African Outlook Online

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong's column

Ghana: Harmonizing the unrealistic education system

Ghana: Harmonizing the unrealistic education system


By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong


The mass failure of Ghana's Junior High School students at this year’s national examination, a worsening trend over the past couple of years, has sent educationists, parents, the mass media and Accra scrambling for answers.


Ghana's President John Atta Mills

Is it the quality of teachers? Is it lack of educational material? Is it the environment? Is it the nature of the education structure that is frequently ruffled by ruling political parties? Is it the content of the curriculum? Are the education policies realistic? Is it the lack of the broader use of Ghanaian languages? Is it lack of deeper attention to educational issues?


The long-running education crisis reveals that after years of tussles to construct education content that actually reflects its Ghanaian/African appendages in relation to global linkages, there are still worrying schisms within the education system that undermine Ghana’s core progress. The science sector of the education system is still feeble. Research and Development (R&D) is nothing to write home about.


If there is one thing that all the quarrelling political parties agree on, it is that the education system needs major overhaul to drive Ghana’s and Africa’s advancement in the 21st century.


Increasingly, the education system still chunk out graduates who cannot think well, whose level of discipline isn’t cool enough, who aren’t rational and reasoning enough, and who still accepts as true the false ancient believes in witchcraft, evil spirits, demons and other malevolent forces as the cause of existential adversities. This makes the development process entangled by such meaningless thinking. Such grave contradictions have affected the level of progress to the extent that in the year 2011 superstitions still overly undermine reality, reasoning and rationality.


Prophets of all stripes increasingly have field day, controlling the minds of educated Ghanaians. In the face of weak educational system, Ghana is effectively under the grip of irrational prophets who direct the country’s intellectual engine. The elites who are supposed to be the vanguard of enlightenment and progress are largely irrational and intimidated by the towering of certain cultural absurdities just like the ordinary illiterate Ghanaian.


This atmosphere has been entrapping progress. This has prompted Whigham Robert Dundas, writing in the Accra-based The Ghanaian Chronicle, to bemoan how Ghanaian produced movies are excessively and disturbingly stuck in witchcraft, evil spirits, demons and other malevolent forces to the detriment of reality, reasoning and rationality. In some ways, the local movies have been reinforcing the cancer of irrationality in the face of fragile education system.


“Majority of local Ghanaian movies that come out every week being advertised on television portray a lot of wizards, witches and fetish practices which are not healthy for the viewing public.” Whigham Robert Dundas argues that this affect children’s socialization. “It is also worrying to see children playing fetish and sorcery roles assigned to them by the director ... “


And so we have students who believe that spiritualists can help them pass examination instead of working hard. And when they fail they blame it on witches, evil spirits and demons. From scratch such mentality is alarmingly formed and it is rolled over into the larger society. The results aren’t only mass examinations failure but also students who grow up to believe unwaveringly in irrational forces as the cause of their tribulations and Ghana’s mal-development.


Regardless of the controversies generated by the mass examination failures, the general views are that the “curriculum being used in schools had not promoted cultural, political and patriotic awareness among the youth.” This may explain the argument in certain circles that the national education curriculum that drives the Ghanaian education system is pedagogically unbalanced, unrealistic, and broken.


Important as it is, for the past 50 years, the national education curriculum did not reflect Ghana/Africa holistically. Pan-Africanism and its accessory African Personality as the spiritual basis of Ghana/Africa that should nurture national/continental thinking and confidence are profoundly flimsy in the education system. The education system is still heavily European/Western, with the English language the main medium of instructions to the detriment of Ghanaian languages.


The indigenous Akan language, spoken Ghana-wide, could easily be paired with the English language as the medium of instructions in schools. You fail the English language and you are practically finished in the education system. How unrealistic, wasteful and destructive!!! A good number of students do not write and speak the English language well but they speak and write the Akan language pretty well.


Gripped with these challenges and opened for answers, Ghana can borrow some leaf from Japan. For some time, Japan struggled with its national education system during the Meiji Restoration during which revolution Japan adopted Western education system for modernization. Despite this, Japan rooted its education system in its traditional Confucian values.


It emphasizes self-criticism, stresses “respect for society and the established order and prizes group goals above individual interests.” The Japanese education system is dubbed “Western technology, Japanese soul.” This is to lessen Western influence on Japanese society and to reinforce “Japanese values.”


As the key driver of progress, the inadequacies in the education system reflect a nation which national development policies are shaky and uninformed by its Ghanaian/African soul. But concerns are mounting. The Ghana-wide discussions about the wellbeing of the education system are encouraging. Whether in attempts to extremely include science, research and development, increasingly, an education system that integrates Ghanaian/African cultural values will bridge the missing link in Ghana’s/Africa’s progress.


The mass examination failure is a wakeup call on how to produce future elites who could build upon the current crop of elites’ thinking. The current situation is unsustainable in the broader prosperity game. That's why, finally, the mass examination failure should be used to create a new education system that meets the Ghanaian/African development reality.