Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Education in Diversity

Sally Kerr and Victor Nantari

We are now in week 5 of our RAINS project. We have recently visited various communities around Tamale and found that the project is engaging with multiple levels of education within these communities. Our recent visit to Faith Hill Community School, a known private school, allowed them to facilitate a stronger relationship with their twinned government school Dinga L/A, as well as encouraging an open shared experience.  We are both at university, and understand how important education is in facilitating a brighter future. Our blog aims to focus on a cross cultural comparison between historical reflections of Ghanaian education and Scottish education systems.

Victor: I am a Ghanaian and a proud one indeed. I have had my education in Ghana and I really trust Ghanaian education. Not only because I am a Ghanaian but I think we are a citadel of good education despite few set back in infrastructure and logistics.  Education in Ghana has evolved over the years since its introduction. When I talk about education in this context, I am basically referring to formal education. Down to a brief history of formal education in Ghana, it can be traced to the pre-colonial era when the Europeans first arrived in the Gold Coast. They build castles and were basically traders and missionaries who settled at the coast. They traded with the people and also spread the Gospel. However, the major barrier they faced was language differences. To find a solution to this problem, they taught few indigenes how to speak the English language who could act as interpreters. Also they set up schools in the castles to cater for the education of their children (they had with Ghanaian women) which eventually had captured many Ghanaians in it.  These schools taught basic arithmetic and English language. This was the dawn of formal education in Ghana. Education since then has played a major role in the lives of Ghanaians positively and this cannot be over emphasized. There have however, been various influences on education in Ghana such as cultural influences, religious influences, political influences as well as social influences.
Sally: As I hail from Scotland our national heritage is built upon the importance of a basic education regardless of age, gender or social class each child should receive a sustainable amount of teaching and knowledge. The history of Scottish education is rooted in religion and political activism and its origins can be found in the Scottish Reformation during the sixteenth century. Both Catholicism and Protestantism had a growing desire for literacy and encouraged the system of pupil and teacher relationships. The church essentially became a vehicle for promoting a basic level of education.  What followed was ‘The Education Scotland Act’ of 1872 which made it compulsory for children between the ages of five to 13 to undertake primary education in local communities. What is significant about this act was that regardless of gender or social background, the child was given the opportunity to learn basic numeric and literacy skills. What was next to come has significantly had an influence across Europe and set a standard model for global education systems:  this was the introduction to secondary education or ‘academies’. This remains crucial to current individual education, as it provides a range of diverse subjects and skills that are relevant to a nation’s social, economic and political requirements.  A historical example of this is the ‘Edinburgh merchants’ who invested funding into academies, in exchange for additional curricular activities such as welding, shoe making or book keeping.
From my own personal observations in Ghana, my host mother is the Headmistress of a junior high school, an institution funded by the government and receiving one payment per year, in September. They must budget strictly throughout the rest of the year and restrict extracurricular activity. The schools are overcrowded and teachers are vastly outnumbered due to the increase in populations within the community.

Should there be strong relationship between education and the state?
Sally : I feel that in Tamale, the state has too much control over financial distribution in public schools, especially between subjects which, to me, results in some subjects being alienated from the curriculum. The loss of a subject may be more damaging to an individual’s career choices, especially expanding subjects such as natural and social sciences, and thereby might marginalise a student’s chances of a promising career. To reflect upon my upbringing, the decision to remove a subject from curricular activity was purely down to the individual and their parents and I think this is beneficial because it allows the student to focus more on their own stronger attributes such as languages, sciences and physical education.
Victor:  I think there should be a strong relationship between education and the state. The majority of the institutions in the educational sector in the country are state-owned and therefore are managed and funded by the state. A strong relationship between the state and education will help ensure efficiency in the educational system as well as proper management and supervision of stated own property. Also, a strong relationship between the state and education allows for private institutions in the country to be accredited and approved by an authorised body to provide quality education. I believe a strong relationship will help improve education in the country and make the government more responsive to the educational needs of the people.

Do you feel like religion/ beliefs/political/cultural influences at home restricts some parts of education?
Victor: As stated earlier, there have been several influences on education in Ghana such as political, cultural, religious and social influences, with the political environment in Ghana having particular effect. Various political parties have had different policies which keeps the educational system unstable. There are some cultural views that have a negative effect on female education which has caused an imbalance in the educational system of Ghana with regards to gender representation, thus having more males in school than female. Female education is seen in some rural areas in Ghana as unnecessary but recent initiatives taken by the government and Non-Governmental Organisations have improved the situation greatly.
Sally:  Actually, back home I feel that our ethical and religious differences are left outside the classroom. We have specific classes for religious education and these give students the opportunity to have a shared cultural experience between members of the class. I am an atheist myself and do not believe in a God and I feel these classes should be an optional choice.

Do you feel that there are an equal amount of boys and girls studying in each subject  i.e. sports, sciences  biology, chemistry, physics?
Sally: Back home there is a very equal distribution of male and females between subjects, and as  a matter of fact, those subjects that may be considered very expressive and feminine in some cultures, are very popular amongst male students- there is very little stigma around subjects.
Victor: With regards to equal representation in areas of sports, sciences, among others I feel there are more men as compared to women who are engaged in these activities in the Ghanaian society. The ability of women to participate in areas such as sports is less encouraged and it is mostly seen as an all-male activity. Women in Ghanaian society are regarded as vulnerable and soft in nature and so often engage themselves in activities that are seen as female friendly such as hairdressing, weaving and bead making among others. Women in sciences draws me to the educational representation of females in Ghana. There are women in sciences in Ghana, however, as compared to their male counterparts there are more males in science than females as females were discouraged from going to school as compared to males in the past.

From our joint observations it seems there are many differences in how education is organised around the globe according to culture and tradition. What’s important is that every child is entitled to a good level of education regardless of where they’re coming from: it’s a human right, and it needs to be protected.