The 21st Best Teacher Award and first ever Best Schools Award celebrated about a month ago on the theme, “Empowering teachers; building sustainable societies”, recently rewarded excellence, professionalism and dedication to deserving non-teaching staff, teaching staff, foreign volunteer, national service personnel and schools for quality education delivery.
This is because every child has the right to education that unlocks her potential, no matter what school him/her parents made him/her to attend.
Ghanaians over the years have sniped poor performance at all the levels of education. Indeed they have cause to complain because of the important role education plays in their wards life and in a country’s development.
The Ministry of Education’s (MoE) vision is to build “A dynamic sector that prepares and equips all Ghanaians with relevant education and skills to promote socio-economic development”,
While its mission is: “To formulate and implement policies that will provide quality, equitable and accessible education to all citizens, with emphasis on Science, Information, Communication and Technology for self-actualisation and peaceful coexistence, as well as requisite skills at the labour market for national development”.
The Ministry has therefore formulated five broad policy objectives that operate at all levels of education: Improving the management of education service delivery, Increasing inclusive and equitable access to and participation in quality education, Improving the quality of teaching and learning, Promoting the teaching and learning of Science, Mathematics and Technology, Ensuring the provision of life skills training.
Enhancing quality of education through school inspection, supervision and teacher accountability has become very crucial to achieve the mandate of the Ministry.
While significant progress have been made in achieving access to education for Ghanaian children by past and the current governments, quality still remains a challenge to the sector. This calls for various strategies and interventions including the professional development of the teacher.
The teacher needs to encourage critical thinking skills, promote information literacy, and nurture collaborative working practices to prepare students for a new world.
To bring this to fruition, the MoE therefore adopted the policy of zero tolerance for teacher absenteeism, to enhance accountability in schools, improve teacher presence in the classroom and the teacher’s time on task.
To this end, quarterly monitoring and unannounced visits by the MoE, National Inspectorate Board (NIB) and Ghana Education Service (GES) officers were carried out in about 11,594 Basic schools.
Additionally, the School Report Card System was also introduced nationwide to improve monitoring of schools. With these efforts, the rate of teacher absenteeism reduced from 27 per cent in January 2013 to 11 per cent in July 2014. This is commendable but there is still room for improvement.
This was not done in isolation by the Ministry and the GES but with collaboration with stakeholders such as queen mothers, parents, district education officers, the public and of course teachers who are themselves stakeholders are to improve quality education at the basic level.
At the secondary education level, the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), pass rate has been low especially in Mathematics and Science for the period 2005 to 2014. Within the period, WASSCE pass rates have averaged 48.1 per cent for Mathematics and 53.9 per cent for Integrated Science. English and Social Studies are higher, averaging 63.2 per cent and 81.3 per cent respectively.
Progress has however been made over the years, for instance, for Mathematics, the worse performance was recorded in 2007 at a pass rate of 24.2 per cent and the best performance was recorded in 2013 at recorded pass rate of 71 per cent.
The worse performance for Integrated Science was also recorded in 2007 at a pass rate of 24.3 per cent and the best performance was recorded in 2013 at a pass rate of 85 per cent.
Against the background of low performance in Mathematics and Science, the Government committed to reverse the trend and improve learning outcomes, especially in Mathematics and Science.
The MoEd guided by its objectives, vision and mission of providing access, equity and quality has been working around the clock, to prioritise Mathematics and Science in its 2013 budget and constituted a committee among others to ascertain the causes of low performances in Mathematics and Science in the country and come out with a proposal for solutions.
The committee came out with some key findings which corroborated the by annual reports of the West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC) Chief Examiners.
Some of the problems identified included firstly,inadequate mastery of critical foundational skills, which creates gaps in learning that only accumulated overtime and is reflected in low Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) and WASSCE scores, secondly, poor teaching methodologies and thirdly inadequate numbers of teachers with competencies in teaching Mathematics and Science.
Others and inadequate teaching and learning materials (TLMs) for Mathematics and Science as well as ineffective management and supervision of teaching and learning in schools.
Measures to Address Challenges
Typical of Government’s commitment to reverse the continuous trend of low performance especially in Mathematics and Science, the Ministry undertook a number of initiatives such as the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP), SEIP facilities upgrade, E-Transform/E-Learning and Science Resource Centres Project.
Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP)
Under the SEIP, the Government aimed at increasing access to senior secondary education in underserved districts and not only that, but to also improve quality in low-performing Senior High Schools (SHS).
125 low-performing SHSs have been selected as part of quality improvement interventions by the provision of in-service training for Science and Mathematics teachers in these schools.
