Over the years, the venerable Prof Stephen Adei has reiterated what he calls a “radical” approach to addressing the falling standards of public basic education in Ghana. To him, the solution lies in sacking all public basic school teachers and allowing head teachers to take the lead in the recruitment process.
He has also called for intense supervision, monitoring, and accountability measures to ensure that the best is obtained from teachers, however, I believe educational challenges are multifaceted and must be tackled from various fronts to achieve substantial and sustainable results.
Though his position might hold water in some aspects, it is also flawed in several areas. It is a grim reality that supervision, monitoring, and accountability are major problems in our public school system. My experience with supervision and monitoring in basic schools in Ghana reveals a sad experience for both internal and external supervisors.
The internal supervisors are not only administrative leaders but in most instances are also instructional leaders. This mostly renders them very ineffective; some do not have the requisite skills in school management and administration while others have very poor leadership skills and are not able to get the best out of their already poorly motivated staff.
Also, to be very effective in supervising and monitoring the delivery of quality education in a basic school, the internal supervisor should be well-resourced. It is interesting that Prof Adei mentions that the head should be paid well, however, the problem is not just about better remuneration, it is also about providing the needed resources to be able to function effectively. An internal supervisor cannot be effective if the payment of the capitation grant is delayed for months which technically is the money needed to run the school administratively.
The external supervisor also faces the same challenge of inadequate resources. Again, two very important variables of accountability which are the community and the parents are now very inactive in the entire scheme of public basic schools. In these perspectives, I agree with the venerable Professor. However, his prescriptions for addressing the challenge of poor supervision, monitoring, and accountability are problematic and parochial.
It is problematic because Prof will agree with me that the delivery of quality education and ensuring improved standards is not only about output variables. It is more about input variables which invariably determine the output or outcome (the performance of the learners). Hence, every good educational system pays critical attention to the input variables which are not only about teachers but also the quality school environment, infrastructure, educational resources, nature of the curriculum, etc. It is when all input variables are performing above average that one can be sure of improved output. Consequently, sacking teachers and re-employing them without providing the needed resources to the head teacher and the teachers and also not creating a very conducive environment for students to learn would be counter-productive.
Teachers in public basic schools in the country teach under very deplorable conditions. In most instances, it takes the ingenuity and innovativeness of teachers to be able to deliver the content to learners with some using their meager salary to provide teaching resources. This is the duty of the employer. It is therefore sad that the teacher is the first to be blamed anytime the issues of quality education are mentioned. Sadly, within our educational framework, quality parameters such as student-to-desk ratio, student-textbook ratio, student-teacher ratio, etc. are all below standard. How do you achieve quality education when your own quality variables are not up to standard?
Again, the position of Prof brings back the discussion of decentralizing our educational system. It is a fact that the recruitment of teachers is done in a centralized manner. Currently, the Ghana Education Service has opened a portal calling for teachers to apply. Therefore, proposing that heads of basic schools should be made to hire teachers is indirectly asking for a revisitation of the discussion on educational decentralization which seems to have been abandoned in recent years. This is a major policy decision that requires broader consultation and fidelity to implementation when adopted. Again, tying the performance of learners to the salaries of heads can be problematic, this is because Pay for Performance (P4P) has been flagged by various authorities as ineffective in low and middle-income countries.
The sad reality of the state of our public basic schools has resulted in parents enrolling their wards in private basic schools although they complain of exorbitant fees. Filomena, a Brazilian student is quoted as saying “the educational system is a framework or a puzzle where each actor has its role, and when one of them breaks the chain, the whole system is impacted.” We have succeeded in widening the inequality gap between public and private basic school learners and gradually collapsing the public basic school system. This can never be repaired by focusing on only the teacher. Prof Adei should, therefore:
- ask the government to prioritize spending efficiency, cut waste in the system, and channel resources to the foundation of our educational system. According to the Ghana Statistical Service, 7.9 million Ghanaians, who are six years and older cannot read and write with understanding. This can only be addressed with commitment from the relevant authorities to provide the needed resources at the basic level and not just by sacking teachers.
- charge on the government to INCREASE and RELEASE the capitation grant to public basic schools on time.
- advocate that there should be a national plan on how to address the school environmental and infrastructural challenges in public basic schools. With this, the Multidimensional Educational Resource Deprivation Index (MERDI) comes in handy.
- join the call to the Ministry of Education to pay attention to the school-based data they have and follow through with an equitable distribution of educational resources and should not wait for media houses to prompt them.
- reactivate the discussion on the decentralization of education in Ghana
- push for improved conditions of service for basic school teachers in the country
- admonish community leaders to show maximum interest in the public basic schools in their area
- advise parents to renew their commitment to their ward’s education.
****The writer is an Education Economist, Curriculum and Pedagogy expert, and Educational Researcher. He is a lecturer at the University of Cape Coast and the Executive Director for the Institute for Education Studies (IFEST) – an education think-tank in Ghana.
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