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Time to rethink approach to handling education — Dr Armah

BY: Severious Kale-Dery
• Dr Prince Hamid Armah

A former acting Director-General of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA), Dr Prince Hamid Armah, has observed that the COVID-19 global pandemic presents an opportunity for Ghana to rethink its approach to handling education.

“We have to emerge from this crisis better equipped to handle similar disruptions and be able to give all our children equitable access to education that serves them and their communities well,” he said.

International Day of Education

In an interview with the Daily Graphic on International Day of Education, which was marked around the world last Sunday, Dr Armah said “as we contemplate a new future in the wake of the COVID-19, we must resolve to address the challenges it presents more conclusively”.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has designated January 24, every year as International Day of Education.

The celebration of the day was commenced in 2018.

The day is set aside to honour the work of educators and policy makers, assess progress made and reflect on what ought to be done to improve outcomes for all.

The day was marked on the theme: “Recover and revitalise education for the COVID-19 generation”.

Inequality

Dr Armah, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwesimintsim, said even before the COVID-19 struck, Ghana was facing the challenge of levelling opportunities in education for all.

“We know family income levels have a direct effect on educational opportunities and outcomes for children. We know that children in urban areas have better access to educational infrastructure and materials.

“We know also that learners in the rural areas are less likely to receive the required amount of contact hours with teachers than their counterparts in the towns and cities,” he said, positing that what the pandemic had done was to highlight the challenges in the system.

Achievements

“While we aim for better, we must not forget also that there is much we can celebrate,” he said.

He explained that over the last decade, especially in the last four years, a lot had been done to expand access to education in the country.

For instance, Dr Armah said, from 2013 to 2017, between 12 and 15 per cent of the annual national expenditure went to education.

He said public investment increased significantly in the education budget for 2019, with the allocation of GH¢12.9billion marking a 39 per cent increase on the budget for 201218.

The former NaCCA boss added that last year, 74.68 per cent of all eligible schoolgoing children were in school, compared with the 55.7 per cent who were in school in 2011.

“It compares well with the global average, which is 79.88 per cent, about five percentage points higher than ours. We are not there yet, but we have come a long way.

“This progress has not been achieved without hard work. Credit must go to Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Dr Yaw Adutwum,  among others, who led the sector through some significant reforms in our history,” Dr Armah said.

He said the benefits of the reforms were now being felt, as evidenced in the results of the graduating class of 2020 — the first to be enrolled under the government’s free senior high school policy in 2017.

“Above all, we must commend President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for his relentless focus on education, his courage and his leadership. Since 2017, we have seen a steady rise in investment in the sector,” he added.

Overhaul of curriculum

The former NaCCA boss said the expansion in access to education had been complemented by a drastic overhaul of the curriculum and mode of assessment, adding that for the first time, “we are deliberately moving children away from learning by rote, or as we call it: ‘chew, pour, pass and forget’”.

“Our children are now being engaged and nurtured in ways that will enhance their creativity, encourage them to solve problems and develop leadership abilities.

“Under the reforms, we are able to measure and develop specific competencies for our young people, instead of awarding them arbitrary scores which do not reflect or account for their individual progress up the academic ladder.

“I am happy and proud to have made a humble contribution to this process under the able leadership and guidance of Dr Opoku Prempeh, then Minister of Education,” Dr Armah said joyfully.