How is Ghana preparing for COVID-19? Plus findings on class sizes and higher education...

Welcome to our weekly blog for Teacher Tapp Ghana!

Every Monday we summarise our most surprising and interesting survey findings from the week before. This weekly blog provides an easy way for you to learn about the experiences and opinions of teachers across Ghana.

It has been one week since GES announced that all schools will be closed until further notice. Since then we have met with GES and confirmed that we will be working closely with them to share updates on this ongoing situation and to offer the best assistance we can during this challenging time.

Please encourage your colleagues to use the Teacher Tapp app to keep engaged with education even when they’re not teaching. Your responses are also a vital data source that GES will be using to help in their decision-making around best policies and approaches to managing the current crisis.

If you’d like to bring more teachers to Teacher Tapp, please share this blog with your colleagues and encourage them to use the download links at the bottom of the page. In the mean time, here are this week’s intriguing findings…

1. More findings about COVID-19…

Last week we asked some questions about your concerns surrounding the abrupt closure of your school.

When it comes to students, your biggest concern is that students would miss out on learning. Following that, 51% of you are concerned about students remaining physically safe. Alarmingly, 1-in-3 of you are also concerned that students will not return to school once it re-opens.

Concerns about students missing out on learning may be linked to exams. At the time of polling, GES had not yet announced that the WASSC examinations would be suspended until further notice. As such, there were valid concerns among teachers that students would need to sit these important exams without appropriate preparation.

However, our results also highlight that learning is only one of the things that schools offer to students. Schools provide a safe place that keep students off the street, safeguarding them from dangers such as crime and dangerous work. You’ve told us previously that your schools struggle with attendance. As such, your concerns about students losing the routine of attending school and therefore no longer attending are valid.

One solution to this challenge seems to be maintaining remote contact with students and their families while schools are closed. Nearly 70% of you told us that your school has plans in place to keep in contact in this manner during school closures. As school is one of the main constants in students’ lives, this can make sure they still feel valued, motivated and engaged to carry on with their education.

2 . Room to improve on vocational courses…

3% of Ghana’s student population are engaged in vocational courses. That number may seem small, but it works out to about 1,500 students learning to do important jobs such as carpentry, electrical engineering and car repair.

Given the importance of these skills, the training provided to students needs to be of an exceptionally high standard. However, 1-in-3 of you told us that you do not believe that vocational courses provide students with adequate preparation for the world of work.

What might the problem be? In a related poll, 63% of you told us that vocational courses in Ghana put more emphasis on learning theory rather than developing practical skills. Given that vocational courses are supposed to prepare young people for practical jobs, there may be a worry that this structure may not provide them with adequate preparation for work.

The difficulty with providing a practically oriented vocational course is that it is frequently quite expensive. It requires lots of resources to run a carpentry school (e.g. wood, tools, one-to-one instruction) or a course in car repair. As a result, such courses can frequently have a large theoretical element to accommodate financial limits.

Theoretical elements may also be added to a course to increase how challenging the course is and give students the sense that they are learning something of equal importance to their peers studying academic courses.

Either way, it seems that you do not believe this is the right approach!

3 . What politicians get wrong about education…

It is a familiar pattern around the world. Politicians and policymakers pay lip service to teachers, talking about how essential they are to the future of society. But while they utter these words publicly, they also permit policies that result in teachers being overworked, underpaid and forced to constantly change their practice in difficult conditions.

Perhaps this is why an enormous 86% of you told us that you do not believe politicians show the educational system enough respect.

How does this lack of respect affect you as a teacher? It may result in poor implementation of policies. For example, an enormous 77% of you told us that you believe the introduction of the new curriculum has been poorly handled.

Similarly, nearly 60% of you told us that changes to the educational system in Ghana are too frequent for teachers to keep up with. This might be seen as evidence of politicians lacking respect for the challenges teachers face when trying to implement such changes.

How does all of this relate to the current crisis in schools? Some may argue that the very abrupt closure of schools by GES did not give teachers enough time to prepare for the closures to make sure their students’ learning and personal safety is taken care of during the period of closures.

However, it will be interesting to see how the current crisis will affect attitudes towards teachers. It is very possible that introducing hundreds of thousands of students back into mainstream society during the working day will make many adults, including politicians, appreciate how important schools and teachers are – and how skilled you have to be to do your job!

4. Finally, we know you’re finding our daily readings useful, so here are all of the ones from last week…

PLUS, Don’t forget that there are discussion questions for these articles that can be found here. Why not try them out with your PLC?

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