|''On the Threshold'': The Identity of Student Teachers in Ghana (CIE, 2000, 41 p.)|
|1. Background and Context|
Initial teacher training in Ghana has in recent times come under criticism resulting in calls and attempts to improve the quality of teacher training. Concerns about teacher training, particularly from teacher education policy planners in Ghana, appears to be the result of the lack of impact of major educational reforms began in 1987, intended among others to improve the quality of teaching and learning and pupil achievement at basic schools. The 1987 education reforms introduced a new education structure that provided at the basic education level for 6 years primary education and 3 years junior secondary education. New curricula were introduced at each level incorporating a reduction in the number of subjects studied and, more recently, an increase in the length of the school day from 4 to 5 hours. However, despite such changes, there is little evidence that the reforms are achieving their desired outcomes. Criterion-reference tests administered by the Primary Education Programme (PREP) of the Ghana Ministry of Education for primary 6 pupils from 1992 - 1996 suggest limited success in delivering quality learning outcomes. For example, PREP criterion-referenced tests for 1996 showed that with mastery scores at 60% for English and 55% for Mathematics, the percentage of public primary school pupils scoring at the mastery level and above were 5.5% for English and 1.8% for Mathematics (PREP/MOE 1996). The Ghana Ministry of Education (MOE) in trying to understand the reasons for such lack of impact of the reforms on teaching, learning and pupil achievement pointed to teacher training. Teacher training is accused of being ineffective in producing the kind of teacher capable of addressing the teaching and learning needs of basic schooling. MOE indicated that,
[The teacher training colleges] are inefficient in producing effective teachers since the trainees and the tutors have so little exposure to actual classrooms, and academic content is taught and tested above practical teaching methodology (MOE 1994:23)
The Government of Ghana since 1995 embarked on further reforms, dubbed 'FCUBE' (Free Compulsory and Universal Basic Education) to address some of the problems that appears to have militated against the impact of the 1987 education reform, particularly on teaching, learning and pupil achievement. Under FCUBE, the curriculum of teacher training has undergone some restructuring mainly to foster better links between college training and school experience and make training more practically oriented (Teacher Education Division/GES, November 1997).
Underlying all of these changes, it appears, is the assumption that producing effective teachers is simply a matter of curricular orientation and practical training. Such an assumption fails to recognise the more complex process of professional teacher development and how teachers' beliefs and attitudes interact and shape teaching behaviour. Mifsud (1996), for example, argues for primary teacher training to take cognisance of the entering characteristics of trainees as a crucial step in the process of achieving professional expertise in teaching. Similarly, Calderhead & Robson (1991) question whether training courses take sufficient account of student teachers' initial images of teaching in order to challenge misconceptions and develop their expertise. The 'missing' dimension in Ghana's basic teacher education programme, we would argue, is a better understanding of the entering characteristics, beliefs and attitudes of trainees and how that can inform curriculum restructuring to develop teacher expertise.
This paper represents a small attempt to understand some of the issues that may need reflection in the policy and design of basic teacher education programmes in Ghana. Our analysis and findings are in some ways consistent with other accounts. However, in some respects our findings illustrate a perspective from the 'south' and therefore bring a somewhat different dimension to some of the issues already explored in research from the 'north'.
In the next section, we provide a fuller historical background to recent developments in education in Ghana. Within that context we identify the forces that appears to be driving teacher education reform. Our intention is partly to highlight what we consider the 'missing dimension' in the attempts to promote relevance and effectiveness in initial teacher preparation in Ghana.