Global perspectives on primary education
Global perspectives on primary education

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Global perspectives on primary education

Comparing interviews: part 2

Sister Elizabeth Amoako-Athena is principal of Our Lady of Apostles College of Education in Ghana, with many years of experience of teacher training. Matha Josephine Apolot is a lecturer in Primary Education at Shimoni Primary Teacher Training College in Kampala, Uganda, and has recently begun working in higher education.

Activity 6b

In the following 10-minute interview, Elizabeth and Matha talk to Kris Stutchbury, Senior Lecturer in Education at The Open University, about quality education in Ghana (in West Africa) and Uganda (in East Africa).

Listen to this interview and then answer the questions that follow.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 2: What is quality education?
Skip transcript: Audio 2: What is quality education?

Transcript: Audio 2: What is quality education?

KRIS STUTCHBURY

Thank you Sister Elizabeth and Matha for agreeing to talk to me. The first thing that I was going to ask, can I ask you first Sister EliZabeth. What does quality education mean to you?

ELIZABETH

Quality education. The word quality is very big and depending on the circumstances or contexts it will mean different things to different people. But in terms of when you come to education, and I’m looking at the teacher education where I work, it’s more like a holistic kind of education given to teacher to empower the teacher to be versatile, to be able to help people. The type of education which affects the mind, heart, soul, body, and that means the person is very wholesome. That would be my type of education. I mean quality education. There are different aspects of quality. I mean like different dimensions that go to make up the quality education, which I’m sure Matha will pick up from there.

MATHA

Thank you Sister and interviewer. Yes, like Sister has put it, quality education depends on different contexts. In my own view I look at quality education in a way that I probably have to look at the indicators that can really show us that maybe we are getting quality education. First and foremost, I consider having qualified teachers who would be able to give us quality education. Having good schools. Having good infrastructure, generally the roads, and so on. And then also quality education is also seen in what the learners are able to demonstrate. Are they able to demonstrate the literacy and numeracy skills we are looking for? Are they able to communicate? Do they have the life skills and values that can help them, you know, fit in the society? That is my feel of quality education.

KRIS STUTCHBURY

Following on then from that, when the Millennium Development Goals changed into the Sustainable Development Goals there was a shift from an emphasis on access to an emphasis on quality. What changes have you noticed amongst the education community? How is this drive for quality? How has it changed what people are doing in your communities?

ELIZABETH

So in Ghana a lot of interventions were put in place to make sure that people have access. Schools were expanded. And now the emphasis is on the quality. Quality, so they are looking at how teachers are trained. What goes to training of teachers? For the first time we have not had any formal sort of standards for teachers. Now standards have been developed. And because of quality we have also put in this intervention teachers are going to be licensed. But teachers are going to be licensed from after your initial teacher training, you become an NQT, they give you one or two years’ induction, then you do professional tests.

KRIS STUTCHBURY

And what about Uganda, Matha? Have you noticed any changes in your college now the emphasis has changed?

MATHA

Our curriculum was reviewed in the PTC [Primary Teachers College]. And you realise that now the students are able to specialise. You either specialise in your second year. OK, first year you do general subjects. In second year you specialise either in lower primary or you specialise in upper primary. All colleges in Uganda have now ICT labs. They have computers, a standby generator, and some of them have got in funding from outside. They have given them solar panels. So that when electricity is not there the solar panelling is on and the computers just switch on automatically. And then the other one also, we changed now the objectives, we used to look at objectives. Now we are focusing on competencies, what students can do. So I think all this is focusing on quality. And then the other one is the admission of our students in the PTC has improved a lot. Previously we used to admit students who are just gotten passes. Passes, passes and passes. As long as you have six passes, you’d have the opportunity to join a primary teacher’s college. But we are saying now, no, since it is now quality, it is now credits. We want a credit in mathematics and we want a credit in English. And we want you to at least have passed two sciences from the two categories. So you must pass either of the two categories in order for you to qualify to go to that college.

ELIZABETH

It’s the same thing with ours.

