Reference is made to the Facebook razzmatazz of former President John Mahama on Monday 23rd December 2019, during which he sought to impugn the professionalization of teaching.
As part of the many promises with which he is seeking a come-back, he states that he will scrap or cancel teacher licensure examinations (the Ghana Teacher Licensure Examinations in this case). His reasons, he “would see to improving teaching and learning in the teacher training institutions so that the graduates who come out would not need to write the licensure examinations, (and that they would be posted straight, right?)’. This statement has received enough media mileage with the “know-whats” and ‘don’t know-whats” wading in with different views, most of them revealing their lack of understanding of the issues.
One of such write-ups I read is purported to have been authored by a former Deputy Minister of Education under the NDC, Mr. Alex Kyeremeh (at least it his name that is on it, and he has not come to say he did not write that). People who have had the chance, as I have had, to read what the gentleman wrote would understand why what happened in our education sector happened. But this write-up is not about him. I would however implore readers to get copies on the social media, and read. For Mr. Kyeremeh’s information, there is nothing as “The teachers licensing education Act 778 of 2008”, which he alluded to.
As a former legislator he should know the Acts and their proper names better. Worst so, when he has sat in the Ministry of Education as a Deputy Minister. Again, Mr. Kyeremeh, indicates in his write-up that “in-service teachers were not to write examinations”. And this has not changed till now. Thus, if he had taken sometime to learn he would not have written what he wrote, and would have avoided such an embarrassment of peddling falsehood, or acting ignoramus (no malice intended, please). Nothing has changed, it remains the same and that’s what the National Teaching Council (NTC) has agreed with the teacher unions (the lawful representatives of hard-working teachers in Ghana).
What the NTC is doing is to take the biometric details of in-service teachers, and issue them with biometric cards (as Ghana Teacher License) after the payment of a fee being discussed with the teacher unions. The Ghana Education Service (GES) is as well involved in the discussion of this process. This license would be renewed after 2 or 3 years with no examination once again, but through building appropriate portfolios and attaining appropriate points obtained from attending level/rank-specific continuous professional development programmes. This is all about it, and nothing else. I refuse to discuss the other assertions he makes in that write-up.
So, to the substantive issue, scrapping the Ghana Teacher Licensure Examinations (GTLE). What does it mean to scrap it for the reason(s), Mr. Mahama? What does Mr. Mahama know about the current teacher education? Does he, even know there have been or are any reforms in teacher education? Who briefs or advises him on issues relating to education, especially teacher education? Certainly not the one who spoke of licensing teachers in the public but opposed it privately to extent of scolding and putting on ice anyone who dare shared that view! And certainly not Mr. Alex Kyeremeh, one of his deputy ministers in charge of the education ministry.
The National Teaching Council (NTC), has its antecedents from recommendations of the President’s Committee on Review of Education Reforms in Ghana chaired by Professor Jophus Anamuah Mensah, then Vice Chancellor, University College of Education, Winneba, having served in capacities such as Dean, Faculty of Education, and Pro Vice Chancellor, all of the University of Cape Coast. The Committee was set up by President John Agyekum Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) who found it necessary to take stock of what has happened in education, and based on that, as well as current developments in the global world, chart a new path for the future. The Committee noted under 4.1 that, “In order to improve upon the provision of quality teacher education, makes the following recommendations:
1. The National Teaching Council should be established as a coordinating and licensing body” (Meeting the Challenges of Education in the Twenty-First Century, 2002). The Committee, further under 4.2. Teacher Motivation and Retention, recommended among others that “all licensed teachers should be paid a professional allowance of 15% of their basic salary” (ibid).
Thus, The Education Act, 2008, Act 778, which created the National Teaching Council (NTC) among other regulatory agencies under the Ministry of Education, mandated the NTC, among other functions, to professionalise teaching by setting standards for the training of teachers, to register and license teachers, and also to advise the Minister of Education on issues relating to professional standing of teachers.
Professionalization is related to “promoting the material and ideal interests of an occupational group”(Goodson, 2000, 182), so it includes “the attempt to gain professional associated with professions” (Whitty, 2000); whereas professionalism “focuses on the question of what qualifications and acquired capacities, what competence is required for the successful exercise of an occupation (Englund, 1996, 76). As a profession, teaching should be seen as one of status, prestige, autonomy, and power. Advising the Minister of Education, requires providing adequate and necessary alternatives of what works best, and would get the work better done. And a listening minister would question each alternative presented to him, compare or juxtapose them with global best practices and go the best way.
