The pandemic-accelerated adoption of digital learning solutions has the potential to right the systemic wrongs that have long plagued the education sector, and timely adoption of relevant measures will see the nation meet and perhaps surpass the levels witnessed in more advanced economies.
This was the consensus of a four-member panel, comprised of educationists whose work spans the entire spectrum – from the basic to higher education level – who served as the resource persons at the 30th edition of the MTN Executive Business Breakfast, which was held under the theme ‘Redefining Education in the Age of the New Normal’.
They argued that reforms will have a two-fold benefit, with the improved human capital driving the nation forward as well as the numerous gains, economic and otherwise, that would accrue if the country were to become an educational hub in the sub-region.
According to the experts, COVID-19 has exposed the significant levels of inequality that run through the fiber of the country’s educational system and it would be tragic for the country to miss out on the evolution of education, only to play catch up in perpetuity.
Lecturer at Ashesi University’s department of Engineering, Dr. Hearther Beem who doubles as the CEO of the Practical Education Network stated that emphasis must be placed on the training of teachers, particularly at the basic school level, noting that they are most often than not, under resourced and under trained and yet, are saddled with the responsibility of providing education at its most critical stage.
She added that in spite of the limitations posed by remote learning, a key component to harnessing its benefits is incorporating a hands-on approach to the practical elements of whatever subject is undertaken.
Taking his turn, renowned education consultant and founder of the GATES Institute, Anis Haffer echoed the sentiments expressed by Dr. Beem, when he stressed on the need for tutors to continually add value to themselves through learning. “How can we expect teachers to give what they don’t have?” he wondered as he added, “education never stops and COVID-19 is propelling this.”
He added that technology has only come to enhance the educational processes but it cannot operate in a vacuum. To this end, he stated that without the most important building block – reading – adding technology would be an exercise in futility.
Mr. Haffar charged parents to take up the responsibility of educating their wards, a role which he suggested had been long abdicated, with the onus being passed on to school teachers.
Senior Lecturer from the Department of Mathematics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Dr. Peter Amoako Yirenkyi, on his part sought to dispel the notion that university education has become solely theoretical with almost no emphasis on the practical. According to him, the dynamics of certain educational institutions, particularly the public institutions makes it impractical to have a certain degree of faculty-student interaction.
Using KNUST – with an estimated student population in excess of 65,000 – as a point of reference, he demystified the misconceptions surrounding Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ). According to him, MCQs are a valid format for tests and the responsibility lies with the examiner to craft the questions in a manner that would be appropriate for testing.
“We hear complaints that MCQs are overly theoretical: that is not the case, it is dependent on how the questions are set. If you set bad MCQs, you get bad results and vice versa,” he said, noting that universities exist to provide the theoretical platform on which further application ought to be pursued by the students.
He added that students, particularly those operating from home, must be given a conducive environment in which to learn and hinted that a policy initiative might be required to fully address this need.
Attention must also be given to the added mental health toll, Campus Director of the Webster University – Ghana, Christa Sanders Bobtoya, said, adding that conscious consideration must be given to students with special needs because technology has driven “great innovation and also brought about great isolation.”