One of the sectors that foster national development is education by ensuring functional human resource development. The institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned while in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual we all ‘teacher.’ For this reason, nations seeking economic and social developments need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.
Teachers are the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines the quality of education and the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves, therefore, ought to get the best education, like that received when pursuing an early childhood education degree in PA, so they can, in turn, help train students in the best of ways. It is known that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most important factors that shape the learning and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of very high quality to be able to manage classrooms and facilitate learning properly. That is why teacher quality is still a matter of concern, even in countries where students consistently obtain high international exam scores, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of its potential has to cause positive students’ achievements.
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The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to producing teachers who understand the current needs of students or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes to ensure that teachers are not free. In the U.S.A, how to promote high-quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where more teachers are needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high-quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to the teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is, therefore, no joke anywhere. This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and, in the second part, looks at some determinants of quality teaching.
2.0 TEACHER EDUCATION
Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to produce quality teachers for its basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that goes on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when the University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College, and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference between the other tertiary institution programs is that while the Universities teach, examine, and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition. In contrast, the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. These institutions’ training programs are attempts at providing many qualified teachers for teaching in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs to ensure quality.
The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast, is slightly different from the Center for Continue Education, The University of Cape Coast. None of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTUBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba, and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect, even though the same products attract the same clients, the preparation of the products is done differently.
Through these many programs, teachers are prepared for the basic schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations where there are shortages of teachers, and more teachers should be trained within a short time. A typical example is the UTUBE program mentioned above, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of the shortage of teachers, tends to comprise quality.
As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci, and Stone (2010), the factors that contribute to teacher education and teacher retention problems are varied and complex. Still, one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occurs. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the necessary teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science, and Mathematics, where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics, and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments support alternative pathways hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I shall come to.
When the target is to fill vacant classrooms, quality teacher preparation issues are relegated to the background somehow. Right at the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students was admitted, I can say with confidence that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that the applicant must be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect of compromised quality.
Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently, I must say, that CoEs, in particular, are not attracting candidates with very high grades. This, as I have learned now, has a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. Teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious programs, so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so, the majority of applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for the 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates. This drop in the standard could only be attributed to Coes’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities, too, lower their cut-off point for education programs so as attract more candidates. As alleged by Levine (2006), the universities see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money forces them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have done, to increase their enrollments. The fact that admission standards are internationally lowered to achieve a goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a serious challenge to teacher education.