GHANA: RESTRUCTURING THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM CAMPAIGN (THE GRADE “A” DISEASE)

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Has the education system failed our students and the nation at large? The answer is yes, perhaps it is how our education system is structured that needs to be questioned. Students especially those in the  tertiary get disappointed when they graduate with all the best grades they have when they do not get all the glorious life and happiness education promised them. Other students in the so called developed countries do enjoy that promise because of the different educational structure they have. Parents pay huge sums of money and still get no reward for doing that, they have to even continue to feed their child until he/she finds a job to do.  The number of graduates that complete the university increase every year, but unemployment rate is rising and never declining.

In the year 2011, the rate of jobless graduates hit 44.8%. 44.8 percent of graduates from the universities, polytechnics and other tertiary institutions are said to be jobless, a data has revealed. These graduates are believed to be in the age bracket of 22 and 25, a study conducted by Dr. William Baah-Boateng, a labour economist and senior lecturer at the Department of Economics, the University of Ghana has disclosed. The study was based on 2006 findings, but the number of jobless graduates is said to have gone up following the implementation of the fiscal stabilization programme, spanning 2008 to 2012. However, most of the jobs created during the period are vulnerable with limited or no social protection, the study indicated. Vulnerable employment has declined but still remains high. Yearly, several graduates from the country’s tertiary institutions estimated to be in the region of 50,000 come out of school searching for jobs. This excludes those from the senior high school and the junior high schools, who number over 300,000……….. He was optimistic that these graduates will find jobs after four years, noting some of these graduates do not even know where to go and find jobs. In 2006, about 2.6 million Ghanaians were not working or jobless with some deciding not to work. Nana Owusu Afari, President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), who also made a presentation, noted that industries do not need second and third degrees, urging young graduates to acquire skills and experience before doing so. He urged government to support the training of graduates, adding that industry can only offer short courses and not the entire training programmes.  (GhanatoGhana.com)

I believe education is supposed to bring change and make students creative. Why do majority of Ghanaian graduates look for jobs after they complete school? Could this be one of the reasons for the rising unemployed graduates? Did formal education teach us to be dependent on the government for jobs?

People enter the tertiary institutions and become less creative; their ingenuity gets shuttered for life. It is as if the formal education covers the eyes of our imagination with an unseen blanket. Students do not even think beyond the walls of the tertiary environment, their minds tend to be closed from the outside world. They do not even know the trending opportunities that easily put money into ones pocket. All they think of is how they are going to pass their quizzes, how to get past questions and get an “A” in every course. “Getting an “A” in the formal education does not make you an A student in life”. Students in the tertiary do not even bother to know what is happening outside them (current affairs). Business students study about marketing, but will never sell anything on campus, they are good sales people with respect to grades, but not in the real life. Selling is even seen as a job for illiterates. Every graduate wants to work at a place where his study of interest is. We are limited in life due to the courses we read, we read nothing else in school apart from the books and notes given us. We are being prepared to take the seat as future leaders, but we all know that our colleagues who schooled in the foreign countries will take these seats first and leave the unimportant ones to us because they have a better education than we do. For example in some countries like Singapore which has per capita GDP higher than USA, Japan and other so called developed countries, changed their educational system from the traditional way of learning to innovative, less classroom and more creativity.

Getting excellent grades does not equate to getting higher income in life, if it was so teachers would have been the richest people in the world. In Ghana, about 90% of teachers are poor, why! Why do we keep on deceiving our generation that this kind of formal education is the key to our progress?  All a child knows in Ghana is to go to school, get a job, marry, go on retirement and spend your pension salary and wait to die. Let us wake up from our sleep, nobody will come and change what we need to change for us. The current educational system is not helping and is the cause of our consistent poverty as a nation. Students are so concerned about their grades that even if they do not get good grades they assume that they have failed in life. They equate higher grades to higher income and it’s not true. Ask yourself why Ghanaians start business and they fail, but a foreigner comes to start the same business and they succeed and they will intend employ us. Many graduates are employed in businesses that they barely apply what they learnt in school. We come out of school and we don’t even know how to do common power point presentation, we do not even find time to assess ourselves to see how well we are ready for the market, instead we are busy thinking of how we can excel in out quizzes and exams. One thing graduates forget is that there is a vast difference between schooling and education, the former is a want and the latter is a necessity. Ninety percent of education is learnt in the real life and not in the classroom that is why some graduates get surprised when they come out of school and they do not get jobs to do. Universities award best business student and these students have not even come out with any business idea or have not been running any practical business while on campus, no award is given to the best entrepreneurial student. We praise students who excel in grades and condemn those who excel in real life. If we really want our students to be at par globally, then we need to change our method of teaching from kindergarten to tertiary.

