Monthly Archives: June 2018

Are Schools Ethically Responsible to Provide

The Past and the Present

My fondest memories of childhood are the days I spent playing with my friends in a small Northern Mississippi town. I belonged to a small clan of children who did not have much in common with today’s children. We had no video games, no cable television, no internet, and no cellular phones. All we had were each other and our imaginations. I remember spending hours riding bikes up and down the old country road. We played hide-and-seek, tackle football, sword fights with sticks, and many other games that our imaginations brought us.

I remember school being full of exciting games and activities on the playground in which our teachers would participate and make it all the more fun. We loved school and all the rich experiences that occurred in the classroom, in the gym, and on the play-ground.

Are these the days of old? Reality hit a few months ago when my son invited a school-mate to spend the night. I took the boys outside to play a little catch. After only a few minutes, my son’s friend was sweating immensely and short of breath. It was very obvious that he rarely played outside. He quickly asked if he could go inside to cool off and play more video games.

Today, at the young age of 37 (at least I think so), I still have a love for the outdoors. I enjoy running, playing basketball, hiking nature trails, fishing, and paddling in my canoe. I have shared that love with my children. I attribute this to the rich experiences of my childhood.

Today, with all the modern comforts and technologies, one of our biggest failures is the neglect we have shown towards our children. In a way, we have made life too easy for them and ourselves with air conditioned homes and schools, video games, cable and satellite networks with hundreds of channels to choose. It is no wonder why children elect to stay inside!

The Crisis

Many experts state that our nation’s youth are in a dire state. Some say this is the first generation that are not expected to out-live their parents. Due to increased pressures from No Child Left Behind for schools to make annual yearly progress (AYP) on standardized tests and from the recent budget crisis that have affected most of the state education agencies in the United States, many school districts have removed Health and Physical Education programs from their curriculums.

The Past and the Present

A national study in 2000 surveyed the after-school activities of America’s youth. Over three-million children reported staying home alone after school up to 47 minutes, many children between the ages of 11 and 12 reported being home up to an hour and 15 minutes. The big question is, what do they do? Many reported sedentary activities such as watching television, personal care, doing their homework, and eating snacks (Jacobson, 2000). With today’s fast moving pace, more children are spending time alone. In most cases, both parents work, or there is only one custodial parent. Due to the changes in family dynamics that were previously mentioned, children need more guidance in the areas of health and fitness; schools are a logical choice.

As an educator, I feel that schools have an ethical responsibility to educate the whole child: socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically. All things are relative. For example, one reason health insurance premiums are so high these days are due to the rise in preventable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Wouldn’t it make sense to educate our future generations so that this trend can be reduced? One of the biggest problems with educational leaders is their lack of vision and short-sightedness.

From an educational stand-point there have been many studies that show a relationship between physical activity and academic achievement. For example, a national survey in 2006 analyzed 12,000 U.S. high school students. Those students who reported participating in physical education, school sports, or participating in physical activities with family members were reported to be 29% more likely to than non-participating peers to earn an “A” in math or English (Nelson and Gordon-Larsen, 2006). A study in 2003 revealed evidence that regular physical exercise improves cognitive function in key academic related areas such as IQ, concentration, and math achievement (Sibley, 2003). There are many more examples such as these, which makes it even more surprising that many school districts across America continue to cut physical education from their curriculums.

That being said, I would like to share some ideas with fellow school administrators on how they can promote healthy living among the students and faculty at their schools. One of the hats that I wear as an educational leader is that of a school health coordinator. Below, are some examples that school leaders can implement in their schools.

