Science education is the cultivation and disciplining the mind and other faculties of an individual to utilize science for improving his life, cope with an increasingly technological world, or pursue science academically and professionally, and for dealing responsibly with science related social issues (Akpan, 1992). Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, was the first African country to the south of the Sahara to gain political independence from colonial rule in 1957.
This former British colony of 92,000 square miles (about 238,000 square kilometers) shares boundaries with three French-speaking nations: the Cote d’Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north and Togo to the east. The Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean is to the south of the country. EARLY HISTORY OF EDUCATION BEFORE INDEPENDENCE As was the case in many colonies during the early colonial period, the main goal of education was to ‘make civilization march hand-in-hand with evangelization’ (Anum –Odoom, 2013). This statement gives a clear description of how education in Ghana was implemented at that time.
The formal, western-style education in Ghana is directly associated with the history of European activities on the Gold Coast The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive at the Guinea coast in 1471. Their intention to establish schools was expressed in imperial instructions that, in 1529, encouraged the Governor of the Portuguese Castle at Elmina to teach reading, writing, and the Catholic religion to the people. It is imply proven that the Danish, Dutch and the English merchants also set up schools in their forts and castle to educate their mulatto children by native women.
Unmistakably linked to the implementation of formal education in Ghana with the Christian missionaries, who realized that in order to spread the word of God, they needed well- educated local assistants. Following the consolidation of the coastal region as the British Gold Coast Colony, the administration became more aggressive in pursuit of its educational policy. This was precipitated by the British purchase of the Danish property at Christiansborg in 1850 and the Dutch Elmina Castle in 1872.
To help redress problems faced by the mission schools—such as training local teachers and improving the quality of education—the administration made grants to both the Wesleyan and Basel missions in 1874. In the Educational Ordinance of 1882, government grants to denominational schools were made dependent on an assessment of the level of efficiency. The schools receiving grant-in-aid were defined as “government assisted schools,” but their primary funding was to come from the missions themselves and from other private sources. On the Gold Coast, the appointment of Brigadier General Gordon Guggisberg as governor brought its own advantages.
During his tenure from 1919 through 1927, Governor Guggisberg initiated several major developmental programs that included educational improvements as a critical ingredient in his construction of a modern Gold Coast. While the previous administration had seen the provision of elementary schools by the various Christian missions as adequate, Guggisberg was of the conviction that the current system could not sustain future developments. In fact, only a few months after his arrival, the governor presented a 10-year development plan for the Gold Coast.
Among other things, funding was aggressively sought for post elementary education for boys and girls. Even though the administration proposed a technical college for Accra, the Prince of Wales College (now Achimota College) was the real trophy of the administration’s educational program. This non denominational school catered for students from kindergarten to the pre university level. THE BIRTH OF SCIENCE EDUCATION The inadequacies inherent in the system of education were observed in the post-World War I appeal made by the Foreign Missions Conference of North America to the Phelps-Stokes Funds for a review of the state of education in Africa.
The Phelps-Stokes Commission on Africa issued reports in 1922 and 1925 in which educators were criticized for inadequately catering to the social and economic needs of the continent. The commission of which James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey was a member, called for instructions in the mechanical operations necessary for the improvement of the condition of the mass majority of the people. This included science education and character training. The Phelps-Stokes fund’s founded in 1920, is an African Education Commission represented one of the early attempts to link black Africa with Negro America.
The attempt to forge this link represented a concerted policy on the part of a number of missionary and philanthropic groups in the United Kingdom and the United States to draw attention to what seemed to be analogous situations-politically, socially, and economically. Ghana is said to be the first independent sub-Saharan African country outside South Africa to embark on a comprehensive drive to promote science education and the application of science in industrial and social development (Anamuah-Mensah, 1999). Science Education after Independence
After Phelps- stokes commission had pushed for the birth of science education in Africa in general and in particular, Gold Coast, there has not been any clear cut national policy for science education in Ghana up to date (Ahmed, 2013). Dr Kwame Nkrumah who aimed at achieving Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education instituted an Act called 1961 Act, (Act 87) . This Act was to make Basic education free and Compulsory and anyone who fails to send his or her child to school was made to pay a fund by the Minister for education.
The education system at that point consisted of six year of primary education, followed by four-years of secondary education. At the end of the four years suitable students went on to do a two-year sixth form course that could lead to a three year University course. Students, who were not suitable to continue, completed two- year of pre-vocational classes. The Nkrumah government encouraged the learning of science by instituting a special scholarship scheme which enabled science and agriculture undergraduates to enjoy scholarships a little higher than those of their counterparts in the humanities. This facility was withdrawn after 1966.
Science and mathematics teachers were also paid a little more than their colleagues in the humanities. (Djangmah, 2007) The Reforms The seven year development plan instituted by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was short lived. The system was later regarded as too long and too academic. Thus Dzobo Education Reforms of 1974 saw a reform of the system, instating the Junior Secondary School (now Junior High School) on an experimental basis. The Junior Secondary School introduced practical subjects and activities allowing students to acquire occupational skills, which after an apprenticeship lead to the qualification for self-employment.
