News > Keynote Speech -Achimota School Speech Day 2019
Keynote Speech -Achimota School Speech Day 2019

Achimota School Speech Day 2019

Mrs. Olive X. Antwi-Dadzie (9-11-2019)

The Board of Governors, the Headmistress, Guest of Honor, Educationists, Teachers, Parents and guardians, Akoras, Students, members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. 

I thank God for this opportunity. I specially extend my gratitude to my year mates, OAA 1994 Year Group for choosing me to speak at this important occasion. I would like to warn you my dear students that I may switch from Guest Speaker mode to Girls’ Senior Prefect mode. Just in case I do, please blame it on my year mates who made the decision to choose a former Girls Senior Prefect to address you today; because as you may know prefects tend to be strict.

Standing here brings so many good memories. We remember interesting times with strict teachers such as “Bokassa” (apparently, now known simply as ‘Kassa’) among many others who pushed us to our limits. 

Our former headmaster Mr. Robert Asiedu popularly known as “Bobsay” could stop the entire school in the middle of the famous “O come all ye faithful” hymn during morning devotion to correct our vocabulary. He would often say don’t say “Oh come let es adore Him but rather say - O come let us adore Him.” 

I am speaking briefly on the subject of “Reinforcing Critical Thinking Skills in Pre-Tertiary Institutions: the role of the stakeholder”!

Let me start by joining our dear students to extend our gratitude to key stakeholders including parents, teachers, policy makers, tax payers and governments both past and present for their investment in improving education.

Critical thinking is simply training our minds to make quality decisions and finding solutions by breaking down a matter to understand and connect its important facts while eliminating the unwanted elements such as bias and subjectivity.

Some people describe critical thinking as problem solving, creative thinking, out of the box thinking, factual thinking or long thinking.

I believe that critical thinking and execution are the bedrock of transforming our society and we need our young ones to buy into this vision at an early age.

To get our pre-tertiary students to think critically requires the concerted efforts of stakeholders including parents, guardians, students, teachers, policy makers, governments. 

I will quickly touch on three critical thinking skills that stakeholders should reinforce.

 

  1.  The skill of paying attention:

Generally, attention span is so much shorter today because of people being distracted by the internet and gadgets. In the case of adults for example, it is not uncommon to see parents who give their digital devices more attention than their children or drivers on our roads who do not pay attention because they are on their phones. In the USA, there is now concern that Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is on the rise – mostly because of people being distracted by the internet and gadgets.

When we were students back in the day, “relationships” were quite a distraction and as a Prefect you could “catch” students “gating” for hours instead of studying. My dear student I understand perfectly that you also grapple with distractions in your time and this may make it hard for you to sustain serious and deep thought which are necessary for critical thinking. You need constant stimulation to keep your mind occupied. But if you want to be a good and serious student, you need to learn how to focus and to be in the moment.

It does not matter how prepared a teacher is to deliver a lesson, if you are distracted the effort will be wasted.

Dear student to be a critical thinker you need to engage your mind fully. Your mind is an amazing gift from God but its potential can only be fully realized if you make the necessary investments into it. Reading widely, processing what you read, going beyond the teachers notes, spending time researching relevant information, exploring your environment are all investments you should make in your mind as a young person. You should see this as a personal responsibility. Remember, it’s garbage in, garbage out! Don’t focus your mind solely on passing exams. Study to become a better person.

Dear Parents our young ones need us. For our students to be attentive it requires discipline built over time. Instilling discipline early in life is essential. The discipline of valuing education and exploring the mind must be taught from home.

As parents and guardians we are the primary custodians of these students and we must realize that parenting is a God given responsibility that must not be taken lightly. Using our busy schedules and many other excuses to shirk parental responsibility results in costs to society when we eventually produce unproductive, indisciplined citizens.

 

2. The skill of questioning

 

 

 

Critical thinkers are people who constantly question the status quo.

We need to move on beyond simple “chew and pour”. Too much of the rote memorization in Ghana’s education means that we produce graduates who may solve the pasco – but may struggle to solve the real-world problems. That must change.

One of my good friends Philip Osafo Kwaaku mentioned to me recently that most USA college science exams are so-called open-book exams. So basically you can bring all your text books and note books with you into the exam room.