The Mathematics and Science trainings came off at the Meagasa Mathematics Academy under Prof. Sitsofe E. Anku in Accra and Kumasi by the International Training and Education Consultancy (itec Global) of UK, as part of measures to demystify the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in SHSs.
Also, to bridge the long gap among our SHSs which has bridge that gap divided our education landscape to “Good schools with good track record of perfect and other schools, endowed schools and not endowed schools as well as schools with good management/ good teachers and schools who do not have”, a school leadership and management training for departmental and school heads in the low-performing schools has been initiated.
The initiatives are expected to enhance the capacity of schools leadership in the management of schools towards performance improvement starting with the 2016 WASSCE.
It hoped to also equip Mathematics and Science teachers from low performing schools with new skills to improve on their delivery and improve examinations outcomes.
To make the training practical and relevant to the need of both teachers and students, the Ministry conducted a well thought of survey on SEIP beneficiary schools to ascertain the teacher’s competencies and student’s difficult areas or topics.
The objectives of the exercise was to identify topics teachers find difficult to handle in class, topics that students find difficult in class and gaps in the competencies of teachers and other challenges for redress.
The survey identified difficult challenging topics in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Integrated Science, Core Mathematics and Elective Mathematics. To address these challenges, the Ministry has engaged subject experts and practitioners from best performing schools to develop training modules based on the survey findings and recommendations, and to help facilitate the training by sharing their experiences with their colleagues from low-performing schools.
Experts and practitioners with proven records of performance on schools leadership has been drawn from academia and secondary schools to develop training modules to train heads of second cycle schools in leadership and management.
The Mathematics and Science training has so far trained 1,000 teachers from 125 low performing schools, this included 250 Core Mathematics, 125 Elective Mathematics, 125 Physics, 125 Chemistry, 125 Biology and 250 Integrated Science teachers. The training is being extended to cover additional 274 public and private SHSs.
SEIP Facilities Upgrade
The Secondary Education Improvement Project as part of its component, is to upgrade facilities of 50 out of selected 125 schools. This would bring improvement in 50 school facilities such as school laboratories, school libraries programme blocks (vocational, technical and business blocks), and build additional classrooms as well as teachers/staff flat.
Crrently, some dilapidated school canteens, toilets and bathrooms, classrooms laboratory and teachers furniture, roofing of existing structures, strengthen structural frames, enclosing wall, windows and doors are undergoing facility upgrades.
Under the project, ceiling, wall furnish and floor finishing would be completed with decoration of structures and painting of building would be completed under the facilities upgrade.
The Ministry is also investing in ICT packages to improve teaching and learning in the 125 schools as part of other quality improvement interventions in secondary education.
The package would have instructional materials for the four core subjects (Mathematics, English, Integrated Science and Social Studies) at the secondary level. The materials would be used to complement face-to-face instruction.
It would also have a teacher platform where teachers could have access teaching materials to improve teaching methodologies and their competencies in core subjects and these materials would be made available to schools at no cost.
e-Transform and e-Learning
To expand ICT integration which has become an integral part of our educational system and which also serves as part of improving the quality of education delivery in teaching and learning, the Ministry in collaboration with the donor partners to implement e-transform and e-learning in schools.
The e-transform is being funded by the World Bank. This is aimed at transforming the communication infrastructure in 200 schools across the country. Beneficiary schools of the project, would receive internet connectivity and be equipped with computer laboratories.
The e-learning project will provide connectivity and other ICT hard and software to 230 SHSs, this would bring the number of schools to receive internet connectivity to 550.
Science Resources Centre Project
In addition to the quality improvement interventions under the SEIP, the Government is pursuing additional measure to achieve performance improvement in Mathematics and Science to lay solid foundation for continued improvement in secondary education.
In 2013, the Science Resource Centre (SRC) Project was initiated by the Government to supply modern science equipment and ICT based facilities and chemicals as well as train science teachers and laboratory technicians in schools as part of effort to improve the teaching and learning of science in 200 Senior High Schools.
Further, 310 schools have been upgraded with the supply of extra electronics kit and their teachers have been trained in Electronics and Physics. Two teaching Universities have been upgraded with SRC facilities and 2,000 SHS teachers and 300 laboratory assistants have received training as part of the SRC project.
This year, work on 100 SRCs have commenced with training of the first batch of 200 Science teachers. The resource centres will be operational this academic year.
The MoE and GES expect the provision of the equipment and facilities to help provide hands-on science education to enable the students to improve upon their performance and teaching quality to encourage students to access higher levels into careers as Scientists, Engineers and other technical professions.
The writer is a Public Relations Officer with the Ministry of Education
By Matilda Tettey