Teachers are at the heart of providing quality education to children. They facilitate students’ learning and ensure that they thrive academically so that they fulfil their potential and find meaningful careers. They teach students not only how to calculate and spell correctly, but also social norms and behaviour to become responsible citizens of the country.
Teachers are the centre of the human capital for national development. Therefore, the role of the teacher in educating our children is of utmost importance.
In the pursuit of improving quality of education, the Government has taken various measures to improve capacity and motivation of teachers. For example, Free Compulsory Basic Education Programme (FCUBE) which started from late 90’s managed to redefine an improved way of updating teachers’ knowledge and school management practices. It helped increasing the enrolment of school children and enhancing students’ achievement.
More recently, the Education Reform in 2007 opened a debate on a comprehensive teacher education policy. The Government’s White Paper outlined strategies to give a new identity to teacher education as follows:
l To establish a National Teaching Council to certify and enforce the periodic upgrading of teachers,
l To upgrade all Teacher Training Colleges into diploma-awarding institutions affiliated to the education-oriented universities,
l To organise modular and competency-based training courses and distance education courses for non-professional teachers to enable them qualify as professional teachers,
l To upgrade the competences and skills of teachers through human resource management and career development
All these policies towards improving the status of teachers have to some extent been systematically implemented over the past few years. Notwithstanding, what is most needed is a clear understanding of the kind of teacher Ghana wants to develop to ensure the provision of comprehensive and quality education for all children irrespective of their social and economic background.
Countries that have growth and development strategies and are making progress generally understand clearly the kind of teachers they need to create learning opportunities to develop the right type of human resource.
This cannot be left to chance. In this regard, Ghana’s stride to sustain and enhance its lower middle class status will falter if it does not ask questions about the kind of teacher required and what it needs to do to produce teachers of the highest quality. As a saying goes: the standard of education of a country cannot be higher than the quality of its teachers.
In 2014 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommended in its EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/2014 that recruiting and retaining good teachers and training them should be made a priority to enhance quality of education. It recommended that governments should adopt a threefold strategy to achieve effective teacher management and development.
First of all, governments should aim to attract the best and motivated candidates to the teaching profession. An international survey found that the better the teacher quality, the less the incidence of low achievement in schools.
In other words, to improve learning outcomes in schools, it is good policy to invest in teacher management and development.
Secondly, training should be given to teachers throughout their career. Like all highly valued professions, all teachers should be supported to commit to continuous professional development – renewing and updating their professional skills so that they are abreast of the new ideas and practices in teaching to remain effective.
Initial teacher training plays an important role in preparing teachers for teaching, but it is continuous in-service professional development that will ensure they are operating at the cutting edge of their profession and developing competencies to progress their career.
This will also enhance the image of the teaching profession and accord it the valued status it deserves in Ghanaian society. Professionals who do not renew their knowledge and skills through continuous training rapidly lose their status in society and their impact on the education system as a whole.
Lastly, UNESCO recommends that governments should aim to retain the best teachers by recognizing and rewarding their achievement. Recognition of teachers’ contribution to raising educational standards through a progressive career enhancement structure serves to motivate them and enhance their status in society.
To achieve this, what is needed is a fair and transparent appraisal system which motivates teachers to improve performance and enhance student achievements. This threefold strategy, we believe, makes the teaching profession more attractive and raises the status of teachers in the society.
Ghana has been striving to improve these three aspects of teachers, but a policy framework which links these three separate elements has been lacking. Essentially what has been missing in the past is a comprehensive policy on teacher development and management, which ensures that teachers are adequately prepared to respond to the changing needs of education based on nationally agreed set of standards for teachers which informs how teachers are trained, certified and promoted.
Fortunately, Ghana has been working to develop this kind of policy framework for teachers since 2010, culminating in the approval of the Pre-Tertiary Professional Teacher Development and Management (PTPDM) Policy in 2013 by the Ministry of Education – a step which has been recognised and recommended as good practice for other countries in UNESCO’s 2014 Global Monitoring Report.
This new policy framework is being used to frame standards for producing quality teachers and for recognising their achievements through an effective in-service training and promotion system. It is a comprehensive policy on teacher development and management that links teachers’ professional development to their appraisal.
It aims at supporting, developing and rewarding teachers in basic and second cycle schools in Ghana to enable them function effectively to provide quality education for all Ghanaian students.
Throughout the development process, the policy received the widest consultation and inputs from key stakeholders such as teacher unions, civil society organizations in education, education experts, development partners, universities and colleges of education, the Ghana Education Service Council and the National Teaching Council.
The PTPDM policy is now being piloted in five districts and will be implemented nationally after the completion of the pilot.
After successful completion of the pilot phase, this policy will bring changes in ways of appraising and training teachers in the country. There will be two major changes once it is implemented.
Firstly, the new policy aims to replace the current teacher promotion system which is based mainly on years of experience to one which incorporates evidence of teachers’ professional development and achievements for promotion.
Teachers will be assessed on a set of clearly-defined competencies to advance their career to the next level. Teachers will set professional targets at the beginning of each academic year which will then be used to assist them to achieve quality education goals.
The evaluation of progress made by the teacher in achieving these goals during the academic year is an essential component of the appraisal process towards progression.
Secondly, participation in professional development activities, such as trainings and workshops, will be linked to career advancement. In other words, evidence of professional growth and achievement will form the basis of career progression and reward. What this will do is create new incentives for teachers’ growth and improvement of instructional practices.
Furthermore, all teacher professional development programmes that will be used to provide some of the evidence for promotion will adopt competency-based approach so that teachers who advance to the next career level are equipped with competencies required for that level.
Now that the country is striving to enhance the quality of education, the PTPDM policy could not have come at a better time to ensure that teachers are adequately equipped to make Ghana’s education system the envy in Africa and beyond.
The PTPDM policy will provide the basis for setting more transparent and objective standards for teacher appraisal based on competencies, achievements and outcome of training. This will not only motivate teachers to develop their capacity and achieve better performance but also ensure that we retain good performing teachers in the profession.
Our children who are the future of our nation should be educated by the best teachers, and we must be prepared to guarantee that every teacher standing in front of a group of children understand the standards expected of them and how to raise achievement levels in schools.
In turn, everything must be done to ensure that the profession recruits the best candidates of the highest calibre in terms of their readiness and teacher characteristics. More importantly, the PTPDM Policy can assure all teachers opportunities for continuous professional development to update their teaching skills and knowledge to provide quality education for our children.
Given the significant benefits the nation can derive from the successful implementation of a professional teacher development and management policy, the support of all stakeholders, including teacher unions, colleges of education and other higher education institutions involved in teacher education and training is needed if Ghana is to achieve the high standard of education that the country deserves and is destined for.
By Albert Kwame Akyeampong & Paul Noble Buatsi