To say that Facebook is a great platform for trending news and concern is to say the obvious. There is that vibrant community of young Ghanaian netizens who are keenly interested in the daily events of their country. Over the years, they have not only expressed concerns but also offered amazing suggestions to prevailing national problems and challenges.
I was on Facebook last week and thanks to Facebook’s intelligent algorithms, I came across a news article about some claims in a History of Ghana textbook allegedly approved by the government. As an author who has submitted some books for NaCCA assessment, I was naturally drawn to such a news items and the discussions around it.
Upon checking further, I realised that the book in question was actually not approved by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA). It was an unapproved book and that, I believe was the cause of the problem and a challenge that would bite us hard if not swiftly dealt with.
In 2019, I submitted a number of books for NaCCA approval. The first set of three books was rejected after about 6 months of assessment. The main reason for the rejection was that they looked more like workbooks than learner’s books. Thus, there was the suggestion for the inclusion of more content to make up for the loopholes in information.
This was despite the applause received for the practical orientation of lessons and assignments (activities) in the books. I must confess that the assessors were very meticulous in their assessment. They assessed every statement made and questioned statements that were not entirely true or even true.
I would later on submit another set of books in a different subject area as I worked on the corrections suggested for the first set of books. The second set of books was also assessed. It received a provisional approval, with the directive to make some corrections here and there before a final approval is given.
The process was very meticulous and the assessors (judging from their comments) checked every letter and sentence in the books. Obviously, this was the way to go because of the high costs involved in submitting textbooks for assessment.
Almost two years down the line and I am still waiting for a final approval for one set as I work on corrections for the other. COVID-19 is certainly to blame for the delay on my part. I am persuaded that the textbooks will finally come out with a certain quality and standard because of the processes that they went through.
With NaCCA, there is no room for appeal by an author. It’s either you work on the suggestions pointed out or you forfeit their official approval, without which you cannot by law sell your textbooks to schools across Ghana. This process of working on corrections over and over again is very demanding and upon hindsight, extremely beneficial.
At the moment, there are rising calls on NaCCA to sanction authors and publishers of unapproved textbooks. The content of most of these unapproved textbooks leaves so much to be desired. Without doubt, most of these books are not fit to be entertained in classrooms and libraries. The stereotypes that NaCCA frowns on are on the loose in some of these unapproved textbooks.
There are also technical issues relating to font size, user-friendliness of the textbooks, age appropriateness in terms of language and general book designs. Some of the books meant for primary 4 learners have a font size of 12 rather than the recommended size of 16. Some contain pictures that depict foreign settings and environment. Some do not give room for any balance even in the use of names of characters and names of places in Ghana.
It is also important to clarify one or two issues at this point. First has to do with how these unapproved textbooks get into bookshops and schools. Fact is the textbook market in Ghana is unregulated. It is free for all. This implies that any author of an unapproved textbook with a strong marketing plan will end up selling the textbooks to bookshops and schools.
Actually, the government has at the moment not supplied textbooks to public basic schools. Most of the unapproved textbooks have been purchased by learners at low-cost private schools across the country. The big names in private school education have recommended NaCCA-approved textbooks for use in their respective schools.
At the end of the day, one major challenge we have as a country is that we set laws and then forget about its full implementation. The law about textbook publishing is known to book publishers, but many ignore it because of our history of ignoring laws that interfere with our daily bread.
Generally, textbook publishers are minded by what actually happened in the past and not what a NaCCA official says will happen in the future. As a matter of fact, I have lost count of the suggestions from various quarters to go ahead and publish books that were still going through the rigorous NaCCA assessment process.
The rising outrage among Ghanaians over the quality of textbooks should be a wake-up call to NaCCA in relation to its supervisory role. As I emphasized on many Facebook pages, this is the time to bite and ensure compliance with textbook approval processes and laws. Otherwise, political spin doctors will blow out of proportion, the statements of misinformed authors in unapproved learner’s books.
Fact is, NaCCA’s reputation is dangerously at stake. And the earlier they bite real hard, the better for quality learning and teaching outcomes in our schools.
The writer can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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