  1. Physical Education: Not only should schools offer physical education as an elective, schools should do their best to promote the program and encourage students to register every year, particularly at the upper elementary and middle school levels.
  2. Healthy Snacks: One way to encourage healthy eating habits is to remove unhealthy choices and give students the opportunity to try healthy alternatives. Schools might even offer free samples as encouragement. It has been my experience that once students try healthy snacks such as: whole grain cereal bars, fruits, cheeses, and yogurt, they discover that they actually like them and even prefer them over the traditional unhealthy alternatives.
  3. Healthy Options in the cafeteria: It is also important to offer healthy choices as part of the school menu and assist cafeteria staff in promoting these choices.
  4. Health Education: Incorporating health topics into the curriculum is a great way to spark interests in healthy lifestyles at an early age. There are a variety of creative ways to incorporate health objectives into both general and physical education curriculums. There are a multitude of websites and publications where teachers and administrators can attain ideas.
  5. Form a School Health Council: Many schools have begun to form councils that involve stakeholders from both inside and outside of the school. Their goal is to improve the overall health of the students and faculty members, as well as the people in community. Many schools set-up after school exercise programs for students, faculty members, and parents. Some form alliances with civic and private organizations in order to get their message out to the public.
  6. Health Fair: One thing we do at my school is host a yearly health fair that invites local businesses and organizations that promote physical activity. This gives students the opportunity to experience first hand the options that are available in their own community. Examples include: the local civic parks and recreation department, Boy Scout troops, businesses that teach cheer and dance, businesses that teach martial arts, running clubs/organizations, and local fitness gyms that offer memberships to students. These are just a few, every community has their share.
  7. In-Class Interventions: Many classroom teachers, especially at the elementary level incorporate stretching and exercises at different times of the school-day. Research has shown a link between physical movement and cognitive function. Allowing the students to perform a few mild stretches and exercises beside their desk is a great way to keep students engaged and to promote physical health. My school allows classes to walk around the building after leaving the lunchroom, students and teachers enjoy this and it doesn’t take time from instruction.
  8. Walking Clubs: Encourage faculty members and students to establish after school walking clubs and invite parents to participate. This is a great way to involve the whole community. Also, encourage teachers to walk the halls during plan time, this is a great way for them to relieve stress and from an administrator’s stand-point, it’s another set of eyes watching the building!

Ethical Responsibility

Given the evidence reported above, is it ethical for school districts to cut physical education and health programs in their schools? Are schools limited to merely teaching the three R’s? I think not, the situation is dire. The health and happiness of future generations are at stake. In order to preserve a future, school officials must act today!

Education in South Africa

It’s January, and that means the start of a new school year in South Africa. In less than a week, students (or learners, as they’re called in South Africa) and teachers will fill classrooms, hoping to embark on a new year of learning, enlightenment, and growth. It’s a good time for students to ride the momentum gained with last year’s record-breaking high school pass rate. For those of us in the United States, Canada, and other Western countries, it’s a good time to learn about the educational experiences that our young South African friends will have this year.

Primary education is mandatory in South Africa. According to the country’s Constitution, South Africa has an obligation to make education available and accessible. All South Africans have the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and further education.

School in South Africa begins in grade 0, or grade R. It’s the equivalent of our kindergarten, a time of school preparation and early childhood socialization. Grades 0 to 9 make up General Education and Training, followed by Further Education and Training (FET) from grades 10 to 12. Students either stay in high school during this time, or enter more specialized FET institutions with an emphasis on career-oriented education and training. After passing the nationally-administered Senior Certificate Examination, or “matric,” some students will continue their education at the tertiary level, working towards degrees up to the doctoral level. Over a million students are enrolled in South Africa’s 24 state-funded colleges and universities.

With a solid educational structure in place, South Africa continues the long and arduous process of overcoming the discriminatory legacy left behind by 40 years of apartheid education. Under that system, white South African children received a quality schooling virtually for free. Black students, on the other hand, had access only to “Bantu education”, a system based on the unjust philosophy that there was no place in South African society for black Africans “above certain forms of labor” (a quote attributed to HF Verwoerd, the architect of the Bantu Education Act of 1953). In the 1970s, government spending on black education was one-tenth of spending on whites. By the 1980s, teacher to pupil ratios in primary schools averaged 1:18 in white schools and 1:39 in black schools. Even the standards for education were different between black and while schools: while 96 percent of all teachers in white schools had teaching certificates, only 15 percent of teachers in black schools were certified. Not surprisingly during apartheid, high school graduation rates for black students were less than half the rate for whites.

Bantu education was abolished with the end of apartheid in 1994. Nevertheless, South Africa continues to struggle with inequality and educational disparities. Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, the vast majority of poor black children are denied a quality education at severely deprived public schools. Over three-quarters of these schools do not have libraries, and even more do not have a computer. Around 90 percent of public schools have no science laboratory, and more than half of all pupils either have no text books or have to share them. Over a quarter of public schools do not even having running water.

More affluent South Africans (read: White South Africans, along with a small but growing contingent from the black middle class) can afford to send their children to so-called former “Model C” schools, publicly funded schools that were previously allowed only for white students. These schools charge extra school fees to supplement teachers’ salaries and buy extra resources. Not surprisingly, these former white-only schools have far superior facilities and quality of education.

