As regards the way forward with Ghana education, people are touting all kinds of ideas and propositions. But let me say that high-sounding ideas expressed in fancy acronyms will not necessarily overhaul the education system. Like I said in the first part of this article, all it takes is common sense and good planning. So what should be the ultimate goal of Ghana’s educational policy?
Academic Dishonesty in Ghana Education
First of all, some old attitudes to education must change.
The mistaken notion that the student is an “empty vessel” to be filled in with knowledge from the teacher is all too common in the Ghana education system. Students often have no say in how they learn because teachers have too much power and control over the learning process.
It is not uncommon to have a professor insist that the only way to pass his course is by studying his lecture notes! His students have only one option of learning and one path to passing the course, and that is to mimic the professor’s ideas. In the worst case, passing demands a word-perfect reproduction of lecture notes, which by the way, some Ghanaian students don’t mind doing!
How could an academic discipline, say Organic Chemistry, or “Geography of West Africa” or Business Administration, be condensed into an individual’s lecture notes stored in a binder or notebook? Ghanaian students have had to put up with such academic corruption for far too long.
So the new education policy must steer clear of the “empty vessel” model and rather promote a more student-centred style of teaching to enable the student have some - if not total - intellectual control.
Far too many of Ghanaian students don’t understand that plagiarism is academic dishonesty. Imagine the shock and disappointment of international students seeing their Ghanaian course mates lifting material directly from the Internet without acknowledgement.
The tendency for students to plagiarise does not make a good impression on visiting professors either, to put it mildly.
I wish the new policy will declare that plagiarism in Ghanaian academic circles is categorically forbidden!
But it is crucial that the educational policy guarantees the training of personnel that is capable of managing and processing our economic resources with little or no foreign help. The fact that Ghana produces thousands of engineers who are not good enough (or are they?) to build highways in Ghana is rather baffling!
Economic Independence Now!!
The ultimate goal of our national educational policy should be economic independence and self-reliance. As it is, our education only helps Ghanaian graduates to play second fiddle to foreign experts.
We have enjoyed self-government for six decades, and it’s time to change the rallying cry to “Economic independence now!” The country needs an indigenous workforce that is competent enough to build infrastructure, produce adequate food, exploit and process natural resources, and market and sell finished products. That is how we can take full advantage of the plentiful natural resources that we are so blessed to have.
Apart from saving Ghana billions of dollars that would otherwise go into hiring foreign expertise, education for self-reliance would also mean that almost every graduate would be ready to work in one economic sector or the other, a great way to tackle the unemployment problem that we currently face.
In my opinion, two mandatory requirements of the educational policy are
The Internet Plays a Pivotal Role
But unfortunately, ICT support for education in Ghana is low key, with many schools having only just a few computers to share. Even in the top universities of Ghana Internet access is not as good as it should be. Without a reliable Internet access, our institutions cannot rank high even in African education!
The Internet has revolutionised almost every human endeavour in our time, and education is no exception. All of the following educational activities are easy with the help of the Internet: enrollment, study, research, submission of assignments, collaborative work, testing and evaluation, etc.
Thanks to the Internet, the modern student has almost no excuse to fail, since all the resources they need to succeed are available online. Obtaining information for academic purposes could be just a few mouse clicks or finger taps away, without grappling with a manual cataloguing system in a library, as was the case a few years ago.
But more importantly, the Internet liberates the student from the “empty vessel” trap. Learning can now become more constructivist in nature, as students can have more control over their goals, pace, research methods, reference materials, and so on.
The Internet also provides just the perfect weapon to fight plagiarism. We do have a good number of web-based software applications like Grammarly that can detect plagiarism in a matter of seconds! In fact, many institutions today employ various technologies to enforce a zero-tolerance policy against plagiarism.
Without having to travel, the Internet makes it possible for curriculum planners, teachers, and students to evaluate academic programmes from other institutions across the world.
It goes without saying therefore that in this century Institutions with superior Internet access will have the competitive edge and produce better graduates.
I hope Ghana’s education policy makers will bear this in mind and push for better Internet access for students at all three levels of education.
In summary, we need a modern and customized curriculum that drives the Ghana economy. The objective of that curriculum would be to provide a workforce with the necessary skills needed to bring about economic independence. The graduates produced under this system should be as competent as their counterparts anywhere in the world, and they should be able to hit the ground running with knowledge and skills that will help develop Ghana to its full potential.
Written by: Theo Acquah
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