Ghana’s Education System yet to Ripen

Published on 17th April 2007

Ghana’s Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Paapa Owusu Ankomah, has been talking about education reforms. Such talks as grounding Ghana’s future education system in communities, reflect the global proclamation that the 21st century is the “Century of Knowledge.” While most of Ankomah’s statements may be viewed as testing the grounds in order to come out with a more holistic education reform, his statement that a new educational reform will focus on applicable socio-economic needs by adapting to the “rapidly changing technology and information driven global economy,” demonstrates an education system struggling to fit the Ghanaian and African environment in its progress bid.

Ankomah made this at the prestigious Opoku Ware Secondary School (OWASS) in Kumasi, which is being turned, through the efforts of its old students abroad, into a leading science and information technology school. Kumasi is also the centre of Ghana’s premier science university – the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The scene calls for critical assessment of Ankomah’s remarks on education reforms.

For a durable Ghanaian education system, Ankomah and his bureaucrats need not rush to hatch another education system just in the name of education reforms. For 50 years since independence from British colonial rule, various Ghanaian governments have been struggling to reform Ghana’s education system.

Whether science and technology driven, part of the attempts to reform the Ghanaian education system should include consultations not only of educationists but also Ghanaians, Africans, Africans in diaspora, some of the South East Asian countries, and the Ghana National House Chiefs and its regional entities. As Africa’s development process increasingly opens up to its norms, values and traditions, nowhere do we see this than in Nigeria, where its growing educated traditional rulers are calling, as  the Nigerian journalist Abiose Adelaja, of the Norway-based Afrol News reports, for Nigeria's native languages, norms, values and traditions be used to promote science and technology application.Nigeria's traditional rulers have launched a new initiative to encourage the development of science and technology by using local languages. Using Nigeria's three main native languages in science aims at making science results more easily applied by the country's regional and local administrations. The Council of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria says that science and technology is not perceived as culturally relevant, and is not being used in local situations because development strategies are communicated in English - a language not spoken by a large percentage of people.”

The Nigerian initiative, of which Ankomah and his bureaucrats need to borrow for the sustainability of the Ghanaian education system, aims at “developing teaching and communication materials on science and technology in Nigeria's three official languages so as to promote a culture of science and innovation for building local innovation systems. Scientists, engineers and information and communication technology experts will participate in the scheme, working closely with institutes and universities. Oba Okunade Sijuade, the Ooni ("King") of Ife, southwest Nigeria, pointed out that Nigeria constitutes over a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa's population and that as the initiative develops, the traditional leaders would "reach out to other monarchs not only in Nigeria, but also other parts of Africa."

In a measure of African values-driven science education system, King Sijuade announced that there are “plans to establish a science academy - the Yoruba Academy of Science - to promote collaboration throughout sub-Saharan Africa.” Perhaps drawing from his nature Japanese education system and UNESCO’s policies, Koïchiro Matsuura, director general of UNESCO, told the keen Nigerian traditional leaders that, "By promoting science teaching in your mother tongue, you are helping to preserve Nigeria's linguistic and cultural diversity, as well as expanding access to scientific knowledge…Above all, (you are) working to raise awareness at all levels of the importance of science and technology to national development."

By constantly talking of reforming Ghana’s education system, Paapa Owusu Ankomah and his bureaucrats at the Education Ministry are progressively opening the education system for scrutiny and better reforms. But what will sustain a Ghana education system driven by science and technology is an education system driven first by Ghana’s and Africa’s norms, values and traditions. It is from such strategy that Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong KongJapan,  and Malaysia are among the first ten leading countries in the world not only with better education systems but also their “children consistently rank at or near the top in successive international tests of most mathematics,” as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) reports.

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