Following the confusion that rocked the Ghana Education Service (GES) over lack of textbooks long after a new curriculum framework has been launched for basic schools, the Ghana Education Service has been on a face-saving exercise. Unable to answer to queries on the future of school children who would soon end their first term without textbooks, raising fears of how they would be examined at the end of the term, officials in the education chain have sought to portray that there would be no examination exercise for the first term due to the lack of logistics.
In a statement issued earlier today, the academician and Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee of Parliament who doubles as Member of Parliament for Builsa South, Dr. Clement Apaak, bemoans a worrying situation in the current state of basic education in the manner people charged with responsibility are failing in their duties.
He expressed worry over the unavailability of the requisite logistics to enable a free running of the academic calendar following the introduction of a new curriculum.
Read full statement below:
STATEMENT: NO TEXTBOOKS, NO EXAMS - NEW CURRICULUM FOR BASIC SCHOOLS AND MATTERS ARISING
For purposes of clarity, in April 2019, the Ghana Education Service (GES) launched a new curriculum for Basic Schools, covering KG to Primary Six, which the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NaCCA, christened ‘Standard Based’. The curriculum took effect from September 10th, 2019. A key feature of this curriculum, according to the GES, is a National Assessment Framework for classes two, four and six. More than seven months after the launch of the new curriculum, and almost getting to the end of the first term of the academic year for Basic Schools however, many questions continue to beg for answers from the Managers of our educational system.
The utterances of, and responses from, the officials of NaCCA, GES and its supervising Ministry, have set the whole nation wondering whether the managers of Ghana's educational system have the competence to handle issues effectively. Textbooks, teacher's guide and other learning materials are yet to be printed and distributed to Basic Schools, a matter I raised in reply to a statement by NaCCA indicating that it is yet to approve textbooks based on the new curriculum.
In response to my questions on behalf of parents and pupils, who are crying for textbooks based on the new curriculum, the Minister of Education, Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, was quoted to have said textbooks were not the most important thing in teaching. The PRO of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Vincent Ekow Assafuah, told the nation that the Ministry could not give any specific timelines on when the textbooks will be ready. Deputy Minister of Education Dr. Yaw Adutwum also declared that per international best practices, there is always a gap between a new curriculum and printing of textbooks. To Dr. Adutwum, textbooks cannot be considered at the same time that a new curriculum is being considered. Which international best practice is Dr Adutwum referring to?
The NaCCA, the agency that has the responsibility of approving books for use, through its Executive Secretary, Dr. Prince Hamid Armah urged teachers to use resource packs as they continue to wait for the textbooks. Till when? Till thy kingdom come? NaCCA further says there will be no examination at the end of the current term, according to Director In-Charge of Curriculum and Resource Development, Alhaji Seidu Mahama. The importance of textbooks and the no examination at the end of the current term deserve further probing.
IMPORTANCE OF TEXTBOOKS AND OTHER LEARNING MATERIALS - It is a fact that quality education delivery does not only hinge on qualified teachers. Most importantly, it is hinged on timely availability of relevant textbooks, teacher's guide and other supporting teaching and learning materials in schools. A curriculum or syllabus, among other things, only outlines the topics to be covered in an integrated and coherent learning experience. It includes the objectives, content, suggested teaching methodologies, and methods of assessment or evaluation among other things. It is not, and cannot be, a substitute for a textbook.
Textbooks support a curriculum by providing a standard framework for a systematic and an integrated study of a particular subject in a curriculum. A textbook is thus a guide that helps pupils and their teachers to organize their learning activities effectively. For the pupil then, textbooks are the most important sources of contact they have with the subject. It is the student's best friend when he goes home after classes and on vacation.
And for the teacher, textbooks help to guide the teaching and learning of pupils in a specific subject. No teacher is a moving encyclopaedia, no matter how qualified and knowledgeable he/she is. Consequently, textbooks play a fundamental role in supplementing a teacher's knowledge. A textbook also has some relevant sample questions and exercises that draw the pupil's attention to important details in the curriculum.
A teacher's guide explains some key issues and may contain explanations to answers in the pupil's textbook. Therefore, the continued absence of these relevant materials till date after the Government rushed to launch a new curriculum is worrying. Government's insistence that it can't give Ghanaians any timeline that the textbooks will be ready is condemnable.
Truth is that the President of the Ghana Book Publishers Association agrees with the general Ghanaian public that "next for an engaged and prepared teacher is a good and well-designed textbook" and that the delay in printing the textbooks "would impact negatively on academic work."
Is it not therefore scandalous that a Minister of Education thinks that textbooks are not so important in quality teaching and learning? This claim of the Minister is untenable. Precisely because textbooks are key and the absence of the relevant textbooks, is what has resulted in some publishers flooding the market with unapproved textbooks purported to have been written based on the new curriculum. NaCCA and GES should note that issuing a disclaimer and telling Directors and Heads of Basic Schools not to patronise these books cannot provide the solution to the problem. It is a cardinal principle that if the desirable is not available, the available becomes desirable.
As I asked before and will ask again, which standard is the new standard based curriculum seeking? That of individual teachers? There are many concepts that the academic community doesn't have consensus on. Absence of textbooks means teachers and school heads could have multiple meanings and definitions for a concept while the examining body may require a specific one. Must the pupil be faulted for not giving the standard definition or explanation demanded by the examining body while there is no standard reference book? Even if teachers have packages to guide them, what of the pupils? It must be emphasized that textbooks are meant for the pupils too, not only teachers.
NO END OF TERM EXAMINATIONS FOR BASIC SCHOOLS - As expected, most Basic Schools are feverishly preparing towards end of first term examinations come December 2019. However, conscious of the confusions that will arise if examinations should be conducted in Basic Schools within these horrible conditions, the NaCCA Director in Charge of Curriculum and Resource Development, Alhaji Seidu Mahama, told the Ghanaian Times Newspaper on Wednesday November 13th, 2019 (story published on 15th November 2019 online) that there would be no examination this first term. According to him, NaCCA was frantically working around the clock to come out with a National Assessment Framework, which will be implemented next year (2020). He further noted that teachers are yet to be trained next term on Assessment, and that "Assessment Banks" will be created next term for teachers to access.
Why must the people of Ghana tolerate this level confusion? Many questions beg for answers: a) how can examinations be conducted based on a new curriculum anyway, when teachers and pupils don't have textbooks seven months after the launch of a new curriculum? b) How can examinations be conducted when NaCCA is yet to train teachers on Assessment, many months after out dooring a new curriculum? c) How can examinations be held when NaCCA claims it is yet to create Assessment Banks for teachers to access? c) How can the schools conduct their examinations when they have not received their capitation grants for the term; indeed when capitation grants are even in arrears for last academic year?
In conclusion, Ghanaians should be worried about the mismanagement of our basic education. With the infrastructural deficit already hampering quality delivery in our Basic Schools. The lack of textbooks to support the new curriculum, the nonexistence of an assessment system, and consequently, no examination, will no doubt erode whatever little hope Ghanaians have in the public Basic Schools. The people of Ghana deserve better.
Dr. Clement Abas Apaak
M.P Builsa South and Deputy Ranking Member, Committee on Education