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Understanding the Ghanaian context of the learning crisis – 1

learning crisis
The core purpose of education is to provide enlightenment for its beneficiaries. Education is as old as man (Gen. 1:28-30). Western (formal) education is not the Blackman’s idea. It was introduced by the Whiteman, and borrowed by those before us but it is, without any shrewd of doubt, a good thing. It is a key cog in every successful, prosperous, productive and/or healthy life that has ever graced the surface of the earth! In spite of all the risk involved at the time, even the colonial master found it necessary to provide good education for us. Yet our systems are failing us as at now by not clicking as effectively as required. So why has it become such a difficulty for our own free and ‘independent’ fathers and sisters of today to provide us with good education?
Inefficiency of the education provider in enacting, rolling out or managing great policies, and other related factors are accountable for the dogged educational system we are witnessing, and militating against active learning. “Unlike exclusion from school, lack of learning is often invisible, making it impossible for families and communities to exercise their right to quality education” (World Bank, 2018).

Ghanaian context of the learning crisis

There is no denying the fact that our system, as it stands,  is far from meeting the goal of education as postulated in UN Sustainable Development Goal four (SDG 4)- Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.
This goal is certainly not about only increasing access alone, no. If it were merely about that, then we would be celebrating our success in that regard because we have achieved more than 100% Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) at the KG and Primary levels of the educational ladder, as we speak. And the rate at which children transition from JHS to SHS, as of 2017, was reported to be 78%; which is promising. Rather, it requires that we pay much more attention to quality as well. Quality has to do with what and how children are imbibed with skills, knowledge, values, aptitudes and attitudes, and how they are transformed to become productive and valuable to the nation.
Unfortunately, our children are not learning to expected levels in school largely due to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of key policy makers and government. First of all, Government of Ghana (GoG) has always sought to dazzle on paper and to impress the international community rather than fix real problems on the ground. A classic example of this was manifested in 2017, when the GoG contribution to the sector was the largest, making up 74% of total education expenditure. The effort looks good on paper; however, 95.4% of the fund was expended on emolument. Once other sources of education financing are added, wages and salaries made up 72% of overall education expenditure, with goods and services accounting for 23% whereas capital expenditure constituted paltry 5%. This indicates that almost all non-salary expenditure is from education financing sources outside of government financing (World Bank GALOP, 2019). Just under 5% of funds expended on non-salaries including books, capitation grant, feeding, etc. raises issues about GoG’s commitment to ensuring quality.  Again, the World Bank GALOP PID, 2019 reports that teachers who accept postings or transfers to areas designated deprived by the leadership of GNAT and GES are eligible to receive a compensated allowance equivalent to 25% of gross monthly income. It further claims that they do receive incentives like study leave with or without pay, health care and subsidized loans, invigilation and supervision allowances and so on. If the claims put forth by this report is the true representation of the actual situation on the ground, why is the teaching profession suffering from the highest attrition rate (7000) of any workforce in the country as revealed by GNAT in 2019, to corroborate an earlier research finding which estimated annual teacher turn over to be around 16%, a rate which even exceeds that of students. Why? The Ministry of Education (MoE), the designated GoG outfit responsible for structuring and overseeing educational matters and policies through various agencies and departments such as GES, NaCCA, NTC, NIB, etc., seems overwhelmed by this task, with so many inefficiencies. Sadly, there seems to be a clear intent on the part of policy makers/education providers to paint a misleading picture of gloomy system as rosy. We will come off worse if we go that tangent, for sure.
Take, for instance, the supply of resources such as textbooks, capitation grant and other logistics. There has always been no or late distribution. And in some cases, this has had a negative effect on the attainment of learning outcomes. Can you imagine that since the inception and implementation of the New Standards-Based Curriculum (NSBC) in the KGs and Primary Schools, no NaCCA approved textbooks have been supplied to schools to aid teaching and learning, up to this point? Even the few unapproved textbooks on the new curriculum, which contents were greeted with public uproar, were only recently done, years after the implementation. The content of some of the books, as has become a norm in our settings with almost everything, did not fail to ignite controversy. It came to light that despite the inclusion of bigoted and ethnocentric content some books still managed to find their way into the open market. We are two academic years into its implementation, though. Do you also know that the MoE is yet to give training to JHS/SHS teachers on the Common Core Programme Curriculum (CCPC) which was supposed to have been implemented in Basic Seven (JHS1) up to  Basic ten(SHS 1) by now? It is supposed to be a continuation of the NSBC but there is currently a hold up to its implementation in the JHS and SHS. So, what are the learners learning now and of what relevance is it to them and the system? Is it co-ordinated and within plan? Yet, on paper, a new curriculum is in place, learning outcomes are going to be measured, and the system performance evaluated from the time it was first implemented- September, 2019. Will the results from evaluating such a system be reliable and accurate? As for the administration of Capitation Grant, the least said about it the better. It is always in arrears yet there are so many regulations guiding its disbursement, etc. Covid-19 PPEs got to many schools after schools re-opened and had run for more than one month. With all these challenges, how will teaching be effective? And if there is no effective teaching, how will active learning take place? And without active learning, how will we manage to fully enforce and benefit from our Education Act, Act 778 tenets?
Similarly, most of the school level challenges to learning are the result of ineffectiveness arising from the political and most powerful divide of the spectrum. Consider teacher related problems such as low teacher competence or standards, and you realise that poor training requirements/conditions, poor regulations of training institutions, lack of standard mode of recruitment, lack of a concrete effective continuous professional development policy and other poor policies are responsible for this. Who makes the policies? If it is about high attrition rate of teachers leading to problems such as low time on task, lack of proper preparation for lessons, absenteeism, lateness, etc. the MoE is responsible for fashioning out solutions to these issues to keep teachers motivated enough to give off their best. Anything short of this is unacceptable and must be discouraged, as much as possible. We always have to remember that effective teaching depends on teachers’ skills and motivation, and yet many systems do not take them seriously (World Bank, 2018).
This content on the Ghanaian context of the learning crisis was written by:
David Angangmwin Baganiah
Educational Consultant|Advicate|Volunteer

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