Education is one sector that fosters national development by ensuring the growth of a functional human capital. A society with strong educational structures will be populated by educated people who can lead to positive economic progress and social change. People apply the skills they have learned in school to achieve positive social change and economic growth. These skills are made possible by one person we all call ‘teacher’. This is why nations that seek economic and social development should not overlook teachers and their importance in national development.
Students’ learning success is largely determined by their teachers. Teachers’ performance is a major factor in determining the quality and performance of students they teach. Teachers should receive the highest education possible to be able to help students in the most effective ways. The quality of teaching and teachers is a key factor in shaping the learning of students and their academic growth. Teachers who receive high-quality training will be able to manage classrooms effectively and facilitate learning. Even in countries with high student scores on international exams such as Trends In Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), teacher quality remains a concern. Teacher education is of paramount importance in these countries due to the potential it has for positive student achievements.
In almost every country, the structure of teacher education is changing to meet the needs of teachers or the demands of students. These changes are intended to ensure high quality teachers and to make sure that teachers do not leave the classroom. The U.S.A. has struggled to find ways to encourage high-quality teachers for over a decade. This has been mainly due to the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers 2015). Even though there are many teachers in Japan and other Eastern nations, structures have been established to ensure that high-quality teachers are hired and produced (Ogawa Fujii & Ikuo 2013, 2013). Teachers education is not a joke. This article is divided into two parts. The first part discusses Ghana’s teacher-education system. The second part examines some determinants for quality teaching.
2.0 TEACHER EDUCATATION
Ghana has made deliberate efforts to train quality teachers in her elementary school classrooms. Benneh (2006) stated that Ghana’s goal in teacher education is to offer a comprehensive teacher education program that includes in-service and initial teacher training. This will ensure that competent teachers are trained and qualified, which will improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools. The initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic teachers was only offered by Colleges of Education (CoE), until recently when University of Education, University of Cape Coast and Central University College joined the ranks. One of the most striking differences between programs offered by other tertiary institutions is that, while Universities examine and award certificates to students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition, while the University of Cape Coast through the Institute of Education examines and awards certificates. These institutions offer training programs to help teachers become qualified for teaching in schools. To ensure quality, the National Accreditation Board approves teacher training programs.
The National Accreditation Board approves teacher education programs on the basis of the content and structure of the courses offered by each institution. The content and structure of courses offered by different institutions can vary. The course content at the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast may be slightly different than the content and structure of the Center for Continue Education University of Cape Coast. However, all three programs award the Diploma in Basic Education (DBE), after three years of training. The DBE and the Four year Untrained Teacher Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE), programs run by the CoEs, are similar but not identical. Similar results can be made for the two-year Post-Diploma Basic Education and four-year Bachelor’s degree programs at the University of Cape Coast, Winneba, and other Universities and University Colleges. Even though the same products may attract the same clients, the way the products are prepared is different.
These programs prepare teachers for teaching in the elementary schools, from kindergarten to senior high schools. In situations of teacher shortages, alternative pathways or programs that prepare teachers can be useful. The UTDBE program is a typical example. It is designed to provide non-professional teachers professional skills. This attempt to produce more teachers due to a shortage of teachers has the tendency to compromise quality.
Stone (2010), Xiaoxia and Heeju, Nicci, and Stone (2010) all noted that there are many factors that can contribute to teacher education and teacher retention. However, one thing teacher educators are concerned with is the alternative routes that teacher education may take. Many of these pathways are designed to quickly get teachers into teaching. These pathways have cut out the teacher preparation required for prospective teachers before they can become classroom teachers. Those who prefer alternative routes like Teach For America (TFA) have defended their alternatives by saying that, even though students are only engaged for a short time of pre-service training they are academically brilliant and have the ability to learn a lot in a very short period. Some argue that there should be an intentional opening of pathways to qualified candidates in areas like English, Science, and Mathematics, where there is often a shortage of teachers. These arguments are not in favor of alternative routes. I will be referring to the alternative teacher education program in Ghana where brilliant academic students avoid teaching.