The first time, this was mentioned to Philip during his undergrad days at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he laughed because he thought that was going to be an easy exam. By the way Philip was one of Achimota’s brightest students way back in the day and he was the Gyamfi House Prefect.

It was a biochemistry class, and they had just learnt about how the body breaks down proteins to produce uric acid in the urine. Of course, he had memorized all the material already. And he also had the text books with him. So he knew it was an easy sure-banker for the exam. But then he opened the exam booklet – and the question said, “a child had been recently born and the doctors observed he lacked one critical hormone which was normally important when urine was being produced. And so now that he did not have that hormone anymore, what was going to happen to his urine”! O dear – all his “chew and pour” was not going to help him. All the textbooks with him were not going to help. He just had to think! That’s what Achimotans need to do more of!

Dear stakeholders we need to constantly ask the hard questions. For example; Teachers how practical are the lessons we teach? Are they too theoretical such that the students literally reproduce the answers but do not understand and cannot apply the lessons outside of the classroom? Do we structure the lessons such that we ask more “how” and “why” questions to challenge students to think deeply?

Policy makers and government, is basic education solid enough to provide the needed foundation for teachers to build on at the secondary level? Speaking of teachers, are we making adequate investment in our teachers to equip them to deliver on the mandate of pushing critical thinking? Are the standards required to enter teaching high enough to ensure quality from the onset? Are we attracting the best of our people into the noble profession of teaching by ensuring that they are adequately motivated and constantly retrained? Is the student/teacher ratio realistic to enhance deep learning in the classrooms? Are class sizes simply overwhelming?

It’s speech and prize giving day today. We will celebrate high academic achievers but what about those students who constantly underperform?

What structured remediation plans are in place to support such students?

For students who are underperforming because they are simply not serious, that raises a separate conversation. Do these students know that it is costing tax payers like myself money to educate them? When I was young my late father would say “I am spending all my money to educate you” but now we the tax payers must constantly remind secondary students that we demand our monies worth and this requires that they get serious with their books. In the era of free SHS, our dear students must know there is no free lunch and that what is free is essentially not free because somebody is paying for it.

Critical thinking is uncomfortable. It pushes us to ask the hard questions.

 

3. The skill of creativity

The last critical thinking skill I will touch on is creativity. Times have changed. We are training our young ones for the global stage. “Motowners” the fact is that we are competing with students from the world’s top schools and not only from local secondary schools like - Mfantsipim, Presec, Accra Academy Wesley Girls etc. Our standards must be high and our students must be creative. Creativity will enhance entrepreneurial skills in our young ones. For those who want to compete on the job market, creativity will place them ahead of the pack.

In the past 25 years, since we left Achimota, so much has happened in the world.

In 2002, another Achimotan – Patrick Awuah – set about establishing a new University in Ghana. Patrick had walked this same campus, eaten in this same dining hall. He had this vision to establish a different type of undergraduate university for the country. That is what has become Ashesi University today.

What do you plan to start one day?

Out there in the bigger world, Facebook, Google and Amazon – three big giant companies have been born. Their combined revenues is larger than the GDP of many developing countries. These companies were all started by individuals – who were creative and were thinkers. They created something. They started something. Those things have become big.

Again, what would you plan to start one day? Let’s start today with baby steps into the journey of creativity by finding creative solutions to the everyday problems and challenges we face as students and adults in our homes and communities.

Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are disrupting many professions such as medicine, accountancy, banking etc. Will people queue at hospitals in the future when they can get diagnosed from home? Will the banks require so many hands when people are already banking from home? I do not have all the answers but I certainly know that the future will bend towards creative people who can employ the power of human imagination to remain on top. Dear stakeholders how do we push creativity as a culture in our schools? Students should be encouraged to share creative ideas in and outside the classrooms. Our learning should include an enhanced focus on extracurricular activities to enhance the minds, hearts and hands of our students.

Achimotans we are the pace setters. The starters, the creative ones. Instilling the true spirit of the Achimotan will require a critical thinking of our approach to education.

I will end with a quote from Kofi Annan a former UN Secretary General. “To live is to choose but to choose well. You must know who you are and what you stand for where you want to go and why you want to get there.

Be a critical thinker and a BIG DOER.”

 

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Last updated at : 15 November,2019
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