Open letter to Education Minister, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum
Minister, as much as I think your heart is in the right place and you care about Ghana, I usually listen to you in dismay.
The policies that may have worked in America will not necessarily work in Ghana. The terrain is very different and not everything in the US is wonderful.
We need to fashion out policies that would work for Ghana by looking at best practices.
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) provides reliable and timely trend data on the mathematics and science achievement of U.S. and in 2019 these were the striking Statistics showing the poor STEM Performance in U.S. schools.
About 75 per cent of U.S. students fail to become proficient in math by grade 8.
More than 75 per cent of U.S. students are behind in math by grade 12.
Only 10 per cent of U.S. 8th graders reach the advanced science level on the international TIMSS exam.
By contrast, 25 per cent of 8th graders in China and 32 per cent of 8th graders in Singapore reach the advanced science level on the TIMSS
According to Steffen Carter, in 2021 the countries which had the smartest mathematics students were: Singapore, Australia, Russia, Iran, Japan, China, and India.
Recently I saw a video that listed the 10 Best Countries in Africa with a Good Education System.
Instinctively, I was sure Ghana would be there. Imagine my disappointment when the rankings were revealed as: Seychelles, Tunisia, Mauritius, South Africa, Algeria, Botswana, Kenya, Cape Verde, Egypt and Namibia.
Where was Ghana? Ghana was number 12! How? Ghana, the country whose teachers helped to build the human resource of other countries, including Botswana?
Minister, why on earth do you want to construct 35 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Senior High Schools (SHS) and five STEM-based universities in five of the new regions?
This was reported in the media on December 13, 2021.
The last time I checked, Ghana was in financial crisis. If, by the grace of God, you have been given a large amount of money, please make sure that all children in all schools have a sound grounding in science.
Why would you want to build a few STEM schools starting from kindergarten? This is what I call STEM apartheid.
Only a few children in Ghana will benefit. What about children in rural schools? Some of them are still studying under trees or in dilapidated buildings.
All children need to have science to be a core part of their elementary education.
Minister, please focus on making sure that all science laboratories in basic and secondary schools, as well as in the universities are well equipped. The important thing is to make sure that there is a science acculturation in Ghana.
The National Science and Mathematics Quiz is doing a fantastic job in encouraging attention to science.
Note that all the schools are competing on a level playing field. Prempeh College beat Presbyterian Boys Secondary which is a STEM school, though they have admittedly been doing well over the years.
My call is for all schools to be given equal opportunity in STEM. While at it, be kind enough not to forget to push TVET. No more rhetoric.
Meanwhile, why don’t you finish the E schools and, possibly, add boarding facilities?
With all the money you seem to have, please build 10 Engineering Research Centres (ERC) in all the technical universities.
The principal purpose of the Engineering Research Centre is to link academic engineering research and education to engineering practice.
The link to engineering practice cannot be forged without the active intellectual involvement of industry.
Each of the 10 could specialise in a particular engineering field. You can do this in collaboration with the Faculties of Engineering in the various universities, Field Engineers Regiment, Ghana Institution of Engineers, CSIRBuilding and Road Research Institute, Food Research Institute, Water Research Institute and Industrial Research Institute as well as, GRATIS, the Association of Ghana Industries and the Private Enterprises Foundation.
In Kumasi, the existing link between KNUST and Suame could be strengthened.
Minister, I see you realize that you need teachers to facilitate learning in the classroom.
Have you trained enough STEM teachers to see all your ideas through? If you have, make sure you pay them well.
The teachers in the system need to be given refresher courses as we are in the era of artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology and Nano technology.
You do not adequately consult when you come out with your new policies. It would be good for the ministry to share the policy document on your new ideas on STEM education.
You will have a rich source of information if you do proper stakeholder consultation and you involve the teacher unions, parents, retired teachers, and Directors of Education as well as Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the universities.
There is also a Consortium of Retired Directors of Education (C.O.R.D.E) made up of all retired Regional Directors as well as metro/ municipal/district directors who should be consulted?
Minister, I wonder if you have visited any of the CSIR institutions. You should. Please did you know in certain regions I know there is a vibrant one in the Western Region, and they have made a lot of suggestions to the GES?
Sometimes I think you feel Ghana is your laboratory for you to try out your ideas. It is not and some of your policies have far-reaching consequences.
I worry about the future of the young people of Ghana, and especially for my grandchildren.
They are not being trained to be competitive; after all, the system does not even encourage exams.
Now standardised tests are done which do not involve all children.
Children who go to the private schools have been conspicuously left out.
You see, private schools have played a pivotal role in education in Ghana, but sometimes it seems you and GES are waging a silent war against them.
Please constructively work with them.
The GES should revise its attitude towards PTAs. If they want to pay dues, let them. You cannot do it all.
Finally, minister, with my observation and investigations, I have some information to share with you:
1. Mathematics and Science should be taught by specialists at the basic school level.
2. Over centralisation and micromanagement is seriously killing local initiatives in the educational sector.
It has rendered MMDCEs impotent in carrying out localised educational programmes. There is a reason why District Directors and Regional
Directors of Education are in place. Why does the GES not work through
3. Head teachers should be given enough authority to decide the kind of teachers they want with the approval of District Education Offices.
MOE and GES should reverse the current centralised recruitment system where recruited personnel are posted from headquarters.
It does not help local qualified people who may not have a problem with accommodation
There is an Akan saying that one does not know the path behind a person is crooked till they are told.
Mr Minister, the path behind you is very crooked.
I am writing this piece because I was trained as a teacher before I became a research scientist and I care about the direction STEM education is going in Ghana.
Prof. Rose Emma Mamaa Enstua-Mensah, FGA. Former Deputy-Director General, CSIR (2008-2018)