Improving mathematics and science education in Ghana

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

Mathematics and science education is an important feature of our education. It has a high place value in our scheme of things as a nation. It fits to be tagged as our heart and soul. An ex-minister of state, late Mrs. Gladys Asmah or so, at a Science Mathematics and Technology Education (STME) Clinic for students some time ago in Accra also said, “There is the need to step up education in science and technology as it is the key that propels economic development”.
Governments, over the years, have played various roles in their bids to promote mathematics and science education. The Ghana Education Service (GES) superintends over the teaching and learning of academic disciplines, including mathematics and science. Students are helped to appreciate and apply knowledge in arithmetic, literacy, numeracy and science to life.
It would sound odd for a write-up of this outlook to be composed without mentioning the Science, Technology and Mathematics Education (STME) programme. STME seeks to imbibe in the child the skills of innovation, creativity and imagination for better life. The GES partners organisations like the US Embassy (Ghana), British Council and Vodafone Ghana Foundation to run it. Even Ms. Abigail Buerkour Mortey of Adonten Senior High School won the African Best STME Student Awards in 2014. She used a local plant mixed with shea butter to drive away mosquitoes.
The Global Information Technology Report (2014) of the World Economic Forum put Ghana in the third position in Africa for making relatively much more impressive strides in mathematics and science education than its other contemporaries. The GES strives to equip the teacher with resources for enhanced performance of students.
Accra hosted a workshop for some 150 teachers recently. It had the theme, “Revamping Mathematics Education in Ghana through Transformation” and the Minister of Education, Prof Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang was there in person, I am told. Records say she named poor teaching methodology, inadequate instructional materials, low understanding of test items, inadequate coverage of syllabus and poor communication skills as some reasons for low performance of students in subjects like mathematics and science.
Last week’s 2-day retreat for district chief executives, district directors of education and heads of some 500 low-performing public and private senior high schools at Kumasi had a water-tight review of students’ performance in various disciplines, with focus on mathematics and science. Views were espoused on the way forward for the nation. Tasty presentations on school management, curriculum implementation and test administration were made by distinguished educationists and academics. The Minister of Education and her Deputy for Pre-tertiary Education, Mr. Alex Kyeremeh, were there. She asserted, “Assessment of WASSCE results reveal that the proportion of students who qualify for tertiary education increased from 10.58% in 2007 and peaked at 31.19% in 2012. Although general performance has improved, performance in mathematics and science has been poor.” Education Ministry’s Chief Director Enoch Cobbinah and GES Director-General Jacob Kor with his deputies, divisional directors, regional directors and unit heads were around in their numbers. I also sat in as a public relations officer and a rapporteur for the GES. Assorted books and instructional materials were distributed to the school heads for use by teachers and students. The prayer is for all the resolutions to be executed to meet their targets.
The Department for International Development (DFID), USAID, UNICEF, Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), World Food Programme, African Development Bank, Germany (KfW and GIZ) and DANIDA, through packages like the Ghana Partnership for Education Grant and the Ghana Skills and Technology Development Project, are also helping to improve mathematics and science education. Many institutions benefit from their support.
Checks at the Secondary Education Division of the GES say the Science Resource Centre Project, aimed at equipping schools with modern laboratories and equipment for effective teaching and learning of science, has been extended to 300 schools so far. It has also emerged that some 150 technicians have been trained to manage the laboratories. They have also informed that 1,000 special mathematics and science teachers have been re-trained.
The Education Reforms launched in June 2007 requested the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for teaching all subjects, including mathematics and science. In its ICT for Accelerated Development Policy (ICT4AD, 2003), Ghana desires to transform itself into a rich technology-driven economy. The ICT in Education programme, Ghana e-Transform Teacher Professional Development programme and Senior High School ICT Connectivity Project of the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP) provide teachers with pedagogical skills and competencies in the use of ICT for school and classroom work.
This article appreciates that the Ghana e-Transform Teacher Professional Development programme seeks to serve over 200 senior high schools, 14,000 teachers and 200 heads of schools nationwide. The Ghana Pilot Initiative of the Senior High School ICT Connectivity Project (2012–2013) implements teacher ICT competencies from the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT). It stresses on ICT in professional teaching and learning of Mathematics English and Integrated Science (MEIS).
No nation must stay aloof as students perform abysmally in school disciplines like mathematics and science. But listen to Prof J.N. Opoku-Agyemang, “Regrettably, our interactions with senior high school heads reveal that some of them do not fully appreciate their responsibility towards performance of their students. They see annual failure of their students in WASSCE as normal”, adding, “We wonder why a head-from a public or private institution-that superintends over failure rate of 90% and above is allowed to continue operations without accounting to the GES and the public.” The views and support of all of us are needed to change things for the better.

The writer is an educationist and a public relations officer at the Headquarters of the Ghana Education Service.


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