Improving Mathematics and Science education in Ghana

The role that mathematic, science and technology play in improving the living conditions and development across the globe is vivid, and the benefits have  been harvested by all countries.

Indeed, science and technology is important for the development of every individual and country, and for any successful economy, particularly in today’s quest for knowledge-based economies, science, technology and engineering are  basic requisites.

Modernisation in every aspect of life is the greatest example of the implementation of science and technology in every nation. With the introduction of modern gadgets, life has become simple and this is possible only because of implementing science and technology. Without having modern equipment in all sectors, be it in medicine, infrastructure, aviation, electricity, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) or any other field, the advancement and benefits that we get today would not have been possible.

A nation that is not able to prosper on these grounds would have to solely depend on other nations for the basic requirements, and such is the influence of science and technology for the development of a nation.

Today, countries are classified as developed and developing countries, which is based on economy and the application of science and technology. Countries which have a strong base in science and technology are the ones that developed faster and a few examples are of countries like Russia, Japan, Brazil, China, India and many more.

It is estimated by the World Bank that seven of the ten largest economies of the world by 2020 would be in Asia, China, Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan. A few decades ago, these countries were known to have poor policies, low discipline and no advancement and then with the introduction of science and technology in an effective manner, they have made ripples across the globe.

A nation’s development and prosperity is judged to a large extend by the status of science and technology of that nation. A scientifically unsophisticated society means an underdeveloped nation in all sectors.

For any successful economy, particularly in today’s quest for knowledge based economies, science, technology and engineering are the basic requisites. If nations do not implement science and technology, then the chances of getting themselves developed become minimal and thus could be even rated as an undeveloped nation. Science and Technology is associated in all means with modernity and it is an essential tool for rapid development.

Today, countries are classified as developed and developing countries. The major categorisation is based on economy and the application of science and technology. If carefully analysed, one gets to understand that countries which have a strong base in science and technology are the ones that develop faster. A few examples are of countries like Russia, Japan, Brazil, China, India and many more.

It is estimated by the World Bank that seven of the ten largest economies of the world by 2020 would be in Asia, China, Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan. A few decades ago, these countries were known to have poor policies, low discipline and no advancement and then with the introduction of science and technology in an effective manner, they have made ripples across the globe.

A nation’s development and prosperity is judged to a large extend by the status of science and technology of that nation. A scientifically unsophisticated society means an underdeveloped nation in al sectors. It is easily understood when analysing that countries like Japan and USA who invest a decent amount for research and development are in the highest stratum of development whereas countries like Nepal who invest very less amount in research and development remain in the lowest ladder of development.

We as citizens of the nation and who hold equal responsibility for the growth should equip our youth with all possible facilities for their research thirst and support and motivate them, as the future of our nation is in their hands and they could get our nation to more advanced levels than what it is today.

It is in this direction that Ghana consider mathematics and science education as important to national development.

There is, therefore, the need to step up education in mathematics, science and technology as it is the key that propels economic development.

Governments over the years, have played various roles in their bid to promote mmathematics and science education.  The Ghana Education Service (GES) superintends over the teaching and learning of academic disciplines, including Mathematics and Science and students are helped to appreciate and apply knowledge in arithmetic, literacy, numeracy and science to every day activities.

Measures have been put in place, for instance the Science, Technology and Mathematics Education (STME) programme that seeks to imbibe in the child the skills of innovation, creativity and imagination for better life. The GES partners organisations like the US Embassy in Ghana, British Council and Vodafone Ghana Foundation, a communication company to run it. Ms. Abigail Buerkour Mortey of Adonten Senior High School won the African Best STME Student Award in 2014. She used a local plant mixed with shea butter to drive away mosquitoes.

The Global Information Technology report (2014) of the World Economic Forum put Ghana in the third position in Africa for making relatively much more impressive strides in Mathematics and Science education than its other contemporaries. The GES strives to equip the teacher with resources for enhanced performance of students in science and mathematics.

In the immediate past, Accra hosted a workshop for some 150 teachers recently on the theme: “Revamping Mathematics Education in Ghana through Transformation,” which was attended by the Minister of Education, Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang. She mentioned poor teaching methodology, inadequate instructional materials, low understanding of test items, inadequate coverage of syllabus and poor communication skills as reasons for low performance of students in subjects like Mathematics and Science.

A retreat was also organised for District Chief Executives, District Directors of Education and heads of 500 low-performing public and private Senior High Schools in Kumasi. The Minister of Education and the Deputy Minister for Pre-tertiary Education, Mr. Alex Kyeremeh, also attended the event.

The meeting reviewed students’ performance in various disciplines, with focus on Mathematics and Science, discussed the way forward for the nation in the improvement of the two subject areas, school management, curriculum implementation and test administration.

Prof. Opoku Agyemang asserted that “Assessment of West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) results reveal that the proportion of students who qualify for tertiary education increased from 10.58 per cent in 2007 and peaked at 31.19 per cent in 2012. Although general performance has improved, performance in Mathematics and Science has been poor.”

The Department for International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), World Food Programme, African Development Bank, Germany (KfW and GIZ) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), through interventions such as  the Ghana Partnership for Education Grant and the Ghana Skills and Technology Development Project, are helping to improve Mathematics and Science education..

Checks at the Secondary Education Division of the GES indicate Science Resource Centre Project, aimed at equipping schools with modern laboratories and equipment for effective teaching and learning of Science, has been extended to 300 schools so far.

Additionally, some 150 technicians have been trained to manage science laboratories and 1,000 special Mathematics and Science teachers have been re-trained.

The Education Reforms launched in June 2007, requested the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for teaching all subjects, including Mathematics and Science.

In its ICT for Accelerated Development Policy (ICT4AD, 2003), Ghana desires to transform itself into a rich technology-driven economy. The ICT in Education Programme, Ghana e-Transform Teacher Professional Development programme and Senior High School (SHS) ICT Connectivity Project of the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP) provide teachers with pedagogical skills and competencies in the use of ICT for school and classroom work.

The Ghana e-Transform Teacher Professional Development programme in particular seeks to serve more than 200 SHSs, 14,000 teachers and 200 heads of schools nationwide.

The pilot initiative for the SHS ICT Connectivity Project (2012–2013) implements teacher ICT competencies from the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT). It stresses on ICT in professional teaching and learning of Mathematics, English and Integrated Science (MEIS).

No nation must stay aloof as students perform abysmally in school disciplines like Mathematics and Science.

Prof. Opoku-Agyemang regrettably said some SHS heads do not fully appreciate their responsibility towards performance of their students as they see annual failure of their students in WASSCE as normal.

A nation that is not able to advance in science mathematics and technology would never be able to sustain the lives of the people and may have to solely depend on other nations for the basic requirements. Such is the influence of science and technology for the development of a nation.

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

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