School outcomes tell the story of South Africa’s educational inequalities. In 2009 just over half of black students passed the high school final exam, compared with 99 percent of whites. Of the South African population over 20 years old, 65 percent of those who are white and only 14 percent of those who are black have a high school degree or higher. The disparities remain at the university level. Although black Africans account for 80 percent of the whole South African population, they make up less than half of all university students. Less than one in 20 black South Africans ends up with a degree, compared with almost half of all whites.

Education Crisis Results in Poorly Prepared Future Workers

Following is a more literary form of the business proposal that I have presented to various chamber of commerce in the Los Angeles area. It is interesting to note that unlike academic theory or bureaucratic laced government-run institutions, that which works in the real world works virtually ignoring criticism or conjecture. Yes, Mr. Forbes, capitalism may not only save us but education as well. Here’s to the innovative, problem solving, get ‘er done spirit of the entrepreneur. Peace!

Over the past 17 years, the percentage of four-year college and university students who graduate has dipped more than 10 percentage points, despite increases in enrollment, according to the Council for Aid to Education and the National Governors Association. About 42 percent of students entering four-year colleges or universities graduate (Al Branch, CBS Business Network).

But there’s more. And it gets worse.

Every 26 seconds another student drops out of public high school which translates to nearly one-third of all public high school students dropping out. It’s so bad that Colon Powell and his wife are heading a national movement in an attempt to reverse the trend. But even of those two-thirds who graduate, the picture doesn’t get any brighter. According to a 2007 survey, nearly 90% desired to attend and graduate college. Unfortunately, the majority never did. Even of the current 28% of the population with bachelor’s degrees, within five to ten years 70% will no longer be working in a job related to their major.

So what’s happening? Are our children, our future not getting the help, education, achievement they need or have been promised?

But the plot thickens. Even though learning appears to be happening, there is a disconnect somewhere in the system: “A sizable [number of remedial students entering college] are recent graduates who performed well in high school: A 2008 study by the nonprofit Strong American School found that nearly four out of five remedial students had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher.”

So why aren’t they learning? Or is there such a large discrepancy between high school and college education that the issue is closing the gap (we have some of the best colleges and universities in the world yet some of the worst performing schools)? Or is it grade inflation or students being pushed through the system just so high schools, even community colleges, can obtain funding? Regarding grades, in college there is a similar problem to that which is occurring at the high school level. More and more is being written about students not learning, even those achieving good grades (As and Bs). So what’s going on?

What is happening is complex but there are several major factors that stand out and must be taken into consideration; in doing so, we will take a look at not only the dropouts and failures but the alleged successes. And what we will discover is that we are looking in all the wrong places and asking all the wrong questions (or no questions at all) to ensure an increased chance at success. But first, let’s look at a few more facts to add to our understanding of the overall issue.

Let’s take a look at high school kids first. Why are so many dropping out? According to a report titled The Silent Epidemic by John Bridgeland (CEO of Civic Enterprise, a publicity group that lead a 2008 national dropout summit), 80% of students surveyed said they dropped out because of a need for “classes that are more interesting and provide opportunities for real-world leaning.” Unfortunately, far too often children are taught out of context with little connection made between what’s being learned in school to that of the real world. Achievers know that without specific understanding of outcomes, what they are or why they even exist, lack of motivation and focus arises negatively affecting achievement.

But there’s more to the drop out picture. More and more households are being run by a single parent-because of divorce sometimes paying for two households-who needs help from their wage-earning children just to pay the bills. Then there’s the minimum wage issue that places wages too high for some companies (especially small business that are in the majority) who can’t afford it, so they cut jobs. This has been part of the reason students drop out of high school; they can’t find a part-time job because there are fewer of them, so they get a full-time job to help mom or dad pay the bills.

But let’s get to the deeper issue or, as I stated previously, the not asking of critical questions.

How can schools really know what the issues are at hand when they are not asking students, their customers, what they want? As previously stated, today’s high school students have complaints (uninteresting classes, not applicable to real-world), and they may even be understood by teachers and administration, but little is being done to serve them. I know that some may feel that “adults know best” and teenagers are not mature enough to know what they need, but most adults will confess, if they think about it, this is hardly the case. And students know that today a college degree does not guarantee a job or career success. It may improve one’s chances but there are no guarantees.

So what are some of the core issues?

