Poor performance of public schools worrying:The?real cause

For decades, public basic schools have been branded as good-for-nothing institutions because they often produce poor results at the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE). Their teachers are, therefore, held responsible and blamed for the setback.

Some individuals and organisations are adopting measures to keep teachers on their toes.

The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) proposed the setting up of a supervisory body to enhance performance. This association is of the view that strict and regular supervision to monitor academic progress will bring sanity and lasting solutions to the canker. The Salaga North Member of Parliament, Mr Mumuni Alhassan, also feels that using 30 per cent  of  his Common Fund to purchase motorbikes for circuit supervisors will strengthen their monitoring work which will produce the magic wand to solve the problem. Wrong moves

the Agona East District Chief Executive, Mr Martin Luther Obeng, wants teachers in his district to not only sign performance contracts but also get all of them whose schools score zero per cent in the 2014 BECE sacked and in the Brong Ahafo Region, the General Manager of SDA Schools is advocating that non-performing teachers should be ‘thrown out’ of the classroom.

Are we being fair with all these decisions and accusations against teachers in the public schools? Why do students in public schools fail miserably and massively?

Students in junior high schools (JHSs) fail their external examinations for one main reason-they can neither read nor write. To find a solution, we must find out why it is difficult for them to read. Until this is done, we will not be able to find an appropriate solution to the problem.

The handling and teaching of reading skills in our public schools is appalling and seriously flawed. From my personal research and investigations, I have found out that our schools are using some bad policies, ineffective methods, irrelevant readers in Class 1, hence their inability to read and pass their examinations when in JHS 3. Poor Policies

You can use the chorus or apprenticeship methods to help a child to read. And in the olden times, the dictation of long passages, coupled with corporal punishment, also helped pupils read. However, any person taught under these conditions ends up pronouncing a lot of words carelessly.

Let me now give the main reasons teachers find it difficult to help children take off safely in reading from Class 1 in our public schools.

From KG1–P3, a period of five solid years, the GES has asked all teachers in lower primary to use Ghanaian languages as a medium of instruction. Not a single private school has obeyed this order because it is regarded as an awkward concept brought in to stifle the effective teaching of reading and spoken English from KG upwards. And with regards to the textbooks used in schools, the books that are used by P5 pupils in public schools are used by P4 pupils in the private schools.

In Class 1, pupils are supplied with reading books when they do not know a single consonant or vowel sound.  Results

What happens is that the children enjoy talking about the beautiful illustrations in the books but cannot read the words. Receiving these books is the first inconvenient situation that teachers face, and out of frustration, they apply any of the archaic methods as a means to get the children to read. This is a serious blunder in the process of teaching a subject. What than can we do? Help to teachers 

We can help our teachers to do better in public schools.

First, the National Literacy Acceleration Programme (NALAP) must be scrapped and the teaching of reading given equal prominence as any other Ghanaian language is given from KG1. The assertion that one can apply the knowledge acquired during the study of a Ghanaian language when reading in English is an assumption reached on a wrong premise.

To enhance the effective teaching of reading skills, which will help children to read perfectly, we must introduce a programmed learning concept in its teaching from KG1–Class1. This means that all the topics for reading that a child needs in order to read perfectly should be grouped into free programmes.

KG1 pupils should be assisted to learn their programme and progress at their own rate but must show their knowledge of what they have learned  before they are allowed to move on to the next class. Recommendations

We should not allow any sham method during these three years, from KG1–Class1. 

We have a method that blends reading, spelling and pronunciation as one item. There are some remedial methods for poor readers as well. And another one which helps children to develop reading habit.

 I am through this article recommending these three modern techniques to GES to make them available to both practicing teachers and teacher–trainees because they are not privy to them.

If we give teachers these basic important requirements and they continue to score zero percentage points in their various schools, then we shall be justified to demote, sack and withhold promotions or  apply any other form of punishment. However, with the present situation where NALAP, archaic methods, irrelevant reading materials are still hanging on the neck of the teachers, if the GES has nothing new to offer, then let us leave the teachers alone.

Every teacher in JHS1-3 is a witness to this testimony because they always complain that children from the primary section cannot read and write.

They know this fact but do not know why it is a nationwide problem. 

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