Every year, the world celebrates the teaching profession on the 5th of October. Since its inception in 1994, each year’s celebration comes with a theme that seems to bring to the fore the emerging issues in the profession for global discussion. For instance, in 2018, the theme was “the right to education means the right to a qualified teacher”. This theme was to remind the global community that the achievement of the right to education and education for all hinges on the availability and provision of trained and qualified teachers.
This year, the global community has been called to reexamine the future of the teaching profession in the light of increasing levels of attrition and the perceived unattractiveness to the younger generation. The theme, “Young teachers: the future of the profession” is a clarion call on the younger generation to choose teaching as their profession and contribute their quota in delivering quality education to the populace.
The aptness of this theme cannot be overemphasized, especially in Ghana. Research has shown that most young people in Ghana would not select teaching as their first career and even when they find themselves in the teaching field, it is mostly seen as transitory employment since they will gladly jump onto a “better” profession when the opportunity presents itself. In my interaction with teacher-trainees over the years, I have observed a complete change in their mood when there is a mention of their status as being trained as teachers. Some will burst into prolong laughter while others show a demeanor depicting a complete disapproval.
The fact is, through our actions and inactions, we have made the teaching profession unappealing to the younger generation. The historical antecedents of the teaching profession in Ghana reveals a profession that has lost its place of honour in the society. The veneration and esteem that accompanied the profession in the past seems to have been gnarled through society’s overall outlook. This seems to validate the cynicism of the public towards a probable restoration of the dignity of the profession.
The call by the global community to the younger generation to pursue teaching as a career and placing the young teacher in an enviable position as holding the keys to the future of the profession can only materialize in countries like Ghana when there is a deliberate attempt to attract and retain the younger generation. This is a decision that must be taken immediately by the relevant stakeholders to safeguard the future of the profession.
Issues relating to the profession should treated with all the urgency needed. In most instances, authorities are lackadaisical when concerns of teachers are brought to their attention. This contributes to the waning positive image of the profession. To attract and maintain young teachers, matters relating to them should be dealt with earnestly. Remuneration and other incentive packages for the teacher should reflect the crucial nature of the profession. Young teachers should be able to plan their lives properly with their decent salary while being assured of a decent pension upon retirement. Other incentive packages such as loans with lower interest rates, housing schemes, vehicle schemes should be a necessary component of the teaching profession and should be available to all but not a few.
One of the challenging issues for the young teacher is promotion. In many instances, movement up the professional ladder after all requirements have been met becomes a big hurdle to surmount. This with its associated bureaucracy continuous to be a traumatic issue for the young teacher. There is little or no opportunity for professional development and it becomes worse when that young teacher finds himself/herself in rural Ghana. The inadequacy of teaching and learning resources and the seemingly lack of support from parents and the community in the quest to deliver education to the child contribute to the attrition rate of young teachers. Efforts should be made to address these challenges to secure the future of the teaching profession in Ghana.
Whereas much needs to be done by the relevant authorities to restore the image of the profession, one cannot ignore the general attitude of the teacher. Teachers have to desist from actions that bring the image of the profession to disrepute. There should be total adherence to the code of conduct of the profession and efforts must be made to support and uphold the teacher licensing scheme that have been implemented by the National Teaching Council. It is important to control the entry procedure into the profession and this can be achieved by upholding high standards in the admission of students into our university colleges of education as well as the various faculties of education in the country. The reform agenda by the Ministry of Education for teacher education in Ghana should be supported by the teacher unions and other relevant stakeholders to guarantee that, the best will be admitted into the profession.
Teaching is both an art and a science. This implies that one needs to combine the natural flair of content delivery with pedagogy to be able to succeed in any instructional session. It, therefore, requires people with the highest intellect and impeccable moral standards to deliver quality education to the student. This places the teacher on a higher pedestal in the league of professions. As the world marks another Teachers’ Day, the clarion call is to end:
- the practice of admitting the academically weak students into the colleges of education;
- the frustrations the newly trained teacher goes through to get posted to a school and received their first salary;
- the easy entry and exit into the teaching profession
- the difficulty associated with moving up the professional ladder;
- the seemingly lack of regard to the views and contributions of teachers in relation to issues in their professional field;
- the apparently lack of attention and motivation to the rural young teacher
These and the other numerous challenges have rendered the teaching profession unattractive to the younger generation. The future of this country and the desire to move the economy from where it is to a knowledge and technological economy rest on the shoulders of the young teacher. Let’s entice and maintain them in the profession. This is my clarion call to all stakeholders in the education sector.
The writer is an education economist, researcher and curriculum expert and currently the Acting Executive Director of the Institute of Education Studies (IFEST), an education think tank in Ghana.
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