Thoughts on Improving Education in Ghana
After skyping with the founder of an NGO which provides libraries and Ghanaian children novels in Ghana (I forgot the name of the NGO but I believe Kathy Knowles is the name of the founder) and learning more about the history of formal education in Ghana, I became to reflect a lot about what could be done to improve the education system in Ghana. According to Ms. Knowles, literacy is a problem in Ghana because reading is not seen as a leisurable activity, and is only associated with academic work. Moreover, education there is based upon repetition and memorizatioon, thus school can be very boring and dry to students. Also, students are constantly anxious about being graded since the whole curriculum and attitude of the teachers is based upon doing well on the exams. Additionally, I personally feel that such a system does not cultivate appreciation for the art of learning. We've virtually discussed (via twitter) the importance of making mistakes for one's learning and education. However, such a system in Ghana appears to leave no room for mistakes, or creativity for that matter. These aspects along with many others compose Ghana's education system and consequently do not appear to be conducive towards a positive, fun, and interesting learning atmosphere for students (or the teachers).
Moreover, as I think about the teaching methods used in the classrooms I can't help but wonder if those methods were the result of colonialism (i.e. repetition, memorization, the culture of test-taking). And now post-colonialism if those teacher methods have continued to be used in the classroom. Furthermore, thinking back to Freire's "The Adult Literacy Process as Cultural Action for Freedom" article, I question the attitude and methods of teachers. Concerning adult literacy, Freire states how education must be dialectic, "authentic dialogue between learners and educators as equally knowing subjects" (p.7). Thus, should this model also be implemented with the education of children? Should education be less focused on memorization and more on dialogue? Freire seems to emphasize the importance of dialogue in education: "the first type of educator [...] is a knowing subject, face to face with other knowing subjects. He can never be a mere memorizer, but rather a person constantly readjusting his knowledge, who calls forth knowledge from his students. For him, education is a pedagogy of knowing. The educator whose approach is mere memorization is anti-dialogic" (p.10). From personal (though limited) experience from teaching in China this past summer, I found that Freire's words really rang true for me. The teachers I taught spoke about how rote memorization and repetition did not do anything for their students' interests, except lose them. In fact, the teachers themselves admitted how they hated rote repetition and memorization. Thus from dialoging with them and adapting to their comments, I found way to make learning more interesting and effective for them as well as making teaching them more enjoyable. Furthermore, this dialogue aspect brings out an important point that it puts both teacher and students on the same level, and acknowledges everyone and their thoughts as significant. In doing so, dialogue (and thus learning) is further encouraged. Therefore, I wonder if the superior teacher- inferior student hierarchy is it the result of post-colonialism or African hierarchal culture?
Overall, through asking myself these questions I ultimately hope to answer the question: What can be done to improve the education system in Ghana? Again from my experience this past summer, I feel that changes in education can be brought about most effectively by empowering the teachers, which in turn influence their students. Thus I wonder what could be done to help teachers in Ghana be more effective in the classroom. In hopes of finding more answers to these questions I will continue to mull over these questions, reflect upon my teaching and learning experiences, and dialogue with others.