Rebranding Our Education System

Published on 27th February 2007

The idea of the Ghanaian Minister of Education, Papa Owusu Ankomah, introducing a new education bill that will make Ghana’s education system more community-oriented, further demonstrates the fact that since independence the formal education system is yet to relate to the Ghanaian/African  progress.

The schism has occurred because the Ghanaian education system, started on the wrong footing, wrongly touting the ex-colonial values over indigenous Ghanaian/African ones, creating a crisis of confidence and the impression that Ghanaians have no better sense of what education is in the larger progress of the country. This has made the Ghanaian who has gone to the heavily foreign-structured formal school and speaks English/ French/Portuguese or Spanish to look down upon those who have not been to these schools; yet, they may have huge indigenous knowledge and wisdom needed for progress. Such a bizarre education system is partly responsible for Ghanaian/African development troubles.

It is in this sense that the impending Ghana education bill’s focus on decentralization of education management at the district level and deepening of community involvement in educational management and development is a wise way of appropriating African values in the education system. What the legislators and policy planners should do is to holistically involve not only the communities but also the values that have sustained them for years, especially traditional institutions, when designing education policies. They should also merge a Ghanaian component to all core curriculums. A more balanced education should be the goal of the education bill.

In the education planning and management, the respective Ghanaian communities should be involved in the sustainable development of Ghana. Ghanaian/African cultural continuity should be reflected deeply in Ghana’s formal education system. The idea here is to prepare the formally educated Ghanaian not only to have a deeper understanding of the Ghanaian/African environment, inhibitions, values, but to be able to think highly from within the Ghanaian/African cultural realm and mix it with the enabling aspects of global development values for progress.

How should education managers and policy-makers do this? They can borrow ideas from the Canadians in relation to their indigenous Aboriginal people. Here, all formal Ghanaian education questions shall conscientiously address themselves to balances between the Western ones and perspectives of inquiry that are typically Ghanaian/African; appropriate sources able to shed light on those indigenous perspectives; how, if any, Ghanaian/African knowledge challenges in any way assumptions brought to the subject; and how Ghanaian/African knowledge or perspectives portrayed in education matters are validated. The broader thought is to balance Ghanaian/African education system with the already operating ones, working to level the two values, and aiming to bring the inhibitions such as Pull Him Down, increasing weakening of traditional communalism, and disturbing superstitious beliefs that inhibit Ghana’s progress.

It is from such educational “base,” as the prominent Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o would argue, that Ghana/Africa can be rebranded not only in the international media, since news reports about Africa are often dominated by negative stereotypes. The only way to resolve the damages Africa has suffered as a result of colonialism is first of all having a deeply balanced education reforms that attempt to rebrand Africans to Africans and Africa to the world.

More seriously is how to make Ghanaian/African languages as imperative as the ex-colonial ones at the national level. For, as the Liberian scholar, Doeba Bropleh, argues in A Cultural Paradigm for Liberia’s Reconstruction, “Language is a cultural agent that needs to be strengthened in Liberia. Ngugi wa Thiong’o asserts that the loss of language is a loss of culture. He writes, “Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world.”

What all these means is that, from Papa Ankomah to the education planners and education managers, the Ghana/Africa environment has to be understood deeply before embarking on any education reforms. It is from these attempts, driven by Ghanaian/African values and experiences, that the various Ghanaian governments’ struggles to reform Ghana’s education system in relation to its progress since independence will have relevance to Ghana’s progress.

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