The dark side of our education system: What remedy?

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Education is confined to theoretical learning. It is the development of knowledge, values and understanding required in all aspects of life. The purpose of education is to provide the conditions essential to young people and adults to develop an in-depth understanding of the practice, traditions, and ideas influencing the society in which they live and to enable them to make a vital contribution to it.

There is a big difference in development between countries with similar resources due to the differences in the quality of people. The level of development in a country depends on the knowledge, skills, attitudes & values of its people. Thus, effective and quality education aids in the socio-economic growth of a country, thereby leading to better employment and a higher standard of living.

Concern about the standard and quality of education is on the rise in The Gambia. In recent years, we have registered many complaints from employers both in the public and private sector complaining that graduates are poorly prepared to face workplace challenges. Some graduates are facing deficiency in academic knowledge, skills and understanding, couple with poor language background, i.e. reading, writing and speaking. Our education system is facing huge challenges, and unless we acknowledge, identify causes and work out solutions, we will never overcome these challenges. 

It is absolutely necessary and essential to organizational success that the right calibre of people with the right skills, knowledge and attitude are identified and put in the right place at the right time. Employers are now strategizing their recruitment and selection, and thus, those who cannot defend their qualifications theoretically and practically may not have the opportunity to secure or stay on employment. Educational institutions should take the right steps to prepare, groom and nurture students to secure quality education. If not, students will find it difficult to fit themselves into the labour market after graduation. Let us stop fooling students with mere certificates and attractive transcripts. The education which the students receive at a formal institution provides the foundation of the physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and social development. These would tell you how sensitive education is. Education has long been recognized as the central element in the development of human personality. Education enables individuals to make the transition to new social orders by providing self-understanding and better knowledge of the choices available.

Debatably, the best way of enabling all students to succeed in education is the design and delivery of interesting, creative and academically rigorous programmes that stimulate students to learn and, where necessary, to reach out for the study and academic skills and practices that will enable them to survive in any given situation. There are multiple factors affecting the quality, standard and delivery of education in our country. Among these factors are: lack of updated and genuine learning resources; poor quality teaching; unqualified teachers; poor learning environment; obsolete and unstructured curriculums; poor assessment methods; ineffective monitoring system; lack of transparency, accountability and integrity; poor teaching methodology; etc.

It is obvious that today our challenges are greater than ever before, and the only way to deal with these challenges is to develop the intellect, talent, capability, critical thinking and attitude of our people. It is very important to note that one cannot and should not put the economic gains of one or few individuals above those of the society or the people at large. Many schools are not taking the responsibility to educate students but only to take money from them and issue them certificates. Some don’t even care about creating a learning environment, providing genuine learning materials or hiring qualified and quality teachers. Genuine inspection without compromising quality is a necessity. To compromise quality and standard means comprising the lives of our young ones who are said to be the future leaders of our country. Schools at all levels should take the responsibility to provide effective learning environment. The creations of learning environment should be governed by uncompromised principles for effective learning and development to take place. We have to be serious and take care of the future of our people, particularly the young ones.

Arguably, most students are not education-oriented or maybe ignorant about the value of education in this 21st century. Most of them prioritize the certificate and high scores and disregard personal growth and development. They can enrolled for a course and never attend lectures until days before exams when they turn up to sit the exams. These students never realize that one day they will become a victim of their own. The world is changing, institutions are changing and jobs are changing. So, why not adapt to changes? Many organizations have currently introduced probation (a period of testing someone’s suitability), and performance appraisal (the assessment of an employee’s effectiveness), usually undertaken at regular intervals. Many people are working with unjustifiable qualifications and unfortunately in the absence of proper vetting, employers will not be able to avoid hiring wrong people who will come and destroy their institutions with too much of guesswork and haphazard decision making. 

Students should take the responsibility and become fully committed to personal growth and development, moral, virtue and ethics, rather than acquiring mere certificates. They should bear in mind that certificates can only give them access to jobs but what allow them to stay on the jobs are their technical knowhow and competency. The authority, schools and parents should take important steps in addressing issues affecting our education and society. Take as an example the Grade 12 results of last year. Out of more than 10,000 students, less than 1000 got above 5 credits. Evidently, something is wrong somewhere and an investigation must be carried out to identify the factors responsible for the massive failure. Students should take their education as top priority. Even if you have a dream to become a footballer you still have to value and respect your education. We have seen many young men who have neglected their education and cannot succeed in football. We have to tell the young ones the truth and show them the reality of life.

The culture of reading and research has not been created by our institutions. So, how can students acquire knowledge, skills and understanding? How can the search for new facts in any branch of knowledge be possible without reading and research? How can we move from the known to the unknown, especially when the unknown confronts us without reading and research? Due to the dynamics and complication of this world today, we need sound-minded people for better tomorrow. We need critical thinkers and creative minds to effectively govern and direct our institutions to the right path.

Teachers/lecturers behaviours are vital with regard to students’ success. Ethical principles and moral values should be considered as important factors in nurturing and grooming our young ones. Teachers can rescue a student from a life of misery. Help students learn to handle conflict and inspire them to accomplish things they never dreamed would be possible. On the other hand, a careless action by a teacher can make a student hate a subject or education in general. Whatever teachers do often affects students’ lives in significant ways.  Students’ learning should be the major focus of our educational system. The main factor which could affect the students’ learning is teaching. Teachers can encourage students to participate in the learning activities and expose them to different learning styles.

Teachers, parents and society at large should do more to fundamentally change students’ moral prospects. It is believed that moral development of students does not depend primarily on explicit character education efforts but on the maturity and ethical capacities of the adults with whom they interact, especially parents, teachers and other community adults. Teachers’ and students’ relationships shape students’ moral development in another sense through their influence on students’ emotional development. Most of the talk about moral development in school assumes that we can teach students to behave morally by instilling in them virtues and standards, and a clear sense of right and wrong. Education- for-all should focus on everything, from the creation of learning society to instilling virtues in students, building good habits of students and developing students’ capacity for moral reasoning.    We need to rethink the nature of education, learning and development and understand that without taking on the complex task of developing adults’ maturity and ethical capabilities, we will never greatly improve students’ moral development in school and society.

Author: Ebou Jobe