Your ‘Janeducation’: Paying Special Attention to the Early Childhood and Primary Education in Ghana

Prof. Jane Opoku Agyemang Prof. Jane Opoku Agyemang

Dear Professor Nana Jane Opoku-Agyemang,

The above matter refers.

Please accept my warm congratulations on your selection as the vice-presidential running mate to H.E. John Mahama for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Ghana.

During your outdooring ceremony on 27 July 2020 at the University of Professional Studies (UPS), you said as follows:

"In today's turbulent political and economic climate, there are four crucial factors to consider in tackling issues relating to youth and gender."

The second of the four factors which you set out in tackling issues relating to youth and gender is that; …we need meaningful, quality, and comprehensive education that goes beyond the access and responds to the future we can actualize. Thank you for this observation. Thank you for your intention and articulation of the same, in supporting meaningful, quality, and comprehensive education. It would appear to me that, your maiden speech, and for that matter, your pronouncement here, would be the clearly first time, that I have heard the issue of quality and 'meaningfulness' of our education being made frontal in our collective attempt, to provide education to all children in Ghana. The pillar of accessibility has often occupied the prime of place in the scheme of our educational policymaking and implementation. This, having no implication for QUALITY education in our country. To use your own word, the 'Time is Now,' to make these all-important changes to our educational system.

I agree with you on your identification of the needs of our educational sector as they impact on effective teaching and learning, which translates into our children being in positions to make economic contributions to their motherland having left schooling. For many years without end, discussions and debates within the policy cycle and public domains have were pivoted around access to education of our children. It is in my endorsement of your intentions in supporting meaningful, quality, and comprehensive education that goes beyond the access and responds to the future we can actualize that I suggest to you now, to pay particular and special attention to Early Childhood and Primary Education in Ghana.

It is against the background, above, that I place before you a five-point suggestion, for your consideration, into changing the inputs and outcomes of our education, at least, at the basic level, if you were elected into the high office of Vice-President.

Firstly, there is an urgent need to review the current Kindergarten Curriculum for Ghana. Significantly, we write for our children a new and comprehensive Early Childhood Development and Care Framework (ECDCF), which will cover 0-5-year olds, where we truly empower the caregivers to create an ambitious curriculum, out of the framework that the state will provide. Currently, the uninspiring Kindergarten curriculum, which runs into over 231 pages long, only covers 4-5-year olds. It appears more of a lecture note to early childhood facilitators, as opposed to being a framework, within which these facilitators will be empowered to create their own curriculum, depending on the needs, interests, and development of their children. We will have to allow facilitators/teachers, to create their own curriculum, based on the needs and interests of our children, by establishing a baseline at starting from all children and working to improve upon learning outcomes for all children. We need to have a strong supervision system, where all idle staff of the Ghana Education Services are 'turfed out' into the classrooms, to motivate and inspire teaching and learning. We must fashion out a system that is self-improving and that which secures greater outcomes for the majority of our children in the Early Years.

Secondly, we must discontinue immediately, the current practice, where issues of care for 0-3-year olds in Ghana, are entrusted in the hands of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGC&SP). All provisions which cater for children 0-3 years should be brought under the leadership of the Ministry of Education. The Department of Children and the (MGC&SP) has no relevant and useful expertise to deal effectively with issues of education and care for our children under age 3. The life of our under 3-year olds are precious, and their starting in a lifelong study is vitally important that we cannot afford to continue to play 'games' with their survival.

Thirdly, I suggest the creation of the Ghana Children Education and Care Quality Authority (GCECQ) as part of the National Inspectorate Board (NIB). The GCECQ will act and be responsible for accreditations and quality control of all things within the Early Childhood Development and Care sector. With the GCECQ situated and being an integral part of the NIB, this board must be made an independent body, along the lines of the current provisions, which the Auditor General is clothed with under the 1992 Constitution. And, the president must cede his appointing powers to the Public Services Commission, to advertise, select, and appoint the leadership team. Both organizations here must report directly to the Education, Gender, and Children Select Committees of Parliament. It will be good practice for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) as an agency under the Ministry of Education to provide the curriculum framework for the pre-tertiary sector. However, it is poor and ineffective practice, to have the regulator of a curriculum framework, in this case, the NIB, as it currently stands and the GCECQ, as I propose here for your consideration, to work under the supervision of the Minister of Education. This restricts the independence of thought and action by the regulator of basic education in Ghana. It is against this background, supra that I propose a regulator who is composed of consummate professionals, who are answerable to the parliament of Ghana, directly.

Professor vice-presidential running mate, if Ghana is to carve for itself a meaning, quality, and comprehensive education that goes beyond access and equity, then we must pay attention to the foundation stages i.e. pre-school and primary school. We must be deliberate and intentional about what outcomes that we desire for our children and to create the curriculum framework to facilitate this. I therefore propose that all teachers who are trained in Early Childhood Studies, both undergraduate and graduate levels, must be posted only to Day Nurseries; Creches and Kindergartens across the country. The ECDC sector currently has a huge number of unqualified staff. This does not support available literature, which suggests that there is a correlation between staff qualification levels and children achieving higher learning outcomes. We need knowledgeable adults to interact with our children. We must ensure that all graduating teachers from both the colleges of education and the universities are posted directly to work with children.

Finally, but the least, we must have a cap on teacher to pupil ratio at the kindergarten level. I suggest one qualified teacher to fifteen children. And, at the Toddlers and Babies, attending in Creches and Day Nurseries, I suggest one teacher to 4 children. This group are care dependant on their facilitators. Therefore, a small number in the ratio will ensure that children's individual needs are being met and quality supported.

Conclusion

May I assure you that, there is free help to support you towards the successful implementation of each of the policy points suggested here.

I wish you good luck. May the odds be in your favour.

Respectfully.

Komla Zafa Dartey

Source: theheraldghana.com