One is that schools are third-party government run institutions that don’t cater to the needs of the individual like customers or consumers in the real-world economy or the private sector. How many surveys are sent out to high school- or college grads to see if what they are receiving or have received is what they need? Often it is the opinions of a limited few on boards and accrediting agencies– at the college level–that are informing the many what they need. Because of this, schools and colleges are out of touch with what is really needed. Education (schools and colleges) is missing so much real-world knowledge, skills, and attitudes, which I estimate to be about 80%. Consider that in today’s job market those just entering the workforce will have upwards of three to four career changes over their working lifetime; what should be taught is not just knowledge but critical skills and attitudes on how to think and self-teach, for once college is over-after a brief sixteen years of education-then what? Go back to school every five to seven years or so for another degree? But instead we dictate to our students what we think they will need whether they need it or not. And it’s not just about careers, but to be more active and engaged parents, citizens, to live a longer, more productive life; life-long learning and new-skill building should be taught, along with a good understanding of success principles, relationship skills, capitalism, democracy, and government, and much more.

Regarding current curriculum, how many students who have to learn algebra, geometry, trigonometry, biology, chemistry, literature, language, and history don’t care for much if not most of these subjects? I’ve taken many an informal survey with few respondents ‘passionately’ interested in any of the aforementioned. And it’s not partial or mild interest that creates substantial, empowered, life-long achievement. Certainly we know of the great crush for those with math and science skills. But what does that actually mean? Of the entire workforce such jobs account only for about 15%. But another thing to consider is that we are putting the cart before the horse, or dictating, “You need to be good in math and science” rather than asking, “Are you interested in math and science.” For motivation is based in autonomy and the ability to choose, especially in considering one’s career choice, and not forcing a round peg into a square hole.

Who is to say what it is that an individual needs when that individual is so unique regarding personality, disposition, influences social and familial, gifts and talents, and desires. But very few students are even asked what they would like out of an education, or whether or not what they are learning is “real world” suited to them, or if they’ve chosen a major merely based on what their parents, peers, teachers, society wants, or if they are doing it to assuage their desire for respect, money, prestige, and so forth. I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with people who went to school for a particular degree only to discover later that it wasn’t for them. I tell my students that if they find they are really struggling with what they have been studying and hate every moment of it looking forward to post-test time like the purging of a disgusting meal, well, it is probably not for them. Another factor is that within five to ten years 70% of college grads no longer work in a field related to their major. There is just so little prep-work done by the student to honestly and thoroughly know herself well enough so that she is working more toward a sustainable career and not one that her teachers or the president of the U.S. wants but what she wants, for only passion for a career will sustain the worker through years or decades, not that which she is barely interested in never mind hates.

But even if the student is pretty secure in knowing herself-who she is and what she wants-there is still the mis-guided notion that colleges offering a degree will give her what she needs in the real world. Hardly. Once again, I can’t count the number of times I have been told by those who obtained a bachelor’s degree, certificate, associate’s degree-some type of officially stamped and sealed piece of paper-that hardly prepared them or didn’t do so in the least. Students, after all, do little in the way of analyzing self and then matching what they’ve discovered to an education then a career.

To top this off, consider that accrediting agencies approve quality of institutions of higher learning based on standards set by the accrediting agency in collaboration with the educational institution of higher learning in question. But just the number of issues regarding accrediting agencies alone could take up pages. Does this seem to be problematic to you? It should. Is any of what is being spoken to by the college or accrediting agency based in reality? What the student or consumer needs? Has a college grad ever received a survey asking how much of the education he or she has received is of great practical use? Applicable more than not to career and life? Is there anything that needs to be change? Modified? Altered? Improved?

Rarely.

Why? Because education is predominantly not about the student but funding. At the high school, community college, state college, even university level third-party interest in getting money far often takes priority over student education and what is being taught. Consider that the majority of high school students are learning things they won’t use or ever care about should give you some clue. And schools can get more and more money, but that doesn’t solve the problem either. For money has no intrinsic value, it is the people who use it who provide or lack the value. And sometimes it might be less money that will do the trick; why not instead put teachers on commission to ensure student success in the work place. In all likelihood, not only would student success improve so would teachers incomes as they push to get real-world results not what is merely believed to be needed. What is really needed is better management and innovation.

Another issue is that schools focus on minimal intelligence types, two of the eight, actually: linguistics and logic or language and math. What if a student’s gift lies in the kinesthetic or body, or in the intra-personal or reflective, or inter-personal the social, on and on it goes. There is so much more to life than being an engineer or English lit professor.

