There is no doubt there is something very wrong with education in Ghana. Across all levels from primary school to the highest level the system is fraught with challenges that mean we mostly churn out substandard material.
Mainly it is because of our understanding of education, which is to teach someone the steps needed to solve a problem, not how the problem should be solved. For instance, students are taught to memorise several theories to be able to recite when needed, yet the underlying idea behind that theory is left untouched.
Yet it is by understanding the idea behind the theory that it can be sufficiently grasped, not just by learning what the theory is and what it postulates.
The West African Educational Council (WAEC), recently released the results for this year’s West African Senior High School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), and the performance is so abysmal it borders on the ridiculous.
Of the 242, 162 students to sit for the exam only 68, 062 managed to accumulate passes in at six subjects, including Core Mathematics and English Language.
This tabulates to a 28% success rate, lower than the lowest standard you could imagine for any jurisdiction in the world.
There are several underlying problems with our secondary education, chief of which is the sheer number of subjects offered and the scope of the examination covering all three or four years of study. Students are required to be as clear in their mind about things they learnt three months ago to the same degree as things they learnt three years ago, something is just not right with that scenario.
Another is the mode of teaching I mentioned earlier, you are taught the way to answer a question, but not the method behind answering that particular type of question. You’ll be amazed at how students can become confused at a simple mathematical problem they’ve just solved, just because the figures or even the wording of the second question has been slightly altered.
The teaching method also encourages the ‘chew and pour’ method of learning, which is a notoriously bad way to learn. Students cram all sorts of info into their heads to recall in the exam hall, but anyone who has done ‘chew and pour’ before knows that if the slightest incident knocks you off your game, you’re literally screwed.
Our education is also too book centred, that means it’s more theoretical than practical. This encourages students to just ‘mow’ their textbooks, but not know how those things are relevant in the real world. It also lends itself to the examination being structured that way, meaning a below average grasp of the English language- which is a bigger problem than you might imagine: leaves that particular student in big trouble in respect to how they answer exam questions.
This is without even going into logistical challenges like poorly motivated teachers and inadequate books and infrastructure; sum all up and the challenge a Ghanaian student faces in coming out of this system is more challenging than usual.
This is not a list of excuses for the students who failed, but a candid account of the problems students face in fighting to get their certificates. And these challenges are scarcely limited to the Senior High system, it cuts across all levels and means half-baked graduates are being produced all the time.
After all, I just completed Journalism school and I can count on one hand the number of times we engaged in any practical assignment related to the communication we were supposed to be studying.
These results must serve as a wake-up call to authorities that reform is needed in the Ghanaian education sector: but alas, it is Ghana we are talking about and just a few days after the release of the results things have already gone back to business as usual.