MATHA

We are also suggesting that the school practice of the students should take longer than one month. Actually we are saying it should go to a minimum, a minimum, of six months. And then, before that, we have also introduced the school attachment programme. In this programme, in first year, students go to schools, to various schools in their different settings, in their different villages to have just the experience on how children interact with quality just like childhood study.

ELIZABETH

We call it school observation.

MATHA

Exactly. So that by the time you come to the college you have something. You have an experience. You have something at the back of your mind, oh this is how things are supposed to be done. And when I reach second year, you know what exactly you are supposed to do. So that is what I can say.

KRIS STUTCHBURY

I want you to tell me a bit about your own experience of being educated now, your own experience of being at school?

MATHA

I used to walk from home to school. It was almost like three kilometres, a small thing going to primary one. Yeah, you walk like six kilometres every day, Monday to Friday, going to school. And to make matters worse, you walk on an empty stomach. Imagine you leave home without breakfast. Those other siblings are dragging you, you have to move very fast in order not to be beaten because of late. And then when you reach the classroom you find the teacher waiting every day. You are supposed to come with a book, you’re supposed to come with a pencil. You don’t have all those. I was so unfortunate probably. I lost my father when I was still very young, and I was brought up by my mother who was very young. So that is my bitter kind of experience. But then what enticed me in my life is that when I was in that school I used to see rich parents bringing their children to school, driving them to school. They had beautiful uniforms. They had shoes. I had no shoes. Then I said, when I grow I have to work hard and make sure that my children in future will be driven to school. That’s what made me continue, reading and reading and reading.

KRIS STUTCHBURY

What about you Sister? What’s your early experiences at primary school?

ELIZABETH

Well my early experience it’s a bit opposite of hers. We lived in this gold mining town, a very popular town in Ghana, called Taqwa. My father was a goldsmith, you know, and he had a shop. And he had apprentice. They made jewellery, gold jewellery, you know, trinkets, watches, you know. And my mother used to take them in a glass case and go and sell them. I was lucky I had good parents. But where we were there were missionaries, Catholic missionaries anyway, a big Catholic school, very disciplined. I those days we didn’t even pay fees. I don’t think we paid fees. It was all sponsored by the Catholic priests. They were from France and Ireland. I remember them very well. So they used to give books, pencils. You go in there and they’re all lying on the table. They inspect your clothes, go and sit down, and just get [inaudible]. And there were teachers who were paid by the government but they were supervised. And I mean supervised closely by the Catholic priests.

KRIS STUTCHBURY

So it was well disciplined, but what was obviously missing from Matha’s was kindness. Did you experience the kindness of teachers and adults in your school?

ELIZABETH

Oh yes. The teachers together worked very seriously. Very, very seriously. And as I said maybe they did because of the supervision. They took their work very, very seriously.

KRIS STUTCHBURY

If you had the power just to change one thing, which thing do you think would make the biggest impact and improve the quality?

ELIZABETH

The good thing about me is that I’ve taught in primary, I’ve taught in middle, I’ve taught in secondary, I’ve taught in college. But now what is missing. The Ghana education system is, I would say, lack of accountability of teachers. You see, they don’t have that sense of accountability, and with that comes lack of commitment somehow. And what we need is true supervision. Luckily I’m part of the new Education Council in Ghana. And I’m pushing for that. We need to strengthen supervision.

KRIS STUTCHBURY

And what about Uganda, Matha?

MATHA

If I was given the mandate to change something in my country as far as teachers, quality, schools and my focus would be on the training of teachers. I would actually extend their training from two years to four years so that we get quality teachers. These students should be given time even a full year to be in the schools to practice. There are many things you practice, you know. You practice how to make materials for people, for the children. You study children, you get to know how the children are going to behave. You practice how to teach. You practice how to interpret all the materials, and all the materials that support the curriculum should be coming out as a specialist. So that is my own view.

End transcript: Audio 2: What is quality education?
Audio 2: What is quality education?
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What aspects do both interviewees believe to be important if there is to be quality education in Ghana and Uganda?

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What emphasis do they place on teacher education and trainees’ school experience as a means of enabling teachers being trained to provide quality in their teaching of pupils?

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