The falling standard in teacher education, a national security threat

“The quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms cannot exceed the quality of the teacher” South Korea Official

“There is no worse mistake in public leadership than to hold out hopes soon to be swept away” Winston Churchill.

This simple statement communicates a profound truth, and masks considerable complexity.

A great institute is one that delivers great results and makes distinctive impact over a long period of time.

How effectively have our colleges of education delivered on their mission?

What distinctive impart relative to their resources have they made?

The security of any country is directly linked to its economic development. (That is an improvement in the lives of people, manifested by positive changes in the level and distribution of employment)

The state of economic development in any country is equal to its educational development, and the level of educational development is equal to the quality of its teachers.

Hence the level of a nation’s economic development is equal to the quality of teachers.

1. The widespread failure of trainee teachers in our colleges of education is a national disaster.

2. The out of control failures in BECE over the years, especially students in the deprived community public basic schools, is not only a disincentive to schooling but also a recipe for national turmoil if not immediately checked.

Because, these frustrated pupils/students could manifest their frustration in different hostile ways.

As a nation we are sitting on a time bomb waiting to explode. Also it is a volcano waiting to erupt and a waiting tsunami.

There is a saying that the devil finds work for the idle hands. Our country is enjoying some level of peace and stability which needs to be guarded very jealously.

Of all the work that occurs at every level of teaching and learning in our classrooms, the interaction between pupil and teacher is the key determinant of the pupils’ success.

Research shows that pupils who have effective teachers for several years in a row will be on the path of success and growth, while a pupil taught by a succession of less effective teachers may experience lasting academic challenges. (Hanushek, 2009; Sanders and Rivers, 1996).

Indeed, access to education of poor quality is tantamount to no education at all. There is little point in providing the opportunity for a child to enroll in school if the quality of teaching and learning is so poor that the child will not become literate or numerate or will fail to acquire critical life skills. (MDG 2 and EFA Goals)

Around the world, the most vibrant and stable economies draw their strength from a well educated and highly skilled citizenry.

This should serve as a reminder that teaching, the nation’s most valuable profession, is vital to our continued well-being and civil stability.

More than 72 million children do not go to primary school worldwide. This figure includes poor rural children, children of uneducated mothers, children with disabilities, children who live in fragile and conflict affected places.

In Ghana over 1.5 million children are out of school.

But these numbers mask an even deeper problem:
• That of unacceptably low levels of learning and irregular attendance by pupils and teachers.
• And even for those children who do make it to school, there are limited opportunities to go beyond primary education or to develop the relevant skills for future employment.
• This is not only a tragedy; it is a disaster for development. The costs of wasted talent are beyond measure.
• About forty million (40 million) “out of school” children live in fragile and conflict areas; between 200,000 –300,000, child soldiers have no prospect of schooling.
• A study of One Hundred and Sixty Countries (160) shows that the right in education can lower the potential of civil conflict.
• A World Bank Study of Civil Conflicts since 1960 concluded that a “country that has ten percentage (10%) points more of its youth in schools- say 55% instead of 45%- cuts its risk of conflict from 14% to around 10%.
• In Sierra Leone, studies have found that “the youth combatants of all the factions, represents themselves as victims of educational collapse. Lack of educational opportunity was commonly cited by ex-combatants as the reason of joining the war.(world bank)

It is time to confront the brutal fact; to succeed in providing the quality teaching the pupils need and deserve, the nation must devise a way to recruit and retain the over One hundred thousand high quality teachers needed in the next decade.

This requires a series of intrepid steps, none of which is easy. The nation needs to convince itself that all are necessary and must be implemented as an integrated whole to achieve real change.

These are focused on making improvements in three areas that continue to undermine the professionalism of teaching.

At a minimum, most professions are characterized by some performance-based compensation, a clear set of skills for entry, and extensive opportunities for mentoring and professional growth. Yet all three components are missing in teaching—to the detriment of teachers and ultimately their pupils.

It is time to raise the bar for teachers.
1. Get The Best Students (Third +)
It is simply not possible for our pupils to graduate from our schools with very strong mathematical reasoning skills, a sound conceptual grasp of science, strong writing skills, world-beating capacity for creativity and innovation, and everything else we desire, unless their teachers have the knowledge and skills we want our children to have.

Many of our teachers are superb. But we have for a long time gotten better teachers than we deserved because of the limited opportunities in our workforce.

Those opportunities are far wider now, and we are left with the reality that we are now recruiting more of our teachers from the bottom third of the Senior High School students going to college than is wise. To succeed, we must recruit many more from the top third plus.

2. Get The Best Out Of The Teachers
This requires sufficient initial preparation and continuous professional development, including flexible, in-service training to impart effective, practical teaching skills that teachers can put immediately into practice.

Countries with high-performing education systems have teacher-education programs that focus less on the theoretical and more on preparing professionals in clinical settings, in which they receive ongoing support throughout the teaching process.

Training should be linked to school curricula; emphasize learner-centered, participatory methods of teaching; and focus on specific skills that match students’ needs, such as reading.

3. Teacher Support and Motivation
Teachers must also be motivated to show up for class and to provide a high-quality education for their students. Incentives will vary depending on location and community as well as gender. Often it is as simple as showing teachers respect and appreciation for their efforts. In some communities, motivating teachers might require raising their status in the community, reducing class size, providing continuous training and professional career paths, or increasing compensation.

Granting teachers greater autonomy and control over their classrooms and working conditions also has helped to raise the status of the teaching profession.

4. Build Effective Assessment Linked To Teaching and Learning
We cannot improve what we do not know. Simple low-cost assessment systems are needed that provide regular information at individual, school, and system levels. Empirical research shows the benefits of assessments, when used correctly, on student learning. Assessment systems are made up of different types of activities that serve multiple purposes: classroom assessments (primarily continuous or formative in nature) that provide real-time information to support teaching and learning in classrooms; examinations (primarily summative and high-stakes in nature) to make decisions about a pupil’s progress through the education system at distinct decision points; and large-scale, system-level assessments for providing policy and programmatic information n overall performance levels in the system. Measuring learning should be done in a smart way that generates timely, useful information for policy, planning and classroom purposes but does not structure education around testing.

As pupils write the BECE, what is the expectation of the nation?

Quality Teaching is not a matter of circumstance, rather is it a conscious choice and discipline

Ken Kpodo
Chief Volunteer Officer
Intellekt Ghana
Kpodo/[email protected] 

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