The archaic academic curriculum in Ghana and the need for a review

Education is considered as one of the major tools for eradicating poverty and preventing Ignorance among citizens. As a result, many governments across the world devote a lot of resources into the education sector. Indeed, Nelson Mandela rightly pointed out the importance of education when he said, “education is the most powerful tool that can be used to change the world.”

“A curriculum is considered the ‘heart’ of any learning institution which means that schools cannot exist without a curriculum. With its importance in formal education, the curriculum has to be dynamic due to the changes that occur in our society.”

It is sad to note that the academic curriculum in Ghana’s educational institutions – nursery, primary, secondary, and tertiary is outdated. They were passed down by our colonial masters, Britain more than 60 years ago. What is news is that civilisation, development, and innovation have left it behind.

Most worrisome is the tenacity with which the education regulatory bodies in Ghana, notably West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Accreditation Board (NAB), Council For Technical And Vocational Training (COTVET), The National Board For Professional And Technician Examinations (NABPTEX), National Council For Tertiary Education (NCTE), Ghana Library Authority (GLA), and Ghana Academy of Art and Science are pushing for a holistic usage and application of these “not-fit-for-purpose and outdated” contents that neither serve the society any longer nor the business world and that have been implemented for decades on end. Other economies including Britain have since moved on to improve their curriculum with current and practical contents which have ensured the production of innovative and highly creative graduates.

Back here in Ghana, there is an over-reliance on paper qualification as opposed to the skills and can-do attitude of an individual. This then means that the knowledge passed across to students can be tantamount to a waste of time and resources because knowledge attained through an obsolete or archaic curriculum is neither valued in the current dispensation of organisational development nor capable of preparing these learners for future challenges or tasks.

Ghana’s underdevelopment has often been linked to lack of investment in human development and problems associated with educational reforms, which is churning out graduates into the 21st-century knowledge economy which sees practicality of acquired knowledge as the utmost form of learning than other forms of economy which intensely focus on abstract knowledge acquisition. Like many developing countries, Ghana faces threatening educational challenges and there is no will within the political class to address them.

Most employees in Ghana have expressed concern over the inability of the Ghanaian school curriculum to meet up with the changing requirements of the 21st Century contemporary job market. Some of the skills required to create jobs or stay relevant globally are not being taught in higher institutions, Take, for instance, industry like animation or artificial intelligent can absorb a lot of unemployed youths if they are skilled in that area. But tell me how many higher institutions in Ghana are offering courses in that area? Our school system is not responding to some of these challenges. We need to challenge ourselves as a nation and people

The question is: how do we develop an educational curriculum that will pragmatically identify how to improve the Ghanaian student in the Ghanaian society and prepare them for the organizations of tomorrow? Two challenges are evident in this regard, first is the issue of out-dated curriculum, and the second is centred on the knowledge of those who impart the curriculum contents to the next generation of learners. The role of education in nation-building is considered pivotal with the potential of leading individuals to understand themselves and the world around them.

Being exposed to quality education improves social interactions, interpersonal relationships, quality of life and patriotic tendencies that individuals possess which has been found to be related to national development. It is evident that a developed country is a reflection of the human capital development which can only be achieved through proper levels of education measured in qualitative terms.

Ghanaian education regulators ensure that all institutions strictly comply and teach waning and archaic curriculum contents, unfortunately, this suppresses the cognitive growth of the nation’s future leaders who are required to think outside the boxes. Emphases are centred more on the acquisition of abstract terms and not on the significant impacts of the content on students’ ability to apply the terms in problematic situations.

The outdated curriculum has made it difficult for these graduates to be employable and therefore requires that they are retrained to fit into various organizations. Unfortunately, these graduates feel otherwise as they see themselves as fit for the highest positions in society. Renowned Ghanaian educationist, Anis Haffar, once stated that Ghanaian graduates feel they are too educated to be farmers but are actually not literate enough to be office clerks. This age-long assertion resonates with the trouble of many school leavers in Ghana.

