One of many sectors which fosters national development is education by ensuring the development of a functional human resource. The institution of strong educational structures results in a culture populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as individuals apply the skills they learned while these were in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual all of us ‘teacher’ ;.Because of this, nations seeking economic and social developments do not need to ignore teachers and their role in national development.
Teachers would be the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines, not merely, the quality of education, but the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves therefore ought to obtain the most effective of education, to allow them to consequently help train students in the most effective of ways. It is known, that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are a number of the most important factors that shape the educational and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of quite high quality, so as to have the ability to properly manage classrooms and facilitate learning. That’s why teacher quality continues to be a matter of concern, even, in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as for example Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of the potential it has to cause positive students’ achievements.
The structure of teacher education keeps changing in nearly all countries in a reaction to the quest of producing teachers who understand the present needs of students or simply the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes just to ensure that classrooms aren’t free from teachers. In the U.S.A, how to advertise high quality teachers has been a problem of contention and, for yesteryear decade roughly, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where there are many teachers than needed, and structures have already been instituted to ensure high quality teachers are produced and employed, issues associated with the teacher and teaching quality continue to be of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is therefore no joke anywhere. This short article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and in the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.
2.0 TEACHER EDUCATION
Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to make quality teachers for her basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the potency of the teaching and learning that continues on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when, University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference involving the programs provided by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine and award certificates for their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition while the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. The training programs provided by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs to be able to ensure quality.
The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. As an example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continue Education, University of Cape Coast and none of both of these programs matches that of the CoEs, though each of them award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after 36 months of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, although not the same. The exact same may be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect even though, same products attract same clients, the preparation of these products are done in different ways.
It is through these many programs that teachers are prepared for the fundamental schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways, or programs whereby teachers are prepared have emerged to be good in situations where you will find shortages of teachers and more teachers should really be trained within a very short time. A normal example could be the UTDBE program, stated earlier, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to make more teachers, due to shortage of teachers, has the tendency of comprising quality.
As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) the factors that subscribe to the problems of teacher education and teacher retention are varied and complex, but one factor that teacher educators are involved about is the choice pathways whereby teacher education occur. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers to the teaching profession. This short-changed the mandatory teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. People who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), in accordance with Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even although students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science and mathematics where you will find usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate checking of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments to get alternative pathways, hold for the choice teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I’ll come to.
When the target is simply to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation is relegated to the background, somehow. Right at the choice stage, the choice pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students were admitted, I could say confidently that entry requirements to the CoEs weren’t adhered to. What was emphasized was that, the applicant should be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service, and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic online maths and english tuition Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect compromised quality.
Despite regular DBE programs, I’ve realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs in, particular, aren’t attracting the candidates with quite high grades. This as I’ve learnt now features a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. The truth is, teacher education programs in Ghana aren’t regarded as prestigious programs and so applicants with high grades don’t choose for education programs. And so nearly all applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates.
This drop in standard could only be caused by CoEs’ try to attract more applicants. The universities too, lower their cut off point for education programs in order attract more candidates. The universities as alleged by Levine (2006) see their teacher education programs, so to state, as cash cows. Their desire to generate income, force them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have inked, to be able to increase their enrollments. The truth that, admission standards are internationally lowered to be able to achieve a target of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a significant challenge to teacher education.
The Japanese have already been able to produce teacher education and teaching prestigious and therefor attract students with high grades. You can argue that in Japan, the way to obtain teachers far exceeds the demand and so authorities aren’t under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all they are able to to choose higher grade student into teacher education programs. To them, the problems associated with the choice of teachers tend to be more important that the problems associated with recruitment. However, in western and African countries the problems associated with recruitment are prime. It is so since the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession is not held in high esteem.
Teacher education programs therefore don’t attract students who have excellent grades. It is worth noting that, it’s not the recruiting procedure only that determines whether or not teacher education is likely to be prestigious, however recruiting candidates with high grades, ensures that after training, teachers will exhibit the 2 characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness. Teacher education can work if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and therefore in a position to attract the most effective of applicants. Otherwise, irrespective of incentives put in place to attract applicants and irrespective of the measures that will be devote place to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve its purpose.