Dr. Edward Mahama was recently quoted as saying he will introduce “Thinking” as a subject in Basic Schools in Ghana if he became the president (www.myjoyonline.com 24-11-2016).

While I totally understand and appreciate the premise of such a proposition, if I ever had the chance to advise “President” Edward Mahama, I will dissuade him from introducing “Thinking” as a subject.

Instead, I will get him convinced to introduce “Scenario Planning and Leadership” as a course to instigate critical thinking, creative imagination and problem-solving among learners at all levels.

‘’Thinking” as a subject of study in school sounds quite absurd and unusual. Quite frankly it is unusual to treat “Thinking” as a subject of study without locating the act of thinking in any context.

Thinking only becomes meaningful and functional if and when there is something to challenge thinking or to compel people to think. On that basis it will be somehow illogical to name any school subject as “Thinking.”

It will also sound impractical for any teacher to claim that he or she teaches “thinking”. At best, we could call such a subject “Critical Thinking” even though I, personally, will be against delineating a single or specialized course to serve that purpose.

And the reason is simple:  all subjects of study and all learning processes, either in school or not, should facilitate critical thinking. Critical thinking therefore must be a required outcome in all school courses and in any act of learning and education at all levels.

“Thinking”, as suggested by Dr. Mahama as a subject is vague and devoid of meaning. That said, I am totally supportive of the direction Dr. Edward Mahama has taken and it is my hope all other candidates and in fact all of Ghana will consider the merits of that suggestion.

In an election campaign where almost all the candidates are talking about what they will do to develop education in Ghana, none other than Dr. Mahama has placed a finger on what is wrong with education in Ghana and what exactly is needed to correct it.

Discourse on educational development has been reduced to political propaganda rants on infrastructural development, fee-free schooling etc.

Education development is more than that and it is time to refocus attention on what is taught in schools, how it is taught and the learning outcomes for students.

It is in that regard that I believe Dr. Mahama should be commended for his idea of introducing “Thinking” as a subject in Basic schools in Ghana.

He sees what is wrong: our young people are not thinking or cannot think and that in part is because of the way education is being carried out in schools.

Teaching and learning have become too mechanical and provide no opportunity to challenge students to think or to be imaginative.

What is learned in schools is too abstract totally disconnected from the realities of learners and Ghana as a developing country with so many challenges that require imagination, creative thinking and purposeful leadership. Students are not taught how to think to solve problems.

I do not share the view that there should be a dedicated subject that teaches students how to think. I am very convinced when pedagogies are quality in their development and purpose they will almost naturally challenge students to think critically.

The lack of critical abilities in our students is reflected in the leadership deficits we see in our young people especially those coming out of the nation’s universities.

With the exception, perhaps, of one emergent university in the country—a very young and privately owned university—most universities in the county do not provide opportunities for students to connect their God-given intellects to experience and to be critical and analytical in thought and action.

As a developing country with all the problems and challenges we have, it is imperative that our education systems at all levels, at all times, and in all subjects connect teaching and learning to some form of social, economic, environmental, technical, engineering, political etc. realities of our country.

In other words, the practice of education should provide opportunities that challenge learners to think about some of our common problems and to find solutions or transformational possibilities.

The lack of opportunities for innovation in the teaching and learning process is currently telling on the quality of our students and young people in the country.

Most of Ghana’s current generation of students, young people, graduates lack leadership skills and qualities; they lack creativity, drive and initiative. They simply cannot think (Far…)

This, I believe, is what has prompted Dr. Edward Mahama to suggest the introduction of “Thinking” as a subject.

Again, much as I do not believe “Thinking” is what is needed in our schools as a subject, I am very much in agreement with him and remain totally convinced that there is an urgent need to re-imagine the way we practice education in Ghana.

Everybody is complaining about the quality of leadership in Ghana but we fail to recognize the linkage between educational quality and leadership quality.

Leadership in my view is not learned when one is appointed into a leadership role. In fact, it should not even be learned from theory. It must be must be imbued and nurtured through experiences that harness and develop leadership qualities. This should start from kindergarten all the way to the university level.  

In my absolute agreement with Dr. Mahama, my advice to him, IF he became president, is that let us strive to make “thinking” a natural requirement in all subjects and in all learning processes.

In that regard, all subjects should challenge students’ thinking, creativity and leadership abilities by employing teaching and learning approaches that link theory to experience in their communities.

If I should propose another subject in place of “Thinking” I will propose “Scenario Planning or Analysis and Leadership” as a required subject that all schools, all levels in Ghana—from kindergarten to university—should take.

This is a course that should focus on the problem-solving, creativity, drive, initiative and leadership abilities of learners.

Students in a developing country should be challenged to imagine solutions by creating scenarios of their leadership.

Students should be challenged to analyze situations critically and to take initiatives in exploring solutions to everyday problems such as the sanitation menace on our streets.

Learning in schools should be experiential. All subjects and courses must be community-focused and in ways that make local communities the big-picture classroom.  Such an approach will undoubtedly produce both thinkers and leaders.

Contact the writer at: bobmanteaw@africaresilience.org