Teach the kids how to learn not how to pass exams [Article]

Efo Korku Mawutor

The biggest problem with the Ghanaian Educational System is that students are not taught how to learn. What makes this worse is that teachers don’t know that they need to teach students how to learn. And that’s mainly because at the teacher training institute, trainees are not exposed to learning methods as much as they are to teaching methods.

As a final year university student, who has been helping my mates prepare for exams since primary four, I have seen enough to know that if only students are taught how to learn as much as they taught how to write exams, all the examination malpractices which have become an unruly abnormality and have degenerated into all the student agitations which have bridled the ongoing WASSCE could be avoided. If equal strict attention is given to learning as much as it is given to exams, the story would be different.

I remember how my basic and high school teachers (a lot of thanks for their efforts which impacted my life tremendously, but), few weeks to exams, would gather us and teach us how to prepare for exams. They would ask us to focus on past questions because the examiners have no time to set new questions. They would tell us to put our all into the exams because if we were to fail, our lives would come to standstill. They would tell us to obey exams rules (not because it’s the moral and legal thing to oo, but) because flouting them could land us in prison.

You see, when you teach and encourage students to learn just for exams, you inadvertently prepare them for failure in everything else. More dangerous is that when you make examinations central to schooling, you limit the imaginations and perceptions of the students about what’s important in their studying and hence what to focus on. Therefore, attention is placed on passing exams and not in acquiring attitudes and abilities that become relevant in future endeavour. Exams become an end (failure of which is synonymous to failure in life) instead of a means to an end (failure of which is just a phase that only strengthens one for similar situations later in life).

With such a mindset, that examination is the most important part of the educational process and that the only way to excel in life is to pass exams, students will find any means possible to come out with flying colours, whether the colours are legally or illegally obtained. And to think that these students already don’t know how to learn, they can only resort to corrupt and unscrupulous means to make sure they pass their exams at all cost.

And when, in a time like this where students have spent a lot of time at home because of a pandemic and have been made to go back to school under uncertain conditions, a government decides to buy past questions for students all over the country, add marking schemes and top it off with the Chief Examiner’s Report, for a student population who don’t know how to learn, it makes sense that they will depend solely on such material.

So, let’s not pretend surprise at the self-centred, narcissistic, entitlement and violent behaviour we are seeing in this year’s WASSCE candidates. Most of them are exhibiting such behaviours because they are depressed. The acting out because they’ve just been hit with the hard truth that they’ve made a huge life mistake by studying for exams instead of learning for life. They’ve just realised, much to their chagrin, that focusing on passing exams is a huge mistake.

And like most depressed persons, they’re quick to blame the next most available person, in their case, the government and the stakeholders of the system who didn’t teach them how to learn but only taught them how to pass exams. And when a person is undergoing depression and you add pressure to their already existing situation, they are bound to turn their anger on you.

No one should get me wrong. I am not justifying the violent behaviour shown by the candidates. I am not saying they are right to what the damage they’ve done. I am not saying they should go unpunished.

All I’m saying is that the incidences and accidents should open our eyes to the wider picture. All I’m saying is that the system and its stakeholders deserve a piece of the blame too. All I’m saying is that we should do better to change our mode of teaching and learning in this country in order to avert such occurrences.And for those who dont realise it, what’s going on now has dire repercussions on all of us. Now that the rest of the world knows the rot in our education system, anyone carrying a certificate or degree from any school in Ghana would be looked at with a second eye. Our educational setups will lose their credibility and the prestige they used to have.

It can go on to reduce the rate of the foreign student who enters Ghanaian schools. That will affect the foreign exchange and weaken our currency against others. Schools and student can lose out on exchange programs and even excellent people educated in the Ghanaian system will not have as much respect as they used to have.

But this is not a prophecy of doom. I am not one of those. We can and we must change how we run our educational system in this country. And there are sterling examples to learn from. Case in point is what Mr Patrick Awuah Jr. has done with his Ashesi University, instituting an #HonourCode system which students sign on to; be never cheat in exams and to be responsible enough to prevent their mates from cheating or report those who do. As a result of this, in Ashesi, there are no invigilators during exams.

Don’t tell me that’s a university because I believe that whatever is there can and should be replicated in our basic and high schools. We must treat our education as more of a psychological venture than one of political expediency.

We must be more intentional about our education. We must be more forward-thinking about what goes into our education. We must think generationally about the content and mode of delivery of our education. This haphazard, inconsistent and partisan approach to education can only produce what we are seeing today.

The solution, from where I sit, is quite simple: teach students how to learn. If they know how to combine their personal learning abilities to the teaching that goes in class with relevant research and make use of group discussions and consulting teachers at their free time, and if student focus on learning to acquire knowledge for a higher life purpose instead of learning to write exams to advance to higher learning levels, there will be tranquillity in the educational set up.

But, who am I? A simple student of life. One who, though has not made 9-1s or 8As in JHS or SHS, has always been the best. One who has been organising revision discussion for my university mates for three years now, which has seen an increment in the number of attendance every year since it started, an indication that it is helping its patrons.

Source: Efo Korku Mawutor

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