Due to a wide range of factors such as the economic decline, bureaucracy and sheer lack of interest the JSS-system never went beyond the experimental phase. By 1983 the education system was in a state of crisis. It faced drastic reductions in Government financing, lack of educational materials, and deterioration of school structures, low enrollment levels and high dropout rates. With the assistance of several development partners (World Bank, Department for International Development (ODA) and international grants) the education system was reviewed and proposals were implemented in 1987 known as Evans-Anfom reforms.
In 1987, Ghana’s Ministry of Education introduced a restructured educational system that gradually replaced the British-based O-level and A-level system. The transition was completed in June, 1996, when the last class took A-level exams. The last O-level exams were administered in June 1994, although a remedial exam was offered through 1999 (Keteku, 2013) The 1987 Reforms had strengths as well as weaknesses. One of the strengths was that it provided a comprehensive Basic Education which improved access to education for more children of school-going age.
Junior Secondary Schools were provided throughout the country and this helped to increase literacy levels. The reform also introduced Continuous Assessment which formed part of the final examination. This ensured that internal assessment in schools was included in the final examinations and this ended the single-shot examination existing in the old system. The Anamuah-Mensah Report recommended similar structure of education just like the Evans-Anfom Report of 1986.
The difference was the inclusion of two (2) years of Kindergarten education as part of Basic Education and Apprenticeship training for leavers of the Junior Secondary School who unable to or do not want to continue in the formal sector. The implementation of the Anamuah-Mensah Reforms began in September 2007, and it was faced with initial problems. These problems included delay in the supply of syllabuses and textbooks for the smooth take-off of the programme, and teachers were not adequately prepared in terms of training to implement the reforms.
These problems were later dealt with as the implementation of the reforms progressed. The next major problem being anticipated is the inadequate classrooms and other facilities as students will enter the fourth year of Senior High School in September 2010. The Way Forward For Science Education Promotion of science education in the country will depend on three drivers of change, namely, funding, teaching and interventions, and research (Akyeampong ,2007) Funding Knowledge is not cheap. Science, technology and mathematics knowledge required to move the country into the knowledge society can never be cheap.
Government’s commitment to science education should be demonstrated in the level of resources allocated to science and technology. Laboratories and workshops in the schools, teacher training colleges, universities and polytechnics should be well equipped and new ones constructed to take into consideration the increasing student population. Research The knowledge society thrives on the creation of new knowledge. Research provides the means by which new knowledge is created. Resources, both material and human, for research in science and technology are woefully inadequate or non-existent.
This has had a profound effect on the development of post graduate research in the universities. A number of measures need to be taken to strengthen research in science and technology in order to meet the demands of the country. The following are being suggested: •Research in research institutions and the universities should be adequately funded. •Most researches carried out in the universities are those that interest the researchers and are hence supply-driven; the Government should challenge our scientists and provide funds to carry out research on problems confronting the country.
This can be done through the provision of research funds to be competed for by all scientists in the country. •Establish a National Science Research Facilities Centre equipped with world class specialized facilities which are normally expensive and therefore beyond the means of single institutions, to provide opportunities for Ghanaian researchers to carry out scientific research and development and retain local researchers as well as attract foreign ones. •To improve the quality of science education at all levels, research in science and technology should include research on teaching and learning science, technology and mathematics.
•Institute special awards for best researchers and science teachers. This could be termed the President’s Award for Science to be given annually. We need to celebrate achievement. •Set up a formal scheme for mentoring the Youth- This is critical to the development of a career path in science for the youth. Mentors excite interest in junior colleagues and help them to “walk the path”. This experience is however rare in the universities. These days, newly recruited scientists struggle to keep afloat with little or no support.
A formal mentoring system should be established in all institutions to ensure that young scientists recruited into the universities or research institutions are attached to professors and senior scientists in their fields of study to receive advice and support. The mentoring can take the form of joint research, publications and presentations at conferences and seminars. •To raise the level of awareness of science and technology innovation (research) and foster a synergy among education, industry and research institutes, a project referred to as SMART
MOVES in some countries should be established in secondary schools. This project will involve encouraging schools through visits, presentations and seminars to work on problem solving projects with support from the community. The projects will be assessed and students with innovative and creative projects will be invited to present their projects at a Junior Scientist Conference which will be attended by senior scientists who can later act as mentors for the students. Prizes will be given to students based on the quality of project and presentation.
The Ghana Academy of Science and Arts can take up this. Conclusion The vision of the National Science and Technology Policy is: “to support national socio-economic development goals with a view to lifting Ghana to a middle income status by the year 2020 through the perpetuation of a science and technology culture at all the levels of society, which is driven by the promotion of innovation and the mastery of known and proven technologies and their application in industry, and other sectors of the economy”. (MEST, 2000)
This vision can become a reality when science education is given a boost at all levels of education. It has been suggested that the promotion of science education hinges on three pillars – funding, teaching and intervention, and research. Without adequate funding, quality teachers, supportive intervention activities and research to illuminate our understanding, science education will have no impact on the everyday lives of Ghanaians; and the observation made by the National Development Planning Commission will remain true. Our national vision for science and technology will be therefore be meaningless.