Computer science students do coding on papers, study programmes that are outmoded and does not meet the current standards. We have students who are reading courses that are literally irrelevant to their programme and one sad thing is that they are sacked from the institution if they fail that course. For example, a student reading Biological Science will be given an African Studies course which is supposed to help the student have a fair knowledge about Africa, but if he should fail that course and he even get A’s in all his main courses, he will be sacked, how? Student are seen as intelligent based on their ability to solve past questions so if a student is not fortunate to get these past questions then he is not a brilliant student. Anybody, who is very good at memorizing without being a student, can get A’s in most of the courses in our tertiary institutions.

 

 

MENTAL SLAVERY

My greatest concern has been for those who write exams and fail especially entry exams to tertiary institutions. Those who fail assume they are failures in life and that they will not amount to anything in society and they begin to act as such. We have made them to believe that their contribution outside the classroom is worthless. Their self- esteem is killed and they assume they are incompetent, some struggle writing the particular subject they failed numerous times with the hope that they will pass one day. Mentally, they cannot think beyond passing their exams. I believe that it is not everybody that will be okay with the classroom style, instead there should be another alternative. Imagine someone who read Visual Arts in the High School and did extremely well in his electives and had to stay in the house for close to four years because he failed Mathematics. There should be a different grading system for every programme in the SHS. We are wasting human resources if we allow all these brilliant people to stay in the house for these number of years.  Young people with creative ideas are in the house re-writing courses they failed in SHS of which they will not be using in the real world and teachers and society make them  believe that they are not intelligent. In the university we read courses which have nothing in relation to our main programme of study and a student who fails will be sacked and labeled a failure in life. This mental harm will make the person not function to his maximum because he has also come to the realization that he is a failure. The fact that a student failed to remember the solution to a past question does not make him a failure. If you are first or second class student in academics it should reflect in the real world as well.

 

ALTERNATIVE METHOD

Technology (Bill Gates’ view): This is a conversation that Jeffrey R. Young had with Bill Gates about the Future of Higher Education, which was originally published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA. He shared a very effective method of learning and teaching with technology. You can get the full conversation on www.thegatesnotes.com

It is not every student who is comfortable with the classroom or lecture room setting and so this online education should be encouraged to reduce the number of youth who are in the house doing nothing.

I will share a few strategies that can help our educational system to be better:

  • There should be less focus on grading or passing of “paper exams” and refocus on passing practical service. Students should be made to take field work relating to their study and much of the grading should be based on this. This will minimize cheating in exams and quizzes as students will know that their grading is not based on the written exams.
  • We should bring experts in the working field to come and lecture students about the changes in the market, to help student adapt to current trends.
  • Universities should allow companies and organisations to mount courses and bring their own people to teach them.
  • Students should be taught to create their own businesses than to wait on government to be employed. Entrepreneurship should be practically taught. Business students should set up businesses on campus and run it for profit. This is should be part of their grading system.
  • Students should be given exams questions (some programmes) before they sit for the exams, this will make them become expects in that area.
  • We should do away with traditional structure and replaced it with a more flexible approach that encourages creativity and problem solving, individualized learning, and a wider range of academic and vocational options. This is one of the decisions Finland made and today, its students rank among the top on global assessments of student learning, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/.
  • There should be an assessment system or team to consistently check the progress of the education system and effect changes where necessary.

These are my own views on Ghana’s educational system, there might be mistakes to the approaches i suggested above, please do well to comment or share your views.