Poor quality basic education: Sacking all public school teachers not solution
Poor performance of students in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) has generated discourse on strategies for improving the quality of delivering basic school education in our country.
To stem the trend Professor Stephen Adei, a former Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), singled out teachers as the cause of the poor performance and consequently called on the government ‘to simply sack all teaching staff’ to guarantee an improved performance in public basic schools in the country.
This is not the first time Prof. Adei has isolated teachers for blame. Eleven years ago, while speaking on radio in April 2012, he argued that teachers should be held responsible for the poor performance of basic schools.
Three questions arise from Prof. A Adei’s concerns and recommendation:
(i). Is he suggesting that there is no committed teacher in our public basic schools?
(ii). Is the teacher factor the only determinant of quality performance in our basic schools? (iii) Do teachers, particularly those in disadvantaged schools, operate in a supportive teaching and learning environment?
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Admittedly, quality issues in education start with the teacher.
Hence, no policy discourse on quality education in our country can be considered complete without reference to the teacher.
Teachers play a central role in developing the talents, skills and attitudes necessary for accelerating our growth and development as a nation.
Indeed, the teacher’s role has become multifaceted in that the teacher is expected to fulfill the role of a counselor, a mentor, a surrogate parent, a nutritionist, a spiritual guide and a social welfare activist.
In Ghana today, teachers have to grapple with increasing complex public expectations to the extent that failures in home and community responsibilities, failures of politicians in children’s socialisation, inefficiencies in sex education, difficulties in youth employment, weaknesses in traffic education, littering in our environment and many others have all become a liability on teachers’ functions.
It is perhaps in response to these complex multifaceted roles that we uphold maxims such as ‘if you can read this, thank a teacher’; ‘the teacher is the backbone of national development’; ‘All professionals are important but the teacher makes them all’.
Certainly, in this context, nobody will disagree with Prof. Adei that it all starts with the teacher.
From a narrow perspective, therefore, I can appreciate why the teacher has persistently become the first target of blame in this worrying quality devaluing trend in our basic schools.
But is it fair that Prof Adei should single out teachers, blame them for the poor performance in basic schools and recommend that they should all be sacked?
It is absolutely not fair and raises questions about the extent to which Prof. Adei respects teachers, particularly those who operate under very trying conditions in disadvantaged basic schools.
Is Prof. Adei suggesting that teachers do not need to be supported to enable them perform their fundamental teaching tasks in the school effectively?
As a former Chairman of the NDPC which has planning at the core of its operations, does he not acknowledge that no matter the effectiveness of a teacher, little achievement can be recorded if the requisite teaching – learning materials, laboratory equipment, predictable academic calendar etc., are absent or less-available in the school system?
If it all starts with a good teacher, then Prof. Adei should be concerned and hold the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service accountable when logistics to support teaching and learning such as approved textbooks; ICT accessories, desks etc are hardly supplied to schools on time and at times reach the schools when the school term is almost ended.
If an ICT teacher teaches a child who has not seen a computer before with improvised materials and the child writes and fails ICT in BECE, why should the child’s failure warrant the sacking of the teacher?
Prof. Adei should be concerned when salaries of newly posted teachers are unnecessarily delayed.
As a former Chairman of the NDPC, he should be concerned about policies such as the wholesale promotion policy which mandates schools to promote pupils to the next grade, irrespective of their performance.
In one breath, Prof. Adei expresses worry about poor supervision of teachers, which I do not contest.
Yet, in another breath, he suggests all teachers must be sacked so that they reapply.
If the problem is supervision, why sack teachers?
Why does he not call for a revolutionary transformed supervision structure?
What difference would it make if all public school teachers are sacked and made to reapply only to work within the same poor supervision structure and unsupportive school environment?
I wish to draw Prof. Adei ’s attention to the fact that unless the school and teacher support system improves, even if government sacks all public school teachers, appoints angels and place them in such poor supervision context, students will still underperform.
He should also remember that revolutionary strategies are premised on fairness.
His proposed revolutionary strategy should, therefore, be underpinned by fairness to basic school teachers and rather target Government that has since 2017 sacrificed quality basic education for its poorly managed free SHS policy and weakened PTA support for schools.
Why should teachers, majority of whom are very hardworking, in spite of restrictive conditions be sacked?
Sacking all teachers and reappointing new ones is definitely not the solution.
Create a supportive teaching environment for teachers and they will surely perform.
The writer is a Professor of Educational Leadership, IEPA, University of Cape Coast