On the way home last night I was listening to the radio and I learnt that 28% of children passed the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), well enough to go onto a higher educational institution anyway. The WASSCE is the UK equivalent of an A-Level and candidates who pass go onto university, however I believe that the UK system see’s it more as a GCSE and if candidates went on to study abroad it is likely that they would have to do their A-Levels or some other type of foundation course.
I understand from the follow on topic this morning that grading is tough, probably tougher than in the UK. I feel that every year marking gets a little bit more lenient in the UK with all these A* business, this is going to sound ancient but I am going to say it anyway, it never used to be like that in my day.
I did not get a deeper understanding as to what was the true cause and what was being done to solve the problem. Yes it is an improvement on last year (where only 19% got through to university), however it is still an issue that needs to be properly addressed. Although not all candidates will go on to university (due to lack of funds, a desire to travel, not ready, or just don’t want to go), it is crucial in this modern society to have some sort of certificate if you want to move up in life.
Unfortunately, what would have been a healthy debate became quite comical. The presenter of Citi FM Richard Dela Skyy (I hope I spelt his name right) asked hard hitting questions. I would compare Richard to someone like Jeremy Paxman, he goes straight for the jugular and doesn’t really back down until he gets his answer. You know you are going to get some tough questions, but still the interviewee, rather than pre-empt the questions they might be asked and answer accordingly, goes on the defensive.
The interviewee in this case was the acting Deputy General of the Ghana Education Service (GES). I can’t remember his name but he was quite a character. The first question was quite obvious, why is it that 70% of the candidates taking exams failed. The response was that the presenter had called it a National Disaster, it is not a disaster and speaking in that manner will immediately make him go on the defensive.
When the presenter informed the interviewee that Nigeria also had a 30:70 ration and were calling it a national disaster, the interviewee said “well that is Nigeria, this is Ghana”. I laughed because in his small way, he had a point as Nigeria is 4 times the size of Ghana.
He then spent the next 30 minutes that I spent listening asking the presenter to refrain from asking such questions because it sounded negative. So he was asked, “what is the opposite of pass?”, I think if the interviewee could have jumped through the phone and rung the presenter’s neck, he would have.
So I have been listening to bits from discussions and formed a little analysis
Too much focus on the theory
Students have a “chew and pour” approach to exams. They regurgitate what they have read and pour it out in the exam without actually seeing the practicality in it, so when it comes to exams they don’t go into too much detail because they don’t actually understand what they are applying the answer to.
It’s not uncommon in the western world but I find that this side of the world, they pick up some very bad habits but don’t understand that it is wrong. A friend of mine’s mother is a lecturer at GIMPA and she has showed me papers that her students have handed in for grading. I know that the exams are structured in a way that you have a limited amount of time to answer as much as you know but take your time to structure a sentence. Sometimes I get a message from my younger friends and I need Google to translate for me with the IKR and the BRB, the examiner is looking for a properly constructed sentence and not text speak.
Politics in teaching
I never went to school here so I cannot talk about the actual quality of teaching but politics has inadvertently lowered the quality of education. First of all there is the Junior High School (JHS/JSS), Secondary High/Secondary School (SHS/SSS) structure. It looks like every time there is a new government, it brings about a new structure in the educational system. The years of study in high school was at one time similar to the UK system, then they changed the names, changed the years of study mode, at one time SHS or SSS was three years, then it was four years and then came back to three years, if it is confusing for you and me, think about the kids.
Then there are the teachers, if you are fortunate enough to send your child to private school then your quality of education is expected to be good. Government schools are always hit by strikes due to non-payment and where morale is low you are not expecting positivity in the child’s education.
There is too much focus on the big three subjects: Maths, English and Science but not every child is destined to travel down that path. Not everyone is born to be a scholar, some may be talented in the arts, others in humanities and others just might be a future Michael Essien. I remember when I was young I was drawn towards drama and media and at one time I was considering a career in journalism or acting. My parents, well they are traditional people and saw these courses as “Mickey Mouse” courses. A Ghanaian parent will see this as “playing” so a child will force themselves to excel in the more traditional course but they just don’t get it.
Blame the parents
I can’t blame them totally, but you have to put some blame on the parents. You have two camps, the illiterate, who can’t help their kids because they don’t know. Then there are the well to do, who leave their kids in the care of the nanny and the driver. They leave for the office before the kids leave for school and return well after they go to bed. Weekends are for social activities and church so they don’t get time to actually check over their kids’ progress. It is a shame, because it is likely that these children will be handed over a company to manage in 20 years and they will be dumb as f***. Why because they were playing instead of sitting down to do their homework.
Well this is just a few of my thoughts, they may be the same or different to you but at least it has got everyone talking and through that we should have some improvements. I do believe that the Education system is good in Ghana and some of the private schools can match any one in the west, however there is a deeper problem that needs to be addressed, I pray those with control properly analyse this problem so they can work on resolving it soon.