Education is one sector that fosters national development by ensuring the growth of a functional human capital. A society with strong educational structures will be populated by educated people who can lead to positive economic progress and social change. People apply the skills they have learned in school to achieve positive social change and economic growth. These skills are made possible by one person we all call ‘teacher’. This is why nations that seek economic and social development should not overlook teachers and their importance in national development.
Students’ learning success is largely determined by their teachers. Teachers’ performance is a major factor in determining the quality and performance of students they teach. Teachers should receive the highest education possible to be able to help students in the most effective ways. The quality of teaching and teachers is a key factor in shaping the learning of students and their academic growth. Teachers who receive high-quality training will be able to manage classrooms effectively and facilitate learning. Even in countries with high student scores on international exams such as Trends In Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), teacher quality remains a concern. Teacher education is of paramount importance in these countries due to the potential it has for positive student achievements.
In almost every country, the structure of teacher education is changing to meet the needs of teachers or the demands of students. These changes are intended to ensure high quality teachers and to make sure that teachers do not leave the classroom. The U.S.A. has struggled to find ways to encourage high-quality teachers for over a decade. This has been mainly due to the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers 2015). Even though there are many teachers in Japan and other Eastern nations, structures have been established to ensure that high-quality teachers are hired and produced (Ogawa Fujii & Ikuo 2013, 2013). Teachers education is not a joke. This article is divided into two parts. The first part discusses Ghana’s teacher-education system. The second part examines some determinants for quality teaching.
2.0 TEACHER EDUCATATION
Ghana has made deliberate efforts to train quality teachers in her elementary school classrooms. Benneh (2006) stated that Ghana’s goal in teacher education is to offer a comprehensive teacher education program that includes in-service and initial teacher training. This will ensure that competent teachers are trained and qualified, which will improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools. The initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic teachers was only offered by Colleges of Education (CoE), until recently when University of Education, University of Cape Coast and Central University College joined the ranks. One of the most striking differences between programs offered by other tertiary institutions is that, while Universities examine and award certificates to students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition, while the University of Cape Coast through the Institute of Education examines and awards certificates. These institutions offer training programs to help teachers become qualified for teaching in schools. To ensure quality, the National Accreditation Board approves teacher training programs.
The National Accreditation Board approves teacher education programs on the basis of the content and structure of the courses offered by each institution. The content and structure of courses offered by different institutions can vary. The course content at the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast may be slightly different than the content and structure of the Center for Continue Education University of Cape Coast. However, all three programs award the Diploma in Basic Education (DBE), after three years of training. The DBE and the Four year Untrained Teacher Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE), programs run by the CoEs, are similar but not identical. Similar results can be made for the two-year Post-Diploma Basic Education and four-year Bachelor’s degree programs at the University of Cape Coast, Winneba, and other Universities and University Colleges. Even though the same products may attract the same clients, the way the products are prepared is different.
These programs prepare teachers for teaching in the elementary schools, from kindergarten to senior high schools. In situations of teacher shortages, alternative pathways or programs that prepare teachers can be useful. The UTDBE program is a typical example. It is designed to provide non-professional teachers professional skills. This attempt to produce more teachers due to a shortage of teachers has the tendency to compromise quality.
Stone (2010), Xiaoxia and Heeju, Nicci, and Stone (2010) all noted that there are many factors that can contribute to teacher retention and teacher education. However, one thing teacher educators are concerned with is the alternative routes that teacher education may take. Many of these pathways are designed to quickly get teachers into teaching. These pathways have cut out the teacher preparation required for prospective teachers before they can become classroom teachers. Those who prefer alternative routes like Teach For America (TFA) have defended their alternatives by saying that, even though students are only engaged for a short time of pre-service training they are academically brilliant and have the ability to learn a lot in a very short time. Some argue that there should be an intentional opening of pathways to qualified candidates in areas like English, Science, and Mathematics, where there is often a shortage of teachers. These arguments are not in favor of alternative routes. I will be referring to the alternative teacher education program in Ghana where brilliant academic students avoid teaching.
If the goal is to fill empty classrooms, quality teacher preparation gets pushed to the sidelines. The alternative routes make it easier to gain entry into teacher education programs right at the selection stage. For example, when the second UTDBE student batch was admitted, I could confirm that the entry requirements to the CoEs had not been met. It was stressed that applicants must not be professional basic school teachers and have been employed by Ghana Education Service. It didn’t matter what grades were obtained. The CoEs wouldn’t have been able to train students who were initially not eligible for the DBE program. It leaves behind the negative effect of compromising quality.
I discovered, recently, that CoEs, in particular, do not attract candidates with high grades, even with regular DBE programs. This has a significant impact on teacher quality and teacher effectiveness, as I’ve learned. Teacher education programs in Ghana don’t have the prestige that is expected, so those with good grades aren’t encouraged to apply. The majority of applicants for teacher education programs are from lower grades. The entry requirements for the 2016/2017 CoEs DBE program were published. I noticed that the minimum entry grades for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates had been reduced from C6 to D8. CoEs attempted to attract more applicants could explain this drop in standard. To attract more applicants, universities also lower the cut-off point for their education programs. According to Levine (2006), universities see teacher education programs as money cows. To increase enrollments, their desire to make more money forces them to lower admission standards like the CoEs. In order to increase enrollments, international admission standards are lowered. The weakening of recruitment practices or the lowering standards pose a serious threat to teacher education.
Japanese teachers have made teaching and teacher education prestigious, attracting students with high grades. You could argue that Japