Aug 19, 2009, 6:46 AM
There is a proverbial saying that when a person is given fish, he or she is fed for one day. However, when one is taught how to fish, one becomes fed for life. The above proverb is my view on education. I believe in the use of education to create a community of lifelong learners who think together and apart while sharing knowledge that is capable of transforming social and cultural institutions for the purpose of enhancing the human experience. Education has to be purposeful, free from coercion, and used as a remedy for marginalization.
There is broad consensus within the social sciences that successful democracies witness sustained transformations through empowerment programs such as an education that is meaningful to participants. In order words, what students learn in the classroom must have real-world applications in order to create and maintain motivation among learners. Purposeful education is particularly important to adult learners and adolescents from low-income backgrounds who rely on their education to gain employment. As one of the countries with the highest rate of unemployment among its youth, the education system in “The New Gambia” must create opportunities for skill development while looking to the future for scholarship.
Presently, the primary function of the new administration should be job creation. Citizens must feel adequate and capable of providing for their families and loved ones in order to become focused on other areas of development that are important to the future prosperity of the nation. Alongside that effort should be the education of children, youth, and adult learners. An educated nation is far more competitive in a global economy. With globalization, there is a need for rigorous standards and attainable benchmarks that are essential in guiding the delivery of instruction and management of schools. Standards are helpful to guiding curricular implementation while ensuring accountability. Benchmarks are crucial to measurements and future decision-making based on assessment outcomes. Together, standards and benchmarks in education can help a nation to overcome structural barriers while reducing bias.
Presently, The Gambia is facing an educational crisis that must be reversed in order for the country to sustain itself. An educated society transforms itself using rigor to challenge students to become creative learners and sophisticated problem-solvers. Learning activities can include projects and higher order thinking skills, with built-in assessment protocols to support growth while revealing areas in need of improvement. Project-based learning empowers students by offering concrete examples while higher order thinking skills elevate learners to enhance their dispositions by thinking critically and applying their talents logically. Unfortunately, the current educational approach in The Gambia has not been successful at reaching a majority of students.
Instead, results from previous national and regional examinations suggested that the country continues to see a decline in student performance in English, mathematics, the sciences, and technology over a span of three years or more. Factors responsible for such declines included lack of appropriate tools in science laboratories in schools, inability of students to purchase required textbooks, fewer competent teachers in the various disciplines, and an over ambitious curriculum.
While the country suffered from major failures in providing children with adequate schooling, the previous government also decreased education spending which exacerbated the low performance outcomes experienced by schoolchildren. The new leadership can reverse the nation’s educational misfortune by employing multiple methods in order to change The Gambian society.
• Minimize financial barriers:
Textbooks are a major part of learning. With books, students will have access to content materials with multiple examples, quizzes, exercises, and activities. Children who have access to textbooks generally perform better in school because of their access to information beyond that which is presented during classroom instruction. Having textbooks available in every school will provide every child in The Gambia with an equitable educational experience that will pay substantial dividends.
There is a proverbial saying that a soldier cannot go to war without his weapon. Similarly, children cannot succeed in school without adequate resources. Without lab equipment, students cannot take part in meaningful scientific research. Each student has to learn through explicit instruction how to conduct research. Without the appropriate tools, it will be unfair to expect students to perform with proficiency. Therefore, every elementary, middle, and high school must be equipped with a science lab in order to engage students.
• Curricular reform:
The curriculum tells educators what students will be able to do at the end of a unit. While it is important to implement standards at a higher level, several bodies of research also support the implementation of curricular materials at a lower level to meet students where they are, and then provide scaffolds to the point at which students can reach higher. If children are not able to read, write, and speak at grade level, alternative approaches must be employed until they become fluent. Then, they can be promoted to the next level.
• Early childhood education:
When children have more time to practice, they become fluent learners early. Research has revealed that children who start school early become more successful in their educational outcomes than those who start later in life. Therefore, early childhood education should be introduced in The Gambia so as to get children in educational settings as early as three years of age. With early access to education, teachers will be able to identify children who are developing normally and those who will need intensive instruction and other therapies for them to become successful’
• Teacher certification:
The University of The Gambia should establish a school of education to create a certified pool of teachers in various disciplines. The capacity of the university to improve the nation’s education standard is underutilized. Like physicians and lawyers, teachers must be held to a higher standard in their profession, using certification criteria that must be met in order to teach. Certified teachers are better trained and they often have better content knowledge. Since the goal is to create a dynamic system of education, the standard for teachers must be equally high so as to reduce the number of unqualified teachers while increasing the number of qualified candidates to fill appropriate positions.
• Capacity building:
Create pathways for exceptional teachers to become school leaders. Alongside teacher leadership, establish a research entity through the university in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to conduct joint research activities through which issues of educational and social importance can be studied and analyzed. When education scholars work alongside policy-makers, research data will be streamlined, redundancy will be minimized, and waste management will improve.
Consequently, while I believe that education can change society, I am also of the view that meaningful steps must be taken in order for such society to witness the change that it seeks from educating its citizens.
The West African Examination Council (2013). Registrar’s annual report to council for the period April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013. Retrieved on February 11, 2017 from file:///C:/Users/Sankung78/AppData/Local/Temp/Temp1_Attachments_2017211%20(1).zip/Registrars_Annual_Report_2013.pdf
The West African Examination Council (2004). Perceptions of the causes of low entries and poor performance in science subjects at the West African Senior School Certificate Exam (WASSCE) in The Gambia (1998 – 2001). Retrieved on February 11, 2017 from
The West African Examination Council (2006). Executive summary of entries, results and examiners’ reports on the 2006 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) conducted in The Gambia. Retrieved on February 11, 2017 from
Sankung Papa Susso, EdD is a Professor of Education at Touro College and University Systems