Education refers to the transference of knowledge, skills, and character traits. Some people debate its error-free definition and share their thoughts about what the aims of education are and what comprehensiveness it is different from training by nurturing critical thinking.
While this debate continues unabated, another one has emerged. It talks about licensing Ghanaian teachers at the pre-tertiary level. Not only that. The prerequisite is that qualified teachers who want employment must write and pass an institutionalised licensure exam after already acquiring their degrees or diplomas in teaching. According to the National Teaching Council (NTC), the license shall be valid for three years, upon which it will be renewed based on the portfolios individual teachers have built for themselves.
The first teacher licensure exam happened in September 2018 and it covered essential teaching skills, numeracy (basic calculation), and literacy (verbal aptitude and essay writing).
The NTC is mandated by the Ghana Education Act 2008, Article 778, for designing and executing professional development programmes and licensing teachers.
Many Ghanaian teachers and other professionals hail the establishment of the National Teaching Council and teacher licensing. However, they are against the introduction of an assessment – Teacher Licensure Examination – for the award of the license. The contrarians also voice their concerns against the renewal of the license.
Even the political class has joined in the discussion. The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) government says the teacher licensure exam should be maintained, but their predecessor, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party, insists they will outlaw it when reelected to govern the nation in 2025. Both parties are using their respective arguments as campaign messages ahead of the December 2024 presidential elections.
Following the public discourse, I have decided to stand up and be counted.
Although I agree with the teacher licensing policy, I am opposed to sitting a separate examination after acquiring a teaching qualification. I believe that exams do not make a good teacher; effective and regular teacher development does. Not all teachers who pass the licensure assessment perform creditably in the classroom. Teaching is not only about helping learners to become academically correct. Poor-performing teachers can get help through professional development instead of examinations.
Here are my thoughts regarding how differently the Ghana government should handle the teacher licensure examination debacle:
Reinstate the standardised entrance/admission exam for prospective trainee teachers. This assessment will help to enroll suitably qualified candidates to the colleges of education. Not all high school graduates who successfully pass their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) will make good teachers.
Teaching is a broad area of specialty. At the end of the 3-year or 4-year professional training programme, a licensure exam, included in the final assessments, should be conducted for the teachers-in-waiting; that is if it must be maintained at all, implying that anyone who fails the test forfeits their teaching qualification until they resit and pass it. In this case, there should be no renewal of the license.
In South Africa, teachers apply for licenses at the South African Council of Educators (SACE). SA citizens with professional teaching qualifications have permanent licenses. However, foreign educators receive renewable teaching licenses until they attain permanent residence status. Both local and foreign educators do not write licensure exams, yet they perform well, although, as the saying goes, no machine is one hundred percent efficient. In the absence of the licensure exam, South African teachers undergo regular subject-based teacher development courses. They also attend subject meetings to carry out the moderation of School Based Assessments (SBA) and external assessments.
The government of Ghana must incentivise professional teachers, and make the education sector attractive enough to retain excellent and dedicated teachers to avoid the brain drain that is currently on the rise. There must be affordable housing, car loans, scholarships for further studies, and continuous subject-based teacher development courses. By doing so, the education sector will produce more awesome outcomes than we have today. The state should also modernise the school infrastructure nationwide, build more, and supply sufficient learning resources to enhance teaching and learning.
The government must appreciate and encourage NGOs, CSOs, Corporate organisations, and individuals who take a keen interest in promoting education and liaise with them to do more.
Many years ago, teachers who did not write licensure exams groomed me to become a better person able to think analytically and critically. So, the answer to being a good teacher is NOT solely in licensure examinations.
Thank you for reading. Please share the message if possible.
The writer, Victor Yao Nyakey, is a journalist, business developer, and education consultant