These school leavers believe that well-polished office space is their destination after their sojourn in their various educational institutions but unfortunately, the practical ingredients to make them fit for these offices are lacking in the curriculum they have been subjected to for the number of years spent studying. No wonder there are millions of job seekers instead of job creators. The turn of events, occasioned by the harsh global economic climate requires that this pattern of thoughts be revisited.

To curb the growing graduate unemployment in the country the school curriculum ought to be reshaped to cater for the needs of the Ghanaian community. Numeracy and literacy, science and technology, visual arts and performing arts, social studies and vocational studies must all be given respectable emphasis in the development of the school curriculum. Our communities are undergoing radical changes as technology advances. Colleges and universities ought to acknowledge such changes and make what students are taught in these formal institutions of learning more relevant to the needs of the community.

The Ghanaian educational system requires urgent revalidation and standardization in the light of the changing global tides. Let us take a cursory look into three important educational constructs and put them into consideration. How are Ghanaian schools funded? How are the teachers trained? And what is the content of the curriculum being dished out to these learners in their various classrooms? These questions, if ever answered, will expose the dubious processes and the amount of lip service Ghanaian leaders pay to issues of national importance.

It is important to review the current academic curricula in order to synthesize the data with the quality of teaching and learning in public and private schools in the nation. Also, examining and contrasting the curricula in terms of its standards and outcomes with those in advanced countries (such as the USA, UK, Norway, China, etc.) will assist one to see the level of potency it has in the international market.

However, because knowledge is dynamic as it constantly changes with the coming on board of new truths in the ever-changing universe, policymakers should always be privy to any shift in expectation, so that what is considered as knowledge remains relevant to societal needs. Relevance is our big challenge now: The greatest challenge we face today is relevance. Our students require a curriculum that provides them with meaningful experiences, that engenders deep and significant learning. I

t has to be relevant and responsive to the age in which we live. In other words, it must educate for life. This reminds me of a statement made by a teacher. He said that “technology keeps on changing how we live, learn and work. And that, the only possession we have that keeps us going is our potentials. Students, therefore, have to take opportunities for new learning initiatives and improve upon what they have already”. The job market keeps on changing, what students learn at school should, therefore, be geared towards preparing them for the needs of the community. This is an urgent call for a dynamic and relevant curriculum.

Furthermore, the admission standards for course requirements need to be enhanced in order to decide whether the requirements are capable of determining the level of futuristic impacts on the academic excellence of the students and their relevance. Current events in the global arena, especially the shift in technological paradigms to new constructs such as artificial intelligence, robotics engineering and different emerging concepts and terms in various fields are factors to be considered in redesigning befitting new school curricula for Ghanaian institutions. It is important to consider societal trends to ensure that the relevance of knowledge acquired in institutions are equated with real and practical applications, as there is need to showcase the applications of the acquired theory in the industries when students graduate and are conferred with degrees.

Therefore, in accordance with global best practices, there is need for the holistic overhaul of the curriculum in terms of educational practices, entrance routes to different courses of study, credential requirements in relation to the learning objectives and outcomes, options of continued training, codes of teaching and the evaluation of the teaching requirements for faculty, tutors or teachers. All these must be tailored towards ensuring that students attain mastery of the subject matter being taught and not the usual rote learning system. The step by step process will involve defining the educational challenges in the Ghanaian system and then evaluating the different options available to amend these challenges in line with doable alternatives.

Lastly, proposals for curricula evaluations should be initiated to increase education methodological quality in order to improve curricula implementation. Emphasis on scientifically valid research should be encouraged and potential funding from government and private bodies should be initiated to ensure that there are improvements in all aspects of the nation’s economy for a better quality of life for citizens. It is expected that the above will de-emphasize the harmful desire for paper certificate acquisitions without the proportionate acquisition of practical knowledge.

Education with a quality curriculum is the foundation on which a quality country will thrive and stand shoulder to shoulder with other countries.

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