The University of Cape Coast under the auspices of the Institute for Educational Planning and Administration has hosted the Second International Seminar of the future of the Teaching Profession in Africa.
The two-day seminar which was held at Elmina Beach Resort was on the theme “Teacher Professionalism and Curriculum in Africa” was convened by African Union Commission; Education International and Open Society Foundations. It brought together representatives of teacher unions and other stakeholders of education in Africa.
The 2019 seminar focused on collaborations between teacher unions and ministries of education to improve teacher developments, support mechanisms, and curriculum processes at the national level.
Role of Teacher Unions in Ensuring Quality Education
Opening the seminar, the Minister for Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, noted that the government of Ghana was of the firm belief that quality education could be realised if the rights of teachers including trade unions were guaranteed. He indicated that the teacher unions in Ghana have been strong and major partners in Ghana’s effort to provide quality education in the country stressing that “Our unions are highly recognised and they operate in freedom. Indeed, Article 21(e) of Ghana’s constitution guarantees trade union rights as part of the fundamental human rights”.
Dr. Prempeh whose speech was delivered by the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NaCCA), Dr. Prince Hamid Armah said Ghana has one of the vibrant teacher unions and described the country as one of the safest countries for trade union leaders across the continent. “Indeed, University Teachers Association (UTAG), Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) who are members of Education International (EI) are recognised by law, but, as a Minister, I have been on very good terms with them and have consistently sought to engage them even many policy issues” he explained.
The Minister for Education emphasised that teachers were at the centre of delivering decent public education service and it is always important that they were well consulted on all education policy formulations and implementations. “As we all know, a peaceful work environment is an important ingredient to achieving institutional goals and aspirations,” he noted.
Ghana Teacher Task Force
Another intervention he spoke about was that government through the National Teaching Council, Teacher Unions and other partners had set up the Ghana Teacher Task Force to prepare a comprehensive teacher policy for Ghana. He indicated that “This is under the auspices of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Teacher Task Force in collaboration with other partners including EI and is generously funded by the Government of Norway”. According to him, it was expected to be a one-stop-shop document on teacher training, teacher recruitment, teacher deployment, and retraining as well as teacher retention. He said the government was aware EI was working with unions in the country to help enrich the policy document.
The Minister was confident that the seminar would provide the necessary platform for participants to engage with each other, share ideas and experiences and arrive at recommendations that would benefit the Ghanaian teacher. He assured that the Ministry of Education would consider recommendations of the seminar to strengthen Ghana’s education system.
Achieving SDG 4.7
In his address, the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Joseph Ghartey Ampiah whose speech was read by the Dean of the School of Educational Development and Outreach, Prof. George K. T. Oduro noted that both UCC in general and the IEPA, in particular, was delighted to be associated with the conference that would explore the future of the teaching profession in Africa.
The Vice-Chancellor indicated that “Teaching takes the centre stage as nations strategise to actualise Sustainable Development Goal 4.7. Again, in our digital era where we are witnessing a lot of discussions on the emergence of artificial intelligence, any discourse on the future of the teaching profession is very pertinent”.
Era of Artificial Intelligence
Prof. Ampiah said teachers were expected to take on new roles to facilitate learning at a different level adding that “Other constituents are even beginning to ask questions such as: will schools need teachers and will computers replace teachers? He was confident that the deliberations for the seminar would explore how technology and utilisation of artificial intelligence would improve teaching and not replace teachers. “I believe during your time together you will also look at how teachers would be prepared and developed for the digital classroom” he implored.
Curriculum Shapes Teachers
The Keynote Speaker, Prof. Yusuf Sayed from the University of Sussex, spoke on the topic, “Curriculum and teacher professional development in Africa for equitable and quality education ‘Curriculum should not arrive like thunder”. He noted that three key areas that needed attention in education were policy, curriculum and teacher professional development.
On the issue of policy, he said the processes leading to the determination of the policy were as important as what it was about adding that “How much policy there is, is as important as what it says". In his explanation, he said the curriculum shaped what teachers do adding that “This is the real technology or engine of what happens and it is more than ICT”. On the other hand, he noted that teacher professional development was crucial because “What is delivered is contingent on how teachers are supported and trained”.
At the end of the two-day seminar, there were recommendations on how to improve teacher development and support mechanisms for curriculum processes in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, there would be specific country and partner commitments for follow-up, implementation, and reporting on at the next seminar. In addition, countries would be expected to have a clear identification of support in enacting their commitments.