What would truly improve education is to disconnect it from the third-party government and leave it up to the supplier and consumer to work it out. Consider that greatest retention and graduation rates are formed in private high schools and the most learning goes on in private colleges and universities where the consumer votes with his or her dollar as to whether or not the institution stays open, should help you to begin to see a solution to this education problem.

Just imagine if degrees were offered on a supply / demand basis without the slow, self-interested based bureaucracy of government. The consumer would receive the least expensive, most innovative, practical, connective education one could buy. Without a direct connection between supplier and consumer distortion and imbalances occur. As any good capitalist knows, only the trial and error process of innovation in the private sector sans any micromanagement with third-party interest can determine and sustain long-term growth and optimize effectiveness. Government managed entities ultimately serve only the whims of politicians or third-party individuals. However, the education issue will never be solved by the government in a timely fashion. Consider that welfare was enacted in the 1930s and reformed some sixty years later or that government-run airports are sixty years behind in plane-tracking technology. Because of its bureaucratic self-interest, it can only provide basic education at best, and even there it does so poorly. We have to prioritize the consumer, what he or she needs, question and listen to what is needed.

Edward L Deci, author of Why We Do What We Do, tells us that people are motivated best if they act autonomously, or freely choose what it is they desire to do sans any parental, peer, social influences, or ego-based needs (to be a doctor to simply gain respect, prestige). This is the beginning of student success. And it will certainly take some time and experimenting even changing of careers, but over the long haul, it will decrease the waste of time and money spent on “education” that is not desired. And we must get rid of the waste. As Garrett B Gunderson states in Killing Sacred Cows, “The more risk we take on, the more we expose ourselves to lost opportunity costs, and these are so often so profound that they make all the difference between wealth and mediocrity.” This same loss can be seen in regards to education. Gunderson also mentions that in order to decrease risk financially one must invest in herself: “human life value-knowledge, skills, abilities, ideas, and relationships. Human life value is the source of all money, prosperity, and progress.” Yet people “know their Soul Purpose but refuse to acknowledge it because doing so may require uncomfortable decisions. The real pain and suffering from human existence come from not making these decisions.”

To cut back on waste in time and money, confusion and mismanagement the individual consumer must put her education / career into her own hands. She can’t fix the system, nor should she desire to, but rather she should know as much as she can about herself, her talents, gifts and abilities, where she desires to apply them and what specific education and training she needs to get there sans any third-party that thinks it can dictate to individuals via a mass message what he or she needs.

Teacher Education and Teacher

1.0 INTRODUCTION

One of the sectors which fosters national development is education by ensuring the development of a functional human resource. The institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned while they were in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual we all ‘teacher’. For this reason, nations seeking economic and social developments need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.

Teachers are the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines, not only, the quality of education, but the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves therefore ought to get the best of education, so they can in turn help train students in the best of ways. It is known, that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most important factors that shape the learning and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of very high quality, so as to be able to properly manage classrooms and facilitate learning. That is why teacher quality is still a matter of concern, even, in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of the potential it has to cause positive students’ achievements.

The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to the quest of producing teachers who understand the current needs of students or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes just to ensure that classrooms are not free of teachers. In the U.S.A, how to promote high quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where there are more teachers than needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to the teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is therefore no joke anywhere. This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and in the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.

2.0 TEACHER EDUCATION

Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to produce quality teachers for her basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that goes on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when, University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference between the programs offered by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition while the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. The training programs offered by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs in order to ensure quality.

The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continue Education, University of Cape Coast and none of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect even though, same products attract same clients, the preparation of the products are done in different ways.

It is through these many programs that teachers are prepared for the basic schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways, or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations where there are shortages of teachers and more teachers ought to be trained within a very short time. A typical example is the UTDBE program, mentioned above, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of shortage of teachers, has the tendency of comprising quality.

As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) the factors that contribute to the problems of teacher education and teacher retention are varied and complex, but one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occur. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the necessary teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science and mathematics where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments in support of alternative pathways, hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I shall come to.

When the target is just to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation is relegated to the background, somehow. Right at the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students were admitted, I can say with confidence that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that, the applicant must be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service, and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect compromised quality.

Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs in, particular, are not attracting the candidates with very high grades. This as I have learnt now has a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. The fact is, teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious programs and so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so the majority of applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates. This drop in standard could only be attributed to CoEs’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities too, lower their cut off point for education programs so as attract more candidates. The universities as alleged by Levine (2006) see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money, force them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have done, in order to increase their enrollments. The fact that, admission standards are internationally lowered in order to achieve a goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a serious challenge to teacher education.

The Japanese have been able to make teacher education and teaching prestigious and therefor attract students with high grades. One may argue that in Japan, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand and so authorities are not under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all they can to select higher grade student into teacher education programs. To them, the issues relating to the selection of teachers are more important that the issues relating to recruitment. However, in western and African countries the issues relating to recruitment are prime. It is so because the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession is not held in high esteem. Teacher education programs therefore do not attract students who have very good grades. It is worth noting that, it is not the recruiting procedure only that determines whether or not teacher education will be prestigious, however recruiting candidates with high grades, ensures that after training, teachers will exhibit the two characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness. Teacher education can be effective if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and therefore able to attract the best of applicants. Otherwise, irrespective of incentives put into place to attract applicants and irrespective of the measures that will be put in place to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve its purpose.

In order to strengthen teacher preparation, there is the need for teacher preparation programs to provide good training during the initial teacher training stage, and provide and sustain support during the first few years after the teachers have been employed. That is why Lumpe (2007) supports the idea that pre-service teacher education programs should ensure teachers have gained a good understanding of effective teaching strategies. Methodology classes therefore should center on effective teaching strategies. Irrespective of the pathway the training program takes, the program must be structured such that trainees gain knowledge about pedagogy, besides the knowledge of subject matter. They should also get enough exposure to practical classroom experience like the on-campus and off-campus teaching practice. Whether or not there is the need to fill vacancies in the classroom due to the high teacher attrition, many countries face, teacher preparation programs should aim at producing quality and effective teacher and not just filling vacancies.

3.0 DETERMINANTS OF TEACHER QUALITY

Teacher quality has such enormous influence on students’ learning. Anyone who has been in the teaching business will agree that teacher quality is central to education reform efforts. Priagula, Agam & Solmon (2007) described teacher quality as an important in-school factor that impact significantly on students’ learning. Quality teachers have positive impact on the success of students. Where the students have quality and effective teachers the students make learning gains while those with ineffective teachers show declines. With respect to the classroom teacher, teacher quality is a continuous process of doing self-assessment so as to have professional development and a self-renewal, in order to enhance teaching. For the teacher educator, an effective or quality teacher is one who has a good subject-matter and pedagogy knowledge, which the he/she can build upon.

Outstanding teachers possess and exhibit many exemplary qualities. They have the skills, subject matter, and pedagogy to reach every child. They help equip their students with the knowledge and breadth of awareness to make sound and independent judgments. Three determinants of teacher quality will be considered here. They are; pedagogical knowledge, subject-matter content knowledge and experience.

3.1 PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

Trainees of every profession receive some sort of education that will give them insight into and prepare them for the task ahead. That of the teacher is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge or Pedagogical Knowledge. Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be described as, knowledge the teachers use in organizing classrooms, delivering the content the students must show mastery over and for managing the students entrusted into their care. Generally speaking, pedagogical knowledge is knowledge the teacher uses to facilitate students’ learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge is in two major forms – teachers’ knowledge of the students’ pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching methodologies. Students come to class with a host of pre-conceptions relating to the things they are learning. The pre-conceptions may or may not be consistent with the actual subject-matter that is delivered. Teachers must have a good idea of both kinds of preconception, in order to help students, replace the inconsistent pre-conceptions or build upon the consistent pre-conceptions to bring about meaningful learning. Teachers must have a repertoire of teaching methodologies for facilitating students’ learning. When the methodologies are applied wrongly little or no learning occurs in students. In effect when either of the two is weak, the teacher becomes a bad one because that teacher will not be able to execute his/her responsibility in the vocation he/she has chosen. Due to this during teacher preparation, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is emphasized.

Teachers gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge from various sources. Friedrichsen, Abell, Pareja, Brown, Lankford and Volkmann (2009) distinguished three potential sources of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. They listed the sources as professional development programs, teaching experiences and lastly teachers’ own learning experiences. During their days as students in teacher education programs, teachers are assisted in variety ways to gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge. For examples, during practice, they learn how to put the pedagogical skills they learnt. Teacher education programs and other professional development programs create avenues for teachers to gain pedagogical content knowledge through workshops, lectures, working together with colleagues, and in teaching practice. Then their experiences in their classrooms as they teach students lead them to gain insight into which methodologies work under best under specific situations. That last source is usually ignored. It indicates that the professional knowledge of the teacher begins to develop long before the teacher becomes a candidate entering into teacher education. This means, the way teachers teach influences to a large extent the prospective teachers’ professional knowledge and beliefs. This type of learning is, generally, overlooked by teachers at all levels because unintentional and informal, it is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be gained through formal and informal means. Learning opportunities for pedagogical content knowledge, formally, designed by institutions, based on learning objectives which generally are prerequisite for certification, constitutes the formal means. In formal learning, students have clear ideas about the objective of acquiring pedagogical skills. Informal learning, on the other hand, is not organized intentionally. It takes place incidentally and so can be considered as ‘side effect’. As Kleickmann et al (2012) described it, it has no goal with respect to learning outcomes, and it is contextualized to a large extent. This is often called learning by experience. Informal, but deliberative, learning situations exists. This occurs in situations such as learning in groups, mentoring, and intentional practicing of some skills or tools. Werquin (2010) described informal, but deliberative, learning as non-formal learning. Unlike formal learning, non-formal learning does not occur in educational institutions and does not attract certification. Whether pedagogical content knowledge

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is used to bridges the gap between content knowledge and actual teaching. By bridging the gap, it ensures that discussions of content are relevant to teaching and that discussions themselves are focused on the content. As such, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is something teachers must pay attention to. Teachers who possess and use good Pedagogical content knowledge have good control over classroom management and assessment, knowledge about learning processes, teaching methods, and individual characteristics (Harr, Eichler, & Renkl, 2014). Such teachers are able to create an atmosphere that facilitates learning and are also able to present or facilitate the learning of concepts by even lazy students. They are able to make learning easier by students hence teacher with high pedagogical content knowledge can be classified as quality teachers. It is worth noting that it is not pedagogical content knowledge only that makes good teachers. A teacher will not be good if he/she is master of pedagogical knowledge but lacks subject matter content knowledge.

3.2 SUBJECT-MATTER KNOWLEDGE

The goal of teaching is to help learners develop intellectual resources that will enable them participate fully in the main domains of human taught and enquiry. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter the teacher possesses. That is to say, teachers’ knowledge of subject-matter has influence on their efforts to assist students to learn that subject-matter. If a teacher is ignorant or not well informed he/she cannot do students any good, he/she will rather much harm them. When the teacher conceives knowledge in such a way that it is narrow, or do not have accurate information relating to a particular subject-matter, he/she will pass on these same shallow or inaccurate information to students. This kind of teacher will hardly recognize the consistent pre-conceptions and challenge the misconceptions of students. Such a teacher can introduce misconceptions as he/she uses texts uncritically or inappropriately alter them. It is the teacher’s conception of knowledge that shapes the kind of questions he/she asks and the ideas he/she reinforces as well as the sorts of tasks the teacher designs.

Teachers’ subject-matter matter content knowledge must go beyond the specific topics of their curriculum. This is because the teacher does not only define concepts for students. Teachers explain to students why a particular concept or definition is acceptable, why learners must know it and how it relates to other concepts or definitions. This can be done properly if the teacher possesses a good understanding of the subject-matter. This type of understanding includes an understanding of the intellectual context and value of the subject-matter. The understanding of subject matter generally reinforces the teacher’s confidence in delivering lessons, thereby making him/her a good teacher.

3.3 EXPERIENCE

Experience is one of the factors that account for variations in teacher salary, the world over (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). The fact that salary differences are based on the number of years the teacher has served, suggests that employers believe the teachers experience makes him/her a better teacher and such a teacher must be motivated to remain in the service. Though some studies like that Hanushek (2011) have suggested that the experience positively influences teacher quality only in the first few years, and that beyond five years, experience ceases to have positive impact on teacher efficacy, common sense tells us the one who has been doing something for a long time does better and with ease. Experience will therefore continue to pay, since, more experienced teachers have the propensity to know more about the subject-matter they teach, and think and behave appropriately in the classroom, and have much more positive attitudes toward their students.

Teachers who have spent more years of teaching, usually, feel self-assured in their skill to use instructional and assessment tools. These teachers are able to reach even the most difficult-to-reach students in their classrooms. They also have greater confidence in their capability to control the class and prevent incidence that might make the teaching and learning process difficult. Their experience makes them much more patient and tolerant than their counterpart with few years of experience (Wolters & Daugherty, 2007). Novice teachers progressively gain and develop teaching and classroom management skills needed to make them effective teachers. They spend time learning themselves – trying to understand fully the job they have entered. The teachers who have spent more years teaching have gained a rich store of knowledge the less experience teachers will be trying to build. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness is generally associated with good attitudes, behaviors and interactions with their students. This is something the experienced teacher has already acquired. These explain why more experienced teachers are usually more effective teachers than the novices.

