development but why not go beyond all of these to, as well, decentralise and authorise supervision? Headteachers can be made to set clear-cut goals for the year, term, etcetera and held accountable for their achievement and failure. Look at it critically for this could hold the key to revolutionalising the system after all.
The reality is that in the work environment, individuals prefer to have timely feedback from their supervisors. This feedback should be an ongoing process but not limited to some few occasions as in the case of relying on a Circuit Supervisor to carry out that function. Also, the fact that feedback must be reciprocal to both the supervisor and subordinate to enhance the chances and rate of achieving set goals (success) further emphasises the need to grant autonomy to supervision on school by school basis. A more compelling reason to toe this line lies solidly in the fact that managers (Headteachers) and other leaders, more often than not, feel the need to teach, nurture, coach and develop others. They mostly seek to influence the achievement of the School’s goals and objectives via the designed strategies to reach the goals. So why not make this easier by granting them the needed autonomy, authority, and responsibility to make them more accountable? Ghana needs to wake up from her slumber we are witnessing in our present education system not later than now!
David Angangmwin Baganiah