In facebook live address ahead of the 2020 elections on December 23, 2019, the former President and the current candidate of the largest opposition party in Ghana, the NDC, John Dramani Mahama is reported to have said: ” I will abolish teacher licensing examination”.
In the context of the nature of training of teachers in Ghana, I strongly hold the position that this makes policy sense but is it not political too?
In terms of the policy, the teacher training system in Ghana has been designed in a manner that is rigorous enough to license teachers after training.
Considering all professional ethos and academic requirements these college of education are immense in, one will wonder what informs the earlier policy position or the creating of the licensing regime as a professional ethos for teachers in Ghana as captured in the Ghana Education Act of 2008(Act 778)
Two things came up. The government claimed they were seeking to legitimise the Ghana Education Act of 2008, which explicitly states teacher licensing as part of teacher professionalism and qualification to teach.
It must be noted that at the time of implementing this policy, the Act has been sleeping and snoring at the National Teaching Council and The Ministry of Education for close to a decade.
The policy context and the need to professionalise the teacher is laudable. However, the Act seems as those laws beautifully “cut and paste” from the west as probably retribution for another grant and therefore was not well thought through—a dent on the best come from the west.
The political actors of the day while performing a legitimate responsibility by giving meaning to the Act, received a lot of backlash and reaction from the teacher trainees and some sections of the public.
Of the reasons given, what stands out is the stress they have gone through studying all the academic modules and satisfying all the requirements of a professional teacher in Ghana and are still required to meet this standard.
The umbrella teacher association was reported to have said, however, that teacher licensing is prudent for any civilised country.
To some extent, I agree but the question still quizzes, have we thought through this policy or Act carefully or we hurriedly passed it to achieve some aims?
The evidence of many unintended consequences was rife in the outcomes of the licensing examination. Of the candidates who wrote the exams about 26 per cent were reported to have failed.
While this brings into question what quality of training we are giving the teachers we are training, it also sets the teacher at a level mistrust from the public especially in public schools in Ghana.
It is important that at this point, the trainees raised questions about inadequate time to prepare and the fact that the National Teaching Council was behaving a like a lawyer hiding evidence to pull a surprise in court on other parties— the element of surprise as the lawyers will copiously quote.
It was also reported that the cost of paying for the licence examination was also challenging to the trainees: each trainee was to pay GH220.00 for registration.
The NTC was also accused of not delimiting the scope of the examination. Many protested but the examination came off.
In all these, the government’s agenda is to legitimise the continued professionalisation of teachers. As Former Prime Minister David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg aptly put in their joint foreword of 2010 white paper on the ” Importance of Teaching in the UK,” ” The first and most important lesson is that no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers”.
They further stated that every government must work towards recruiting the best as in done in South Korea, Norway and Finland.
These countries recruit top 5 per cent of graduates to teach as in South Korea and top 10 per cent as done in Finland. But was teacher licensing the best answer to teacher quality considering the way and manner in which it was carried out?
The current government I supposed hurriedly want to achieve some aims. Many speculated the policy interest was as a result of the government’s inability to sustain the public wage bill, and resorting to an artificial mechanism such as teacher licensing the other cojoined twins— newly trained teachers being enrolled into the mandatory national service for a year before qualifying for posting to the classroom as substantive teachers.
This may score some political points and a prudent policy from the perspective of professionalism, however, it hurts many aspects of public life, just as the “Abolishing of Teacher Trainees Allowance” in 2015 by then NDC government now in opposition.
A factor many political watchers claim has influenced Mr Mahama’s losing the elections in December 2016. This has also been attributed largely to the fact that then opposition party, the NPP used it as a major trump card(no pun intended) to campaign against the government.
As an advocate education policy that seeks to ensures equity in society, I believe that policy was also not well thought through because it appeals to a section of Ghanaian public that enters college of education in Ghana, which is usually marginalised and those who mostly may not be able to afford expensive university fees(emphasis).
The announcement by former President Mahama and the flagbearer of the NDC, on December 23, 2019 projects a certain payback in reversing the policy but sound more political.
Teacher licensing hurt many teacher trainees and many young people are not so much enthused about the existing array of testing systems.
The announcement of former President Mahama, the opposition flagbearer, could be a payback policy interest to also win votes base on the unpopularity of the licensing examination.
I strongly uphold teacher licensing as a policy regime we must relook out going into the future and modelling our Teacher Training Curriculum to hold these vital components of our education value chain to a more quality standard. Whether these announcements will deliver political votes I leave that to the electorates in December 2020.