Another reason more experienced teachers tend to be better teachers than their inexperienced counterparts, is that, experienced teachers have gained additional training, and hence, have acquired additional teaching skills, needed to be effective from direct experience. Usually the training of teachers does not end at the initial teacher training stage. After graduation, teachers attend capacity building seminars, workshops and conferences. These give teachers the opportunity to learn emerging teaching techniques and also refresh their memories on the things they have learnt. Such seminars, workshops and conferences mostly add to the teacher’s store of knowledge. The other advantage the experienced teachers have is that they have encountered more situations to develop the skills needed to be effective teachers through additional direct, and sometimes indirect experiences. That is to say, they have encountered challenging situations which gave them the opportunity to build their skills. Whether they were able to overcome these challenging situation or not, does not matter so much. If the teachers encounter difficult situations in their classes, they learn from them. If the teachers are able to overcome difficult situations, they get to know how to resolve such situations at the next encounter, otherwise their reflections and suggestions from co-teachers gives them ideas about how to approach same or similar situations. They also have a greater chance of being exposed to current and competent models. More experienced teachers have a higher chance of demonstrating superior self-efficacy in most areas, because they have learned the needed classroom management and instructional skills from their colleagues. Teachers who have been in active service for many years are most likely to be classified as quality teachers, because of what they have learnt from in-service training, capacity building workshops and seminars, their interaction with other teachers and what they have learnt from experience in their classrooms.

4.0 CONCLUSION

Teacher education aims at providing teacher education program through initial teacher training for teacher trainees, and in-service training for practicing teachers in order to produce knowledgeable and committed teachers for effective teaching and learning. To realize this mission, teacher education programs have been instituted for the training of teachers. These programs differ from one country to another. Even within the same country, there may be different programs training teachers for the same certificate. These alternative programs are a created, specially, where there are shortages of teachers, and attempts are being made to train large numbers of teachers at a time. These alternative programs ease the teacher certification requirement, allowing those who under normal circumstances would not become teachers. This introduces serious challenges. Because large numbers of teachers are needed within a short period, their training is somewhat fast-tracked resulting in what is usually referred to as half-baked teachers – teachers of lower quality. Applicants who did not gain admission into the program of their choice come into teaching only because they have nowhere else to go. Such applicants tend not to be dedicated to the teaching service in the end. Fast-tracking initial teacher preparation actually harm the mission for which the initial teacher training institutions were created. This is because the teacher produced through such training are usually not of high quality.

Teacher preparation has a direct impact on students’ achievement. The most important in-school factors upon which student’s success hinges, is a teacher who has been well prepared. A well-prepared teacher is one who has gone through a strong teacher preparation program. It is therefore necessary for educators to work to create needed improvements in teacher preparation. To strengthen teacher preparation, teacher preparation programs must provide strong preparation during the initial teacher training period and give support to fresh teachers until they are inducted. Pre-service teacher education should emphasize the acquisition of effective teaching strategies. This can be done in methodology classes and corresponding field experiences. Students who have quality teachers make achievement gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines, therefore having high quality teachers in classrooms has a positive impact on students’ achievements.

Pedagogical content knowledge, subject matter content knowledge and experience determines the quality of a teacher. Teachers make subject-matter accessible to students by using Pedagogical content knowledge. Pedagogical content knowledge has two broad areas of knowledge: teachers’ knowledge of students’ subject-matter pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching strategies. What Pedagogical content knowledge does is that, it links subject-matter content knowledge and the practice of teaching, making sure that discussions on content are appropriate and that, discussions focus on the content and help students to retain the content. The teacher’s job is to facilitate the learning of subject-matter by students. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter content knowledge the teacher possesses. Teachers who possess inaccurate information or comprehend the subject-matter in narrow ways, harm students by passing on the same false or shallow subject-matter knowledge to their students. The last of the three determinants of teacher quality is experience. Teachers who have served more years gain additional and more specific training by attending seminars, conferences and workshops and in-service training and so tend to understand their job better. They also might have met and solved many challenging situations in their classroom and therefore know exactly what to do in any situation.