Are educational standards falling?
By: Peter M. Onumah, Dome
It is commonplace these days for all sorts and conditions of people to declaim that educational standards are falling. To some extent they may be correct in their assessment of the performance of graduates from our institutions – basic through tertiary. It is quite embarrassing when thousands of basic education certificate examination candidates fail to satisfy the academic requirements for admission to the senior high school. Similarly, a good many of the West African school certificate examination candidates hardly gain access to the tertiary institutions, for their academic attainments fall far short of admission requirements. This is worrying to all stake-holders in education- students, teachers, and school authorities, Ghana Education Service, Ministry of Education and parents.
The current administration is doing its utmost to develop infrastructure at all levels, conducive to quality education delivery. Nevertheless, we still have a substantial minority of schools under trees. At such schools, of course, there are no classrooms, libraries, staff common room, sanitary structures; and the headmaster, under these circumstances, is compelled to keep the school record in his house. The administration is trying to induce teachers to go into these hard and deprived areas by paying them special allowances.
There is a certain degree of skepticism about the success of this measure, the pecuniary rewards regardless, for monetary inducements are not the only motivational factor. Attractive and beautiful physical environment stands, in the first place, the best chance of luring pupils to the school. In the final analysis, aesthetics plays a huge role in the moulding of a descent and cultured character. Local government- district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies-should set the provision of decent educational facilities as their top priority.
On the question of teacher recruitment, there seems to be a certain degree of in-difference. If one needs a piece of furniture one consults with a carpenter for the execution of the job. If one falls under the weather, one consults with one’s physician for proper medical attention. Unfortunately, in the case of education, the most important, critical and fundamental in human development, anything goes.
To rectify this seemingly unimportant situation, the present colleges of education facilities should be expanded and many more provided throughout the country. It is only well-educated professional teachers who can churn out from our institutions uniformly balanced characters. It was for this cause that that great African patriot, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, established very many post secondary teacher training colleges in the- mid 1960’s to produce the professional cadre in support of the ever-expanding school enrolment. Sadly, the myopic reactionary forces who overthrew him whittled the number down to the present thirty-eight at a time when school enrolment was exponentially expanding. So for want of well-qualified professional teachers anybody could be recruited to handle the most critical resource.
The quality of education is very mixed. For some time we have been getting spectacular final examination results from our universities. They have been producing very many first classes, second uppers and second lowers from among the very high-school graduates whose academic proficiency we have been questioning. These successes proportionally far outnumber those of the 50’s and the early 60’s, for in those days admissions were very limited.
And these spectacular successes cannot be overlooked in assessing the performance of our universities which have achieved reputable standards recognized globally. They are jealous of it. They are not only teaching; they are also researching and publishing. A don who fails to publish does so at his own risk. Some dons have been fired because they are unable to publish. It would seem, however, that some people, particularly grammarians, assess a man’s quality of education by his proficiency in the use of the English language. It is very jarring on the ear to hear a reputedly popular figure say from the podium “between you and I” instead of “between you and me”; “I advocate for his appointment” instead of “I advocate his appointment” and “help we the farmers” instead of “help us the farmers.” The danger lies on the impact they make on their audience. For the latter regards them as its role models, and may unquestioningly communicate as they do. Such popular figures might as well be advised to listen regularly to that wonderful programme, “Everyday English” on UNIQ FM at 06:35 a.m. from Monday through Friday. It is very instructive.
Nevertheless, there are still more serious questions on the quality of our education which are very disturbing. People’s outcry at the quality may be an expression of our disappointments and frustrations which they attribute to the system. We are a wonderful people. Some of our sons and daughters have achieved laurels recognized everywhere, yet we don’t seem to be moving forward as fast as we wish because of our inadequacies and mediocrities. These will be explored in the next piece.
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