Under Licensing of Teachers, (Article 12 of Act 778), Clauses 1-7 talk about the legality of having the teacher’s license; a teacher’s license as the only legal authorization for teaching; a teacher required to hold the Council’s licensing certificate as evidence of professional standing and authorization for teaching, I quote subsection 7 for emphasis, and education; “The legal possession of the Council’s certificate signifies the teacher meets the knowledge and skill standards prescribed by the National Teaching Council, and is duly licensed to teach”. The credentialing requirements for the licensing of teachers could involve a professional qualifying examination. In some jurisdictions, the process is referred to as Certification, and which still involves some kind of assessment which may not be christened examinations or tests.
To even get a driver’s license, one has to sit behind a computer and write a test, please!!! That’s what qualifies one to sit behind the steering wheel of a car. And when the Police request to see your driver’s license, that which qualifies you to drive, you show it to them. Even then, they check to see if it is valid.
I don’t think it would be lost on Mr. Kyeremeh that, in 2015 during the NDC regime under the leadership of Mr Mahama, Article 13, 3(a) of the Act was reviewed together with relevant stakeholders to include professional examination which he (Kyeremeh) is fighting hard to parry away, whilst his boss is opposing now(a matter of inconsistency?). May be, again as above, he never set foot at any of those meetings, and therefore can’t remember. Such double standards may be understood, though quite repugnant as it is.
Please, is Former President John Mahama aware that Colleges of Education have been affiliated to some universities in this country Ghana, and two main or different curricula are being run by these 5 universities? Though such curricula were derived from the National Teacher Education Curriculum Framework (NTECF) for pre-tertiary level, there may be slight differences in content and pedagogy based on institutional differentiations and peculiarities. So how do we check for mastery or grasp of the minimum knowledge, skills and competences of the trainees across curricula? How about our people or other nationals who were trained under curricula outside the country, but desire to teach in Ghana? Transcripts and certificates, right? But how do they measure to our standards of practice, among others? Please it is such professional qualifying examinations that would help us do that. What happens after the GTLE, the teachers do one year of national service during which they go through mentorship under experienced teachers, build a professional portfolio for assessment, working through the various domains of the National Teachers Standards (NTS), and all that will make them stable and enjoy teaching.
Scrapping the licensure examination in itself is not a problem. What I know is persons who understand what it means to write professional qualifying examinations would be very much appalled.
How will Ghana measure within its peers on the African continent? When all African nations are talking professionalizing teaching to include streamlining entry requirements and standards across Africa, here we are counting the number of votes that would accrue from such statements. And most especially, when Ghana has been hailed as a fore-runner in teacher professionalization and therefore nominated to host the 9th Conference and 11th RoundTable of the Africa Federation of Teaching Regulating Authorities (AFTRA) from 25th to 30th May 2020. It went beyond just a nomination.
So, if President Mahama says he would improve the quality of teaching and learning in training institutions and abolish the license exams, what does this mean with respect to the other professions who began writing such examinations long ago? That their training curricula leave a lot more to be desired that is why they write professional qualifying examinations? And I can cite nurses and midwives, lawyers, engineers, medical officers, drivers, surveyors, architects, pharmacists, etc, etc, wow! And that’s scary!!! Would he like to apologize to people of such professions? What did he want to do with such statements? Demean the teachers or teaching profession? What about the tutors and lecturers who go through sleepless nights researching to prepare such students to be the teachers we require as a nation?
Our teachers and teacher- trainees know that such professional qualifying examinations are not peculiar to Ghana alone, and put them on the international ranks. They want to find themselves in an occupation that can be referred to as a profession, and not a semi or pseudo-profession. They do not want to listen to endless debates and lectures on whether teaching is a profession. They want to be in a profession, and not an occupation that serves as a “stepping stone” or chosen as a “last resort”. Teaching should be considered as a “first choice career”, and as a career expert, I would go to all length to assist in doing whatever it takes to professionalize teaching. I am proud of teaching as my profession. Teachers deserve more, let’s give them more.
Licensing and registration of teachers is of international status. UNESCO has instituted teacher taskforce in countries including Ghana, to professionalise teaching.
Licensed teachers are valued everywhere in the world. Therefore, any regime that undermines the process of teacher professionalism is a destroyer and anti-development agent. So please let us all support the Ghana Teacher Licensure Examinations (GTLE), which is a common and standard examination for teachers trained from all parts of the world.
PROFESSOR ERIC NYARKO-SAMPSON CHAIRMAN
NATIONAL TEACHING COUNCIL ACCRA