News > Education : What We Need Is A Realistic Policy
Education : What We Need Is A Realistic Policy
Akora K.B. Asante

 The future of education appears gloomy.  What should we do? Convene an all-party conference? Would it do any good?

In the present climate, it will lead to unhelpful debate about three and four-year senior high schooling, caterers for school feeding, uniforms and other minor issues.  We should go back to the basics. 

The history of education in Ghana encapsulates the basics and delineates the road map.There was some idealism about education even in colonial times.  

However, the main thrust was to educate the natives to assist in the exploitation of the resources of the country and the maintenance of an adequate management and administrative system.  

Thus, we had 10-year elementary schools, trade and technical schools. Teacher training schools were also established.

The Missionaries set their sights higher and established high schools such as Mfantsipim, Adisadel, St Augustine’s and Wesley Girls High School.  They also established teacher training schools such as Wesley College at Kumasi and Akropong College.  

At the lower level, the missionaries saw to it that their ‘illiterate’ members could read the Bible in their native languages.  

Colonisation had to be justified and the development of the human capital, as well as economic resources became the prime reason for its existence.  

There were symposiums, meetings and conferences on education, and Achimota College was eventually established.
It should, however, be mentioned that the people of this country saw the benefits of education and private schools were established by public-spirited citizens.

O’Reilly and Accra High Schools were established by Sierra Leonians; Accra Academy was established by K.G. Konuah,   ably assisted by Halm Addo, G.N. Alema and others. 

Achimota was established by the colonial Government in 1924 and it became a pacesetter in education. It has been so successful that many do not know what it has achieved except that it is a good school which their son or daughter should enter after junior high school.

Achimota was established as the Prince of Wales College and School.  It had a kindergarten, a primary and middle school, a teacher training college, a secondary school or department and a university department where students took London University’s external examinations. 

The various sections of Achimota have rightly been hived off to Kumasi etc. and the school has lost the ability to experiment and charter new fields which made it great.  

At Achimota students were encouraged to use their brains and hands and to regard the privilege of learning as an opportunity for service.  Carpentry, weaving, pottery, tin-plate work, poultry keeping, farming and other skills were introduced into the curriculum. 

It was the Achimota concept presented in other forms following studies that the Junior Secondary School (JSS) system tried to establish.

An old student of mine prominent in the PNDC persuaded me to head the ministry to promote the concept.  I was excited.  But my thinking was over-run by my zeal.

I soon found out that the resources were not available and to sell the idea to the public, all sorts of claims were made even by some subordinates.  But I still believe that the Achimota idea which led to the JSS is still the best road map for Ghana today. 

What we should realise is that the kind of education envisaged is expensive.   Dr Danquah and others argued that the money spent in building Achimota could have been used in improving Mfantsipim and the existing colleges. 

They were right but the Achimota experiment proved successful and it shows what we can do to move education forward today.

First of all, it showed the importance of good headmasters and headmistresses.  Achimota had Fraser followed by Grace and Stopford who became Bishop of London.  From Achimota went Miss Anderson who established Aburi Girls Secondary School. 

Miss Anderson who was my colleague at Achimota, took Mrs Asibey, one of our bright students with her.  She handed over to her and Aburi was made.

Achimota had a subvention and an independent college council.  It could react to the needs of the country quickly and effectively.  For example, it provided scholarships based on the needs of the country and saw to it that the students were representative of the country as a whole.  

It made science study compulsory and gave scholarships to students to study chemistry, physics and mathematics in British universities (there were no universities in the country then) and return to teach these subjects.  

Vicky Wereko will appreciate this.  To ensure that Achimota kept within its mandate, it was visited by external inspectors periodically.

If we want education to be free from the stranglehold of politicians and half-baked experts, we should grant measured autonomy to schools such as Mfantsipim, Adisadel, St Augustine’s, Wesley Girls High School, Achimota, Accra Academy, Presbyterian Secondary School, Aburi Girls School, Mawuli Secondary School, Prempeh College, Opoku Ware and Tamale Secondary School.  

