Abandon old theories for practical educational outcomes.

·Some highlights from year 2016.

It’s time to stop wandering in the darkness. It doesn’t require a scientific study to know by now that education for the 21st century is about recognizing the need for change and coping with that change. For one thing, bodies have to move from the sitting posture into making things with the hands.

Doing what was done last year, or doing the same old thing a little better, is no longer a recipe for success. Ghana must shift from the indolent theories to sensible practical educational outcomes. That will require a move from knowledge to implementation. The status quo must change for the better.

Education for production and employment

Curricular objectives are worthless if they are merely good intentions; they must be transformed into work experiences. Serious objectives are commitments; they determine the future; they mobilize the resources and energy for both the present and the perceived future.

When we consider, for example, that the rice imports (2013 figures) of about 644,000 tonnes cost Ghana US$422 million; and chicken meat of about 168,000 tonnes cost $197 million, making a grand total of those two commodities alone about a whopping US$619 million every single year, we need to reset the mindset.

And when we read newspaper headlines, “Graduates asked to be problem solvers”, or “Unemployed Graduates Hit 271,000”, we have to pause in our tracks and ask a most salient question, “What on earth is going on?” What can be done for the 320,000 or so students presently in the tertiary system, knowing darn well that a number of them would end up in the stagnant pool of the unemployed every year?

Skills for the youth

But going forward, purposeful education must offer transformative opportunities that address the following key questions: One, does it help to create jobs? Two, does it add value to the nation’s natural endowment and local inputs? Three, does it help the youth to fill existing jobs that require the use of modern technology? Four, does it teach and support the youth to be entrepreneurs who make it by solving existing national and international problems?

And where one can’t develop the skills to apply what is learned to create anything useful, what then is education for? One can be taught till kingdom come – one can learn the multitude of theories till yet another kingdom appears – and still remain stuck, unskilled, unproductive, and unfulfilled. A good many academic degrees are not grounded in practice; they float aimlessly with the wind. That is the misery passing for education in parts of Africa, hence the underemployment and persistent poverty.

And for some unfathomable reason, the very same academicians leading and looping those vicious cycles are the ones expected to resolve the dilemma!

Seek the outliers

If ever there were a trend in modern education to seek out the outliers, it was to support the youth to be innovative, to work in teams as collaborators, to hypothesize, to follow their own curiosities, to discover their authentic selves, and to prevail. The progressive world is moving in that direction, and Ghana must join the move.

The need for an upbeat functional education is a worldwide concern. In these days of information explosion through Google, Wikipedia and the rest, passing exams with glitzy scores is not that kosher anymore; it used to be so when information was so lacking that even the paltry possession of it was a sacred act. Today, mere cognitive abilities serve as indicators of possibilities only; they are not accomplishments. Today, open ended tasks requiring students to creatively integrate different subjects, to find real life solutions to nagging societal and worldly problems, qualify as accomplishments.

Unsatisfactory 2016 WASSCE results

The WASSCE results (Daily Graphic, August 20, 2016) showed that in Integrated Science, while 113,933 pupils (out of the total of 232,390) achieved the acceptable scores of A1 – C6, some 75,938 pupils obtained the unsatisfactory scores of D7 – D8, and 42,519 failed completely. The majority of the candidates – 51% – were in the bottom two brackets.

The scores in Mathematics were worse: while only 77,108 pupils (out of 231,592) scored A1 – C6, the greater majority – 67% – were in the unsatisfactory (D7 – D8) and failed brackets. Though the scores in English and Social Studies were not as bad as Science and Mathematics, generally speaking, the cumulative scores prohibit the majority of the WASSCE pupils from advancing to the next higher stage.

In Ghana, we use summative exam scores for punitive purposes by casting the blame on the failing youth: most of the candidates are tossed to their own devices, with a good number spilling into the streets, hustling with vehicular traffic for a living.

Schools in dust, without toilets

The need for cleanliness in public schools – especially the lack of toilet facilities and water for both adults and children to wash their hands for good hygiene – cannot go unheeded. Especially of grave concerns are the numerous public schools that sit in dust across the length and breadth of the country, with open defecation. The manifestoes must address the negligence of those public officials – coasting comfortably on the nation’s payroll, with perks – whose responsibility it is to make sure that the proper hygienic conditions exist for the well-being of the nation’s children.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

The dusty unhealthy conditions
A decent healthy environment
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