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13.02.2007 Feature Article

Education reforms for development

Education reforms for development
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The issue of further reforming Ghana's education system raises interesting questions in the context of the on-going debate about integrating Ghanaian/African values and experiences in Ghana's development process. The interest come from the fact that a country's education system should be the core deciding motor of its progress. And this should be openly grounded in the country's core innate values mixed with the enabling aspects of the world development models, especially with ex-colonies like Ghana whose education system has for long been driven by British structures and content to the detriment of Ghanaian/African values and experiences.

By slowing the integration of Ghanaian/African values and experiences in Ghana's education system, students who are expected to drive the country's future, have little understanding of how to steer Ghana's progress. Other countries, such as South Korea, Japan and Malaysia, have overcome this problem. Ghana's progress requires an understanding of the nation's core values and experiences, its colonial legacies and world development models.

It is due to these misunderstandings in Ghana's education system that the educated Ghanaian, almost 50 years after independence from colonial rule, still has not been able to refine the inhibitions within Ghana's culture that have been stifling the nation's progress. When today a Ghanaian university graduate still thinks some deaths are caused by witchcraft, or Western values and experiences are superior to Ghana's or Africa's, the implications are that the educated Ghanaian is still not educated in the practical sense of development. The educated Japanese or South Koreans do not think so because their education systems, which are balances between Western and indigenous values, have taught them to think from within their core values first and any other second. Nowhere do we see this more than the Japanese management system called “Kaizen,” which is a mixture of Japanese cultural intelligence and modern (more Western) management values.

Various Ghanaian governments have been struggling to reform Ghana's education system in relation to country's progress since independence from colonial rule. From the heavily colonially structured education system that had heavy European-centred values and experiences to the Dzobo Report of 1973, which set the tempo for new thinking about reforming Ghana's education system, to the 1987 attempts to restructure the content of Ghana's education, with initial spotlight on the implementation of the Junior Secondary School (JSS) program, Ghana's education system, as a vehicle for progress, is yet to balance Ghanaian core cultural intelligence with that of the dominant British/or Western ones. In this sense, the long struggle for education reform appears far from being informed by Ghanaian cultural values in relation to the dominant Western ones. The situation is so unrealistic that some Ghanaians are calling for the insertion of human rights values in the education system as a vehicle for rapid development without knowing that within the Ghanaian/African culture are huge human rights values that have not been open for progress. It is, therefore, sad that a 23-year-old immature Canadian with faint knowledge of human rights, who has the notion, which came from the Western media that Ghanaians/Africans have no culture of human rights, as I experienced last year in Ghana as human rights trainer for the Toronto-based Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), will fly from Toronto or Ottawa or Vancouver or Winnipeg or Montreal to Ghana and teach Ghanaians what are human rights and development. An insult to Ghanaian/African rich indigenous norms and values of human rights.

If Ghanaian education policy-makers touting education reforms in the year 2007 are to break from the past attempts to reform the education system and mint a realistic education system that is to drive Ghana's progress, the new reforms should be holistic by consulting such traditional institutions like the National House of Chiefs and appropriate Ghanaian/African cultures, languages, knowledge and values, and the standards used by Ghanaian/African ethnic groups to legitimate knowledge. To further enhance the past efforts, the education policy-makers should move beyond Western experiences, the old and tired systems that do not help Ghanaians to think first within their cultural values, respect and have confidence in their values, and learn a bit from the Japanese or Malaysians, especially from their best practices, in their education system.

When Dr. George B.N. Ayittey, of the American University in Washington, USA, argued recently at in an article entitled New Hope for a Beleaguered Continent that “in African villages, one cannot become a member of a peasant organization or king without satisfying an eligibility requirement. Further, trouble-makers can be expelled from a village and bad kings can be removed. Africa needs a new organization that reflects these peasant ideals” and that “Africa doesn't need the World Bank or outsiders to tell her to put her own house in order.” In relation to how bad leadership has stifled African progress, Dr. Ayittey was, in a sense, saying that this indigenous leadership culture has not only been appropriated in Ghana's progress but is not taught in Ghanaian schools.

The new attempts to reform Ghana's education system should correct this disturbing anomaly in country's's education system and development process by balancing the multiplicity of values within Ghanaian/African values with the already existing colonial and global structures and contents.

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