I happened to teach in a certain senior high school in a town in the Volta Region.
This town also had a nursing training college.
As part of the recruitment process to the nursing training college, applicants were asked to write an entrance examination.
Interestingly, the college decided to use the same English and Mathematics papers which the candidates ostensibly wrote and passed that same year during the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Painfully candidates who had grade As and Bs in English and Maths performed poorly in the entrance exam.
In fact, the principal of that school confronted my school as to why students from our school could perform so well in the WASSCE, but perform poorly in the same paper at a different exams centre.
Well, the rest is a long story which we all know.
This spectre is all over the country but we continue to play the ostrich.
The result of this ostrich game is the poor quality of graduates we continue to churn out as a country.
As teachers we know we are the pivot around which education revolves.
It is an incontrovertible fact that to a very large extent, the better the quality of teachers, the better the quality of education.
Thus, the more professional our teachers are, the safer it is to entrust our children to their care.
It is therefore important that as a nation we “sieve” our teachers properly; getting the best that are “fit” to teach, before entrusting our children to them.
It is also worthy of note that our children trust their teachers more than anybody.
Even if we are professors, our children think their teacher is clever than us.
This is the more reason why we cannot joke with the quality of teachers who train our children.
Indeed, entrusting our children to a bad teacher is worse than not educating them.
So, who is that teacher who can be classified as a professional?
Beyond the academic qualification and college certificate, what must he possess?
How do we assess our teachers to ensure they have the minimum knowledge and skills that would make them perform well in class?
The teacher licensure examinations come in handy as a quality assurance measure to ensure that teachers meet a minimum standard of training; professional and academic.
Currently in Ghana, there are more than 10 institutions that train teachers.
Though there is currently National Teacher Education Curriculum Framework (NTECF) which all teacher training institutions are expected to unpack in teacher education, it is important that a national standardized test is used to assess all trainees from the various institutions to ascertain whether they meet the minimum standards to teach our children.
The Education Act 2008 (Act 778) enjoins the National Teaching Council (NTC) to set required standards of practice for teachers.
This is the reason why the National Teachers' Standards (NTS) was prepared for teachers.
It is important teachers are tested on the NTS to ascertain their fitness to teach.
The Ghana Teacher Licensure Examinations (GTLE), is part of the NTC's fitness to teach standard.
Literacy and numeracy as part of the GTLE is data driven and targeted.
The results of Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) ; two international standardized examinations, indicated that majority of Ghanaian children are not learning.
In fact, the assessment showed that less than 2% of our children can perform basic literacy and numeracy relative to their age and level.
Thus, about 97% of our children performed poorly in the EGRA/EGMA.
Ghana's abysmal performance in various international assessments and rankings in the past few years is a further epitome that there is something wrong with our existing education strategy.
To get different results requires a dramatic change in the way we have been doing things in the past.
Globally, round-tables have focused on the need to sharpen the skills of teachers in order to deliver on their mandate. Indeed Goal 4c of the SDGs and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) both emphasise the need for teachers to possess the right skills set to deliver education goals.
Passing a professional examination is acknowledged as a condition precedent in every profession.
This is why every profession worth its sort applies professional examination as part of its quality assurance mechanism.
This is why doctors do, this is why nurses do, this is why lawyers do, this is why architects and surveyors do, this is why bankers and accountants do, this is why marketers and administrators do.
The list is endless, across Ghana, Africa, and globally. If this is not new to relevant professions, why teachers then? What is good for the goose, is as well good for the gander, they say.
So why not teachers? Is it another strategy to demean the teaching profession? Why will someone want to keep quiet about Bar exams and rather sabotage teacher licensure examinations? At least the Bar exams has elicited massive upheavals to warrant its cancelation than the teacher licensure exams.
Why will somebody want to destroy a beautiful policy that is targeted at improving quality? Do we still want to continue with the age-old debate of whether teaching is a profession? But we refer to teaching as a noble profession. How? One of the ways by which any trade or occupation transforms itself into a profession is the development of formal qualification examinations.
If licensure is going to be cancelled, for what reason apart from political gain? Four year SHS was cancelled, allowances for teacher trainees cancelled, allowances for nursing trainees cancelled, tax exemptions for teachers' car scheme cancelled. Can someone out there think of what innovations to bring on board instead of this cancelation business?
Instead of talking about cancelation of the licensure exams, our discourse should centre around paying teachers professional allowances which will help them to consistently undergo continuous professional development, which is part of the professionalisation of teaching.
This will help keep teachers constantly in good shape in appropriate knowledge and skills to deliver quality education.
In the UK, to attain a qualified teacher's status, one needs to pass a test in literacy and numeracy, similar thing happens in the United States, Singapore, and others.
Professionalising teaching makes teachers more skilled and marketable. It makes us recognized across the globe and well respected by other professionals. Let us internationalize teaching, and be accepted all across the globe.
Ask colleagues, even from the teacher education universities, who travel out of the shores of our nation, and desire to teach. Irrespective of their degrees, they are required to sit, and pass a professional qualifying examination before they are admitted to teach in such countries.
Any attempt to whittle down the standards for teacher professionalism should not be seen by teachers as a favour at all. It’s an attempt to disrespect us, an attempt to make our occupation or trade inferior to the others whose qualifications are of equal rigour and of high standards as that of the teacher.
We cannot afford to let ourselves down through populist and very uninformed utterances to cheapen ourselves, and still expect to be treated like nurses and lawyers. “Scrapping” teacher licensure examinations should not be seen as a reward, but an affront to the teachers, and the teaching profession.
To speak to issues as this, one needs to have an in-depth knowledge of what pertains in the field, or better still, seek proper advice or counsel. And this is important. Teachers should not fall for this cheap political gimmick. “Let us unite as teachers still” to defend the professionalization of our occupation. Let us resist, with the last drop of our blood, any attempt or action to bring us back.
Let us read in between the lines, and see who wants what with what and how.
They should look somewhere else. Maybe, tell that to the marines.
Long live the Ghanaian teacher!!!
Teacher professionalism has come to stay!!!
Long live the noble teaching profession!!!
Writer: Kyei Frank, a teacher at
Kumasi Academy SHS