All these schools have a formidable list of old boys and girls who will serve on their boards with dedication.  There are other schools which have attained eminence which may be similarly treated.

The history of education in Ghana tells us that great schools are made by great masters and mistresses.  The Education Service should leave these great men and women to do their work under agreed guidelines and send some of its talented staff to build up schools to Ivy League status.  

The main function of the Ghana Education Service should be inspection, study and research.  Teachers in the leading schools and deprived areas should be paid more.  

Leading schools may charge more fees, while giving scholarships to deserving students as Achimota did.
Kindergartens though important, should not in present circumstances be a drain on the education budget.  

Parents appreciate their value and patronise the many nursery schools in the towns.  Many private schools and universities are springing up in recent years.  It shows that many realise the importance of education and are prepared to pay for it.  

There is, therefore, inequality in opportunity.  The state has not the resources to correct this fully.  It should, therefore, concentrate its efforts in deprived communities, while exploiting distance education to make education a life-long programme.

Education is not for earning but for learning.  Education gives knowledge which liberates the human spirit.  Education inspires and shares. 

A road map of education whose  path is not marked by the great educationists of the past cannot inspire.  
How can you understand the contribution of Mfantsipim to education without appreciating the work of Bartels? 

Is the story of Wesley Girls High School complete without Ms Compton? Or the art appreciation in Ghana without Meyerowitz?  And so the road map should find an effective way of appreciating the work of great teachers, lecturers and professors.  

Much of the fall in standards is due to decline in the quality of their output and public disregard for the importance of their work.  Teachers can do a lot; even one very good teacher in a big school can.

The Engineering School at Achimota was established virtually by one Englishman, C.S. Deakin.  He trained our early engineers including R.P. Baffour.  

And those he trained showed the Ghanaians’ insatiable thirst for knowledge.  One of them, Dr E.L. Lartey, will be buried this week at the age of 88.  

He went to a local school, Wesleyan Methodist School in Accra.  He won a scholarship to Mfantsipim where he completed the Cambridge School Certificate course in four years instead of six.

Again, he won a scholarship to Deakins Engineering School at Achimota and he obtained the London BSc. Degree in Engineering in 1942.  

He was a role model when I was in the secondary department.  I wanted to own a slide-rule for calculations as he did.  I was also impressed by his use of seven-figures logarithms instead of the four we used.  

Today, we have calculators so we cannot add 5.3 to 3.5.  The great example of Dr Lartey was that his learning was marked by humility and the desire to assist the less fortunate.

Europeans with engineering degrees were appointed engineers in the Public Works Department (PWD).  E.L. Lartey was, however, appointed ‘African Probationer Assistant Engineer’.  

Some of his white seniors had no degrees.  E.L. Lartey suffered this discrimination for three years because his education had made him mature.  He could see the new Ghana.  

His patience was rewarded.  He rose to the position of Chief Engineer of PWD.  But that was not sufficient for him.  
He acquired more knowledge and qualifications; not to acquire more posts but to assist in research and the industrial development of the country.

And so our educational system did produce the mentors to lift young men and women from humble rural surroundings to high pinnacles of learning.  

And these young men and women considered their education as an opportunity for service and not for taking advantage of the less fortunate.  

As E.L. Lartey put it, he hoped his life’s work would encourage those who followed to ‘feel the urge for sustained effort in their service to their generation’.

And so let our educational policy focus not on how many years is spent in the secondary school or university, but on the high purpose of teaching and of systematic instruction at institutions.  

And we should not forget what we achieved in the past and the influence of the moral and social values of society. 
Policy should aim at producing educated men and women who even in retirement will find time, as Dr Lartey did, to help establish an Old Accra conservation and Development Association (OACADA) to improve the quality of life of their fellow creatures

News Source : Vioce From Afar
Last updated at : 16 October,2012
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