Biomedical engineer, Dr. Elsie Effah Kaufmann, most famous for her role as National Science and Maths Quiz Mistress, says one of the biggest challenges facing the Ghanaian educational system is our failure to see education beyond exams.

According to her, there is more to acquiring an education than merely excelling in one’s exams and being awarded a certificate, as most A students are unable to effectively apply what they have been taught.

Speaking on JoyNews’ Personality Profile Friday, she said: “We are not seeing our education as having a purpose – well at least not the right purpose – in my opinion. There is a purpose.

“And the purpose has been for a very long time to go through the education system, get a certificate at the end of it and then go and demand things, because they have been through a process. I think that’s misdirected.”

From the science perspective, she spoke about the impact that science could have if we would see the subject beyond a mere certificate.

“Science is so powerful. There is so much you can do with it, and there are other places where this power is seen. If you only take it as a means to an end – that certificate – that is when we wind up in the situation that we are in right now where the students cannot do what you just said [manufacturing toy cars].”

She is also unhappy with the phenomenon where students are only prepared for exams as opposed to actually knowing the import and application of what has been taught.

This, she believes, is responsible for the average Ghanaian student’s penchant for memorizing theories for exams, but being unable to effectively apply them in real-life situations.

“There are many places where they only get taught how to take exams and do very well in exams. So when the focus becomes the exams not the acquisition of knowledge, so that the knowledge doesn’t become part of us, it’s just to pass the exam, by the time they finishing writing the exam they have beautiful results, A, A, A, they come and sit in my class, I ask a simple question they don’t know how to apply,” she said.

Dr Kaufmann explained that from the very beginning of a child’s education, teachers are supposed to help students build a strong foundation in the various subjects, by making teaching and learning exciting and fun for students and at the same time ensuring that they learn how and when to apply the knowledge acquired.

“They should learn what it is supposed to be for; they can do sample experiments around it so that they understand it deeply what it is. Then when they go to engineering school now, they will be ready to use the same concept to come up with solutions to real problems.”