|The Importance of Posting in Becoming a Teacher in Ghana (CIE, 2000, 46 p.)|
Studies of newly trained teachers in Western literature have traditionally focused on one of three things. Firstly, there is the interest in functional aspects of becoming a teacher as they are inducted or initiated into the professional working culture of their school (TTA, 1998; Buchner and Hay, 1999). Secondly, there are the longitudinal studies, often conducted by teacher educators, who trace teachers' thinking through training and into the "practice shock" of the school (Bennett et al, 1993; Lacey, 1977; Zeichner et al, 1988). The frame of reference for these studies is often how the knowledge acquired in training is adapted or negotiated through interaction with the school context, often discovering that the progressive agenda of teacher educators is undermined by a conservative school environment. A third tradition, related to the second, has followed Ball's recommendation to study the "micro politics" of the school (1986) and Goodson and Hargreaves' emphasis on teachers' lives (1996), and focused on becoming a teacher in the context of existing professional and classroom cultures within the school (See, for example, Nias, 1989). These approaches have informed the wider study of which this was part, but they have tended to underplay the importance of the process of being posted (or in the UK choosing a post), what one might call "posting shock", by focusing on the school or classroom as the key site of socialisation. The school and the classroom are both important in the Ghanaian context, but the significant role of the education bureaucracy suggests a need to reconceptualise the debate around an adapted framework.
One example of an alternative approach can be found in Michael Samuel's study of becoming a teacher in South Africa. He developed what he called the "force-field model of teacher identity" to try and bring together the contradictory frameworks of idealism, pragmatism, different cultural conceptions of education, and the reality of an education system in transition (1998). This envisages a complex interaction between "inertial forces" (pre-training "identity"), "programmatic forces" (teacher training) and "contextual forces" (community/school/system). This model draws on the literature noted above, but also attempts to reflect the dysfunctional aspects of an education system in transition to show the importance of the interaction between the identities of individual teachers and the complex contextual forces they come into contact with. As is the case in South Africa, this can often prove to be the most significant process in determining newly trained teachers' perspectives on teaching in Ghana.
In Ghana, it can be argued that the primary interaction in terms of teacher socialisation is between the three overlapping spheres of experience: organisational culture, particularly the education bureaucracy; professional culture and teacher thinking. Socialisation, as Etzioni (1969), Lacey (1977), and Zeichner et al (1988) and Samuel (1999) have noted, needs to be considered not only in terms of the individual being moulded by "the culture and aspirations of the organisation", but also in terms of their interaction with and resistance to it. When teachers qualify in Ghana, they become part of the national professional association GNAT (Ghana National Association of Teachers), but they also become part of the Ghana Education Service (GES). Its position in Ghana's education system is explained in the following quotation:
MOE is supported operationally by the Ghana Education Service (GES), which was established in 1974, largely as a result of pressure from the Ghanaian National Association of Teachers (GNAT), to promote a sense of collegiality, accountability and peer discipline among teachers. (World Bank, 1996: 4)
Unfortunately, the GES has not been successful in achieving the primary aim behind its foundation and has become an unwieldy bureaucracy according to the Ghanaian consultant James Nti:
The GES is top heavy, especially at HQ with its 10 Directors, 10 Deputy Directors, 20 Assistant Directors and several Principal Superintendants. The Regional level has the same characteristics. This characteristic gives the wrong impression that the GES is putting on the garb of an employment agency. It is too centralised and rule/procedure oriented rather than outcome oriented... [There is also] mistrust between MOE and GES and between Regional and District Directors [...] At present, GES is a monolithic organisation, setting its own standards, delivering teaching etc. and monitoring and appraising itself. MOE is left in the dark as to what is happening until some shocking public examinations results are published or an act of some gross indiscipline surfaces. GES [...] has no effective mechanism to encourage or prompt it to do better. (Nti, 1996: 30-32)
There is a common perception in Ghana that teaching is "government work"4, with the implication that it is not to be taken too seriously; this seems to be partly a consequence of the bureaucratic culture of GES. Interestingly, all members of GES are former teachers and remain members of GNAT, so one finds that the rhetoric of professional solidarity in the union, as articulated, for example, in the journal The Teacher often masks deep conflicts between the teaching profession and those ex-teachers who administer them. This is epitomised by two bureaucratic rituals that are central to becoming a teacher in Ghana and will be discussed in more detail later: the late payment of new teachers' salaries, and the bureaucratisation of the supervision of new teachers.
