THE country’s educational system has gone through a series of reforms, from basic through secondary schools to the tertiary level over the past 20 years.
Basic and secondary schools went through some reforms in the late 1980s, a time when junior secondary school (JSS) and senior secondary school (SSS) systems were introduced with a three-year duration at each level.
Recently, the names of the JSS and the SSS were changed to Junior High School (JHS) and Senior High School (SHS), with the duration of the latter being increased to four years.
Now, teacher training colleges in the country are also undergoing similar transformation to keep abreast of the changing trends in the educational system towards improving academic standards.
The country has gone through a chequered history in ensuring quality education. As a result of that successive governments have embarked on many reforms in order to achieve the educational aspirations and the needs of the country.
Teacher education has also gone through tremendous changes ever since, with Wiawso College of Education (WATICO), at Sefwi Wiawso, in the Western Region not being an exception.
The training colleges in the country have, for the past five years, been offering professional training, leading to the award of Diploma in Basic Education; the colleges are at the threshold of becoming tertiary education.
The current reforms and the transition of training colleges from certificate to diploma awarding institutions place numerous challenges on all categories of people who are engaged in the teacher training institutions.
The Anamoah Mensah Committee Report on Review of Education Reform in Ghana described tertiary education as one offered after secondary level at a university, polytechnic and specialised institutions offering training leading to the award of a diploma and degree qualifications.
Wiawso College of Education, which was established in February 1952 in Kumasi, is currently in transition to a tertiary level, just like all other teacher training colleges in the country.
The college was established with 29 pioneer male students and three tutors in September 1964. The then Minister of Education directed that the college be moved to its permanent buildings at Sefwi Wiawso.
The first batch of female students was admitted in September 1974. It now has a total student population of 2,054 with teaching and non-teaching staff of 95.
A total number of 165 students were admitted as the first batch to begin the diploma programme in October 2004, during the 2004/2005 academic year with 162 students completing the programme successfully, while three students could not complete it.
In the 2005/2006 academic year, 200 students were admitted as the second batch to pursue Diploma in Basic Education Programme, but 193 of the students successfully completed the course.
WATICO recently held its second graduation ceremony for students who were offered Diploma in Basic Education, on the theme: “Transition to tertiary education—Challenges for training college administrators, staff and students”.
At the ceremony, the Principal of the college, Mrs Georgina Lartey, said one of the challenges confronting the institution in its transition to tertiary status was inadequate physical infrastructure for both academic and social purposes.
“The need for more lecture rooms, workshops, big auditoriums, library, science laboratory, staff and student accommodation readily comes to the fore,” she added.
Mrs Lartey said it had, therefore, become imperative to complete the ongoing projects as soon as possible, while the required new projects were at the planning stage.
The Executive Secretary of the National Council for Tertiary Education, Mr Paul Effah, said the foremost challenge the administrators would face was the development of a new consciousness of managing the colleges as tertiary institutions.
“It is necessary that those who manage Colleges of Education upgrade and enhance their skills to reflect the new status as tertiary institutions,” he emphasised.
Mr Effah stressed that the capacities of heads of the various Colleges of Education needed to be strengthened to ensure effective supervision of the institutions.
“Administrative heads would now be expected to have visions critically relevant to the entire college and what the colleges stand to achieve so that they, sectional heads, staff and students work together towards that objective,” he stated.
Mr Effah further emphasised that academically, it was no longer enough to entrust the detailed execution of administrative policies and the provision of technical services to amateurs and generalists.
He added that the new College of Education required experts of proven professional competence to man its administrative duties.
“The administration capacity needed for the transition should be of the highest order, thus the accountants, librarians, secretaries, office administrators, laboratory assistants, purchasing officers and many others are required to possess the required skills and the needed competencies,” he said.
The executive secretary said the head of the institution faced the phenomenal challenge of getting the needed staff in order to ensure smooth and quality running of the institutions.
Mr Effah stressed that in spite of those daunting challenges, the government and the people of Ghana were upgrading the existing teacher training colleges to the status of tertiary institutions.
He said knowledge had become a key driver of growth and development, and that countries with higher skill levels were better equipped to face new challenges and master technological discoveries.
Mr Effah said because skills for the knowledge economy were built at the tertiary education level, improving and increasing tertiary education system should be high on the country’s development agenda.
“Ghana government, National Council on Tertiary Education and policy makers, by upgrading teacher training colleges to tertiary level, ensure that the workforce in Ghana’s educational system acquires the skills to compete, innovate and respond to complex social, technological, environmental and economic situations,” he explained.
“It is, however, to be emphasised that the transition to tertiary institution is not meant to undermine the ethical fabric of the teaching profession, but it is to strengthen its academic needs and lay a stronger moral formation for those who pass through it,” he stated.
The Deputy Western Regional Minister, Ms Betty Busumtwi-Sam, said the previous government embarked on educational reforms from the basic to the tertiary level for the improvement of the educational system in the country.
She mentioned the school upgrading programme, under which a considerable number of school infrastructure had been developed to solve accommodation problems.
Ms Busumtwi-Sam said the Capitation Grant had also relieved parents and guardians of the burden of paying school fees at the basic level, and that had resulted in the increase of enrolment in basic schools, while the School Feeding Programme was enhancing learning in the schools.
The deputy minister said it was the intention of the current government to continue with all those interventions to enhance education delivery in the country.