In the presence of the Vice-Chancellor, Fellows of the Legon Hall, Deans, alumni and current students, Dr Charles Brenya Wiafe-Akenteng, was installed as the Master of the Legon Hall of the University of Ghana (UG), last week Friday.
I think it was sometime in the middle of last week that I heard someone whose name I cannot recall make the persuasive argument on a radio station that one of the lasting effects of the Rawlings Chain phenomenon from 1982 to 1984 in Ghana was the way the famine caused by low rainfall in farming communities at the time altered our diet.
As is emphasised in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, " there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven... a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."
The Government’s goal of providing free education for high school students in Ghana is good and just.
A healthy education is the path towards enlightenment and of innovative productivity amongst persons.
A world in which only the well-to-do can afford good schools is very limiting and unfair.
Such a world also constitutes an avoidable loss of productivity to the person and to the nation as whole.
Nevertheless, a national program of free education must come with a heavy financial burden that must be paid at the expense of other equally important projects.
Therefore, it is necessary from time to time to reflect on the program in order to find ways of making the program more successful.
The main focus of this article is to determine whether universal access to education alone, can in and of itself guarantee the expected results of universal literacies and industrial competencies.
In my view, formal schooling is a necessary but smaller fraction of education.
The bigger school is the nation, the world itself.
The child learns from the school of walls as well as from the school without walls.
There is a learning continuum that must be harmonized in order to get the best out of walled-education for every student.
THE INTELLECTUAL HUSTLE
We start with the self-evident proposition that even a little education is better than no education at all.
Even the dumbest fellow learns a thing or two from the disciplines, from the cultures and from countless interactions and relationships at school.
Thus, even though we cannot expect every student to become a scholar through a free-school program, we must appreciate the fact that the opportunity to attend school and to act as a student for a significant period of time, is by itself an inherently positive experience for every student.
Thus, regardless of quality of test-scores, free education is a nation-builder. Having said these things we must turn to the practicalities of learning and of genius. Learning requires a “learner”.
The learner is crafted as it were, outside and inside classroom walls. Given the variety of craftsmanship and of their differences in capacity, not all learners are equal. Some get it. Some are clueless.
All teachers are not equal. Some enlighten their students whilst others confuse them.
Yet in the same way that every child must take his teacher as he is, so too must every school take its child as it finds him and mold him to the extent of his malleability.
This means that access to school is one thing; and mastering the school, quite another thing.
The school takes you as you are and it does what it can with your abilities. If you come to school brilliant, you would sail through.
If you come to school clueless, you will limp and hustle. Negative student and teacher capacities can prevent students from being able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by universal access to education.
Therefore, we must find ways to enhance learning capacities of students and teachers outside of the free school system. We can do this only when we appreciate education as more than a set of formal instructions.
FREE EDUCATION IS NOT THE SAME AS FREE WISDOM
The differences in intellectual capacities amongst students and of the relativity of teaching competencies amongst teachers, pose a clear challenge to the fundamental goal of free education namely, universal enlightenment for all.
As long as some teachers teach poorly and as long as some students learn poorly, universal access to education cannot lead to universal enlightenment.
We must find solutions that minimize the learning handicaps of students whilst at the same time boosting the number and competencies of their teachers.
This teacher-aid and student-aid project shall be a parallel program that must accompany the free-school program.
Knowledge-opportunities alone cannot a genius make. In order to significantly bridge the educational gap between students from different walks of life in different schools, we must find a way to make it easier for students to be intelligent from the very beginning and to remove obstacles to learning.
This is a project that would involve parents, communities, academia and the media.
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring the scientific world view as reality: as self, as family, as play, as relationships, as culture, as vision, as destiny, as expectation, etc., for the child under her care. We must all go to ‘school’ and never stop learning.
A child cannot be raised by ignorant parents at home and be expected to be a genius because he goes to a free good school.
A child cannot be raised with contradictory, chaotic and unscientific worldviews by family, by peers, neighborhoods, preachers and media and be expected to be learned because he goes to a free good school.
A child cannot be taught confusing principles of reality and be expected to be logical, innovative and a leader in an applied and competitive field. If we simply focus on access without dealing with the principles, the relationships and environments that make a person wise or dim, students will get to the school’s river but a lot of them will not drink of it.
The best that many would do may be to sip in a hurry.
SCHOOL FOR PARENTS & BROADCASTERS
As a nation we must start thinking of education as more than a classroom project. The family, the street, the playground, the radio, the TV, the social media, the church, the mosque, the workplace; indeed, the nation is the school: the education.
The student is continuously learning from these environments and adding to or subtracting from what he learns from the classroom.
In order to avoid wasted efforts whereby the good learned in one area is negated by the lies or harms from another, we must find ways to harmonize learning across spheres so that the school, the street, the workspace, the play-centre, the media, the home and everywhere the student listens, watches or turns to, broadcast one stream of intelligence through scientific narratives and actions.
This is obviously not going to be an easy thing to achieve. It would require a lot of resources, time and commitment on the part of the nation. I would recommend special online and on-air broadcast schools for parents before they give birth and continuing throughout, for the sole purpose of enhancing their intelligence and making them better teachers and role-models.
I will also recommend continuing, mandatory professional programs on intelligence and on the sciences for journalists and all those in the media. This will minimize ignorant-broadcasts and will help enhance the intelligence of their readers, audiences and viewers.
I will also recommend a permanent appreciation of learning by ensuring that important decision-makers such as pay-masters, preachers, leaders and all those persons in front of microphones and cameras are chosen and appreciated by the market largely for their wisdom or learning.
Ignorance should lead to pariah status. I will also recommend more professional collaborations between academia and experts and shared platforms accessible to all citizens.
Even chiefs should be chosen on the basis of their excellence so that at all times the more learned royal would be preferred to the others. All these things will maximize frequent and public broadcasts of intelligence to the student and help build a better school for all, as a matter of course.
If we believe that everyone should be learned or wise and if we want a society where the greater number of people are competent, innovative and productive then it is necessary to wise-wash everything we do so that wherever you are and whatever you are doing or watching you must be learning something intelligent, scientific and enabling of your competence as a human being.
To free schools we must add free intelligence that should be acquired “automatically” as we eavesdrop, as we play, work and breathe. There should be so much intelligence surrounding us that it would take a herculean effort to be stupid.
To every conversation, text, narrative, project, rule, relationship, mission or production, we must add, demand and expect intelligence. This we must do not only in the classrooms but outside of the classrooms as well. For the mind of the child does not stop learning once he leaves the classroom.
We must take seriously the idea of education as a community project in which everyone plays an intelligent part to ensure a continuity of rational interactions across fields.
This fresh understanding of education as a lifelong people’s project, comes with a greater appreciation of the classroom as existing outside of walls and of teachers as including the anonymous, the non-paid and even the unlearned.
This also places responsibilities on each and every person, community and institution to learn and to share facts, science and truths liberally, continuously and openly.
A community of learned persons is the best free education for the child. Such education would support the free educational programs of government and ensure that whatever deficiencies therein are corrected by the inescapable lessons and truths of the bigger school.
The duty to learn and the duty to share what we have learned with others, shall be the measure of the learned nation.
KNOWLEDGE AS EQUALITY
Knowledge more than anything else, is the surest guarantee of the equality of man. It is true that all men are equal. We say this much in our constitutions and at the United Nations.
Whether men are equal or not however is not a matter of beliefs and of declarations. Equality is a question of power. Undoubtedly, the equality of man can be proved in respect of the life of each person.
No one can justifiably prove that his life is better than that of another. No one’s suffering is better than that of another. No one’s happiness is better than that of another.
Beyond this, men are unequal in their gifts, in their fortunes, in their efforts, in their vision, in their relationships and in their crafts. Regardless of our differences however, every man is what he knows and what he does with what he knows.
Men resemble one another to the extent that they share the same learning and craftsmanship. The reverse is true. In the long-run, applied knowledge defines the man. Indeed, as the recent rise of many nations through mastery over technologies shows, scientific knowledge has increasingly become the bar that equalizes or differentiates between nations.
All talk about power and the about the economy is talk about mastery over useful knowledge and of the ability to mass-produce things for exchange at profit.
Underlying this applied knowledge is nothing but continuing opportunities for scientific learning for those able and willing to learn. When therefore, we all become good students and good teachers, we create a wise nation that can and that will lead towards healthy reforms and profitable innovations.
KNOWLEDGE AS FORTUNE
Over time riches and fortunes depreciate. The only thing that keeps on giving and giving is creative crafts that continually deliver needs to ‘hungry’ folks time and time again.
Thus if you leave a child with money without more, that child is likely to be poorer over time. But if you leave a child with intelligence, that child is likely to be richer over time. Civilizations rise and fall in according with man’s science or his ignorance. Those who evolve greater technologies will always be ahead of their slower brethren. But technologies don’t fall from their sky.
Those who make them think, see and treat the world uniquely differently than those who don’t. That which transforms man from ‘huh’ to ‘aha’ is nothing but know-how. Man is what he knows.
It is knowledge that sets us apart from animals. It is knowledge that sets one man apart from another. In this world, those who know rule those who don’t know.
What you know is what you think: what you desire: what you do. The more we know, the more human we are. The less we know, the less human we are.
The more we know, the more creative and the more powerful we are. ‘I know therefore, I am’ is thus, a correct statement of existential reality. Naturally then, we should all do our best to educate ourselves and the children around us. When the scriptures say that the wise shall inherit the earth and rule over the ignorant, this is not just a wishful statement.
It is a fact. In a ‘global village’ increasingly dependent on applied learning a.k.a technologies, the importance of a good education for the entire community including the child, cannot be overemphasized.
Let me leave you with the greatest secret of intelligence that I discovered many years ago. Everyone who understands it and applies it is guaranteed to be wise. Let every parent, teacher and student learn and apply the rule. Let governments take note and reform curriculum accordingly. It will make us more intelligent and more powerful.
THE RULE-MEMORY THEORY OF INTELLIGENCE
1. Intelligence = grasp of facts + inference-ability 2. Inference-ability is a function of rules 3. Rules provide processes for: calculation, analysis and predictions of probable outcomes. Rules provide the criteria for determining the next step from an existing step.
4. The more (correct) rules a person knows, the more true inferences he can make.
Rulememory is more critical for intelligence than fact-memory. Those who know greater number of rules on any matter and apply same, judge and predict more accurately.
Rules make the mind. Those who know more rules and acquire the habit of learning more rules from any new situation, are more intelligent than those who know less rules.
To increase a person’s intelligence, increase the number of rules he or she knows.
5. Therefore, with I for intelligence; quantum for Q and R for Rules, the formula for intelligence is I = Q x R
The writer is President of the Distinguished Scholars of Africa
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