When colleges of education become university colleges, teacher preparation is a most serious business

BY: Anis Haffar
The writer
The writer

In Ghana, we tend to take the essence of quality education for granted. And the more things change, the more they stay the same; but hopefully, this time around, progress can be visible in concrete ways across the country. When purposes are sincere, half-hearted commitments are not enough.

It is indeed a serious indictment that for a country that’s been independent for decades (the first in sub-Saharan Africa), the bulk of the nation’s population can neither read nor write in a local language - or in English, the national language.

For a country like Finland, education is so important to them that it is more difficult to gain admission into the schools of education than into medical or engineering schools. Also, in a particular state in the United States, bad teachers were said to have been paid US$100,000 or so to quit the profession than to stay in it and destroy young minds for good. In some states teacher education begins at the graduate level, after the first degree. The qualifications to teach are not mere diplomas; they are certified professional credentials registered with the states, and renewable over periods through continuous education.

Quality teacher preparation

Quality teacher preparation across the board – from KG to tertiary – is a serious business: Quality teaching must be nurtured, demanded and guarded securely on every front. The reasons are clear: For one thing, the damages done by a bad teacher to a single child or a youngster – over a lifetime – has gross, hidden emotional and financial costs. With bad or incompetent teachers, we lose the most cherished and critical abilities: One, the cognitive (i.e., the intellectual; the ability to think critically); Two, the affective (i.e., our sense of values and confidence); and Three, the skills which one needs to function in society to make a meaningful living and be fulfilled. The quantum harm done over the years to the large numbers of defenceless children and youth are indefensible social indictments.

The Daily Graphics story of June 18, 2018 with the headline :, “Colleges of Education to become university colleges – From September [2018])” quoted President Nana Akufo-Addo as saying:

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“A four- year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree will be introduced in the university colleges [to ensure] that you enter the teaching service as university graduates, with an increase in your earning capacity.” The President noted that :“It is only a crop of well - trained and motivated teachers who can deliver the educated and skilled workforce we require to transform our economy.” Amen!

Involve all stakeholders

My phone started ringing that early morning and continued to the next day with requests for media interviews. Education seems to be taking a front row seat, and it’s good. The future of the nation’s children and the youth is at stake; and everybody needs to be concerned. The mind is a terrible thing to waste. And as I’ve said often in this column and in presentations, “To see where any nation is going in the future, simply watch how that nation treats its own children.”

In an interview on E FM 107.5, Accra, produced by Ransford Amon-Padi, I shared some of the following pointers with the host, Larry Benson:

Improve the existing colleges

The 46 colleges of education in this country need to be revamped in every important aspect: if you really want to develop the calibre of people who are going to teach to develop this country, the environment and preparation are key. So, focus must be placed on the facilities and on the quality preparation of the instructors who themselves will be teaching other teachers.

Improving the physical environment shouldn’t be a difficult task; it should be hands-on, involving the student-teachers in particular because having been prepared for the task, they’d be expected to contribute same in the various schools they’d be assigned to when they finally exit.

Training teachers at the school sites

It is imperative that teachers are taught mainly at the school sites, especially at the basic and secondary public schools. In the past, the focus has been on teaching teachers mostly from lecture halls; that is the worst thing to do. Right from the beginning, teachers need to know that their posts will be at the school sites anyway, and what better place to start than to develop the familiarity there?

On occasions when I’d led workshops for teachers in parts of the country, you’d hardly ever find education professors and lecturers at the school sites modelling guided practices. More or less, the public schools are left on their own, with, in many cases, ill - prepared and aloof heads.

Science projects

The focus on the applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics cannot be emphasised enough. So teachers need to be prepared to be sufficiently qualified to teach young people to apply science through authentic assessments of projects, not “chew baba”. Ghana is latently one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources, but latent is only potential; the accomplishments are where value can be added to the country’s abundant natural resources. Like they say, God makes trees, not tables.

Satellite affiliations

While the 46 colleges of education have to be upgraded visibly and wholesomely to warrant the designations of bona fide universities, they need soon thereafter to extend their reach – by means of satellite affiliations - into every district. What I mean is quite simple: Each of the 200 or so districts in the country needs to have some connection – affiliation - with the schools of education so that each can have access to the best practices, and thereby extend their boundaries in a structured way. The public schools, especially, need not be abandoned – as is the case today – to their own devices to sink or swim.

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