4 Quotation from an interview with Kwame Akyeampong, June 21st 1999, Cape Coast, Ghana
The over-bureaucratisation and inefficiency of education administration is not a problem unique to Ghana. Harber and Dadey (1994) note Murphy and Hallinger's delineation of common problems, such as poor communication, bribery, exploiting the system and favouritism, and also cite Rideout's three types of public sector mismanagement in sub Saharan Africa: "unintentional", "malicious" and "incompetent over-centralisation". These distinctions are useful in analysing new teachers' experiences of GES, which largely seem to be of the third type, leading to intentional manipulation of the system in some cases. Another useful concept is Davies's notion of teacher deviance, particularly in the context of inappropriate or unenforced rules and a weak code of professional ethics (1994). Clearly, in a context where the main professional association for teachers is bound up with the education bureaucracy, the notion of a professional culture as distinct from an organisational culture is problematic. On this point, Davies makes a useful distinction between the actual existing occupational culture of teaching, epitomised by the idea of "government work", and the professional culture that may represent an aspiration in codes, individual ideals and so forth (1994). This approach allows an analysis to engage with discourses about teaching at the rhetorical and the actual level which often coexist simultaneously as will be seen with reference to newly trained teachers' perspectives in Ghana.
Teacher professionalism is a highly contested concept in the developed and developing world (see, for example, Goodson and Hargreaves (1996); Sykes (1999); and Hedges (1999)). Etzioni categorised primary teaching as a "semi profession" (1969) and despite the unattractiveness of the term, it does capture the conflict between the relative professional autonomy experienced by most teachers in the classroom and the location of effective administrative control outside the domain of the school. This external control is often justified by the central authority in terms of achieving some minimum standards and preventing potentially high levels of various forms of teacher deviance, particularly in relation to abuse of power (Davies, 1994) though some argue that increased autonomy can lead to greater responsibility. In Ghana, stories of misdemeanours and crimes committed by teachers coexist with a strongly articulated professional discourse in the colleges, the GES professional code, and the schools, which goes beyond the rhetorical. In many communities, teachers are still highly respected and it is interesting to note that many of the members of district assemblies in rural areas are teachers. However, what seems beyond doubt is the general decline in status of teachers in Ghana, which is paralleled in other developing countries (Lockheed and Verspoor, 1991). Teaching, which was traditionally a profession that inspired pride and symbolised progress has become, for many, a second choice career, often, as Cummings notes, in competition with an expanding and rewarding private sector (in Rust and Dalin, 1990). Lockheed and Verspoor argue that people often become teachers for reasons of personal advancement rather than a commitment to the public good, leading them to conclude:
...teaching in primary schools neither attracts nor retains the best-qualified and most-motivated individuals. (1991: 92)
Therefore, to understand this decline in the status of teachers in Ghana, it seems essential to talk to people who are becoming teachers about their motivation in the context of a culture that brands them as "ne'er do wells"5; hence, the focus of this paper.
5 This was said to me by someone at GES headquarters. The full quotation was: "Primary teaching is seen as a place for ne'er do wells"
Motivation is a complex thing and many writers have written powerfully of the different kind of person-centred motivation expected of teachers, even by teachers themselves, and this is often a key point of defence in the context of hostile public discourses about teachers. When considering the problems and constraints that frame so much of education in developing countries, there can be a danger of missing the point that there are a lot of good teachers quietly and professionally going about their job. Many teachers find themselves trying to reconcile higher motivations for teaching with lack of fulfilment of their basic needs. Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs (physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualisation) in relation to other professions, but they have relevance when considering teachers' perceptions. A recent, largely questionnaire-based, study in Ghana of newly trained teachers (Apt and Grieco, 1994) highlighted that poor pay and working conditions leave many teachers apparently stuck on the first rung of Maslow's "ladder"; and in another study Pryor noted that this situation:
...can lead to a vicious circle of deprofessionalisation and diminished self-esteem as teachers face the shame of being ineffective in providing for themselves and their families... (Pryor, 1998: 222)
However, this sense of inadequacy and lack of basic needs does not prevent many teachers from continuing to have a stake in teaching in terms of higher "rungs" on Maslow's ladder, particularly given the respect many teachers are afforded in society as individuals even when the profession as a whole is regarded as having low status and low pay. In the 1995 Study of teacher motivation in Ghana, conducted by UNICEF and the GES, the following four reasons were given for being a teacher:
a love for children and desire to be around them or a positive role model who was a teacher
because of a lack of other employment or educational opportunities
because of characteristics of the profession
as a result of having been forced into the profession by circumstances or because of parental pressure including a family tradition. (GES/UNICEF, 1995: 14)
They also discovered, perhaps unsurprisingly, that those who became teachers because of a lack of other opportunities or due to family pressure were likely to have a much lower level of commitment to teaching than those who gave the other reasons. Significantly, this data was uncovered in the qualitative part of the study, directly contradicting assertions made in the quantitative part, paralleling the experience of other researchers in Ghana (see for example, Akyeampong, 1997) and these experiences were an important reason for choosing a qualitative approach for this study.
In another part of the research project (MUSTER) of which this is part, Akyeampong and Stephens examined the reasons trainees beginning at the colleges gave for becoming teachers and their conclusions are revealing. 80% of trainees had entered teaching because it was their parents "wish" (2000: 11), many had tried alternative forms of employment or further education, particularly retaking exams for university and most tended to be from poor socio-economic backgrounds (2000: 12). From this evidence they conclude that applying for teacher training in Ghana, for many, is based on the opportunity for subsidised further education it offers and is at best a second choice career. The research findings among newly trained teachers in this study echo that view and reveal an interesting rhetorical tension between altruistic discourses about teaching and individualistic desires for status and self-advancement.
Hofstede (1971), in an argument of great relevance to Ghana, has warned against the dangers of universalising theories of motivation based on a highly individualistic American model of behaviour. His research offers four alternative dimensions to consider motivation in different cultures: power/distance (egalitarian/hierarchical); uncertainty avoidance (risk taking/risk averse); individualism/collectivism; and masculine/feminine. The picture that emerges in the research below reveals a culture in transition where collective ideas of teaching still have influence (the constructions of teachers as "community developers", for example), but individualistic perceptions and motivations are increasingly emphasised by the teachers themselves. In Ghana, the conflict is also acute when one considers the widespread respect for hierarchy, alongside the cynicism with which many approach what they regard as compromised forms of authority like the GES.
Motivation and perception of roles can be considered as aspects of teacher thinking, which, despite being central to many current debates about education, is often regarded as the most elusive area to research. Palme (1999) notes the paradox of teaching in developing countries by drawing attention to its apparent simplicity (pupils copying from the board) alongside its complexity (mediation between tradition and modernity and different linguistic versions of reality). Jessop and Penny (1998), in their studies of teachers in The Gambia and South Africa, outlined three frames of teacher thinking, which emerged from their qualitative research. They saw a pattern in the way teachers talked in both countries whereby teachers would willingly talk about instrumental issues, such as salary, or relational issues, such as their feelings towards the children or the community. However, they noted a "missing" frame, that of making meaning from the curriculum and reflecting on practice. In Ghana something similar took place in the interviews, particularly in the early stages, and the emphasis of this article reflects teachers' emphasis on the posting process, perceived by them to be a key formative experience, although not originally considered as a central focus of this research. Much teacher thinking research emphasises key formative experiences, as perceived by the teacher (see, for example, Akyeampong and Stephens, 2000), and in Ghana the impact of the bureaucracy through the process of being posted is, arguably, the key formative experience in becoming a teacher in Ghana, particularly in the context of relatively low levels of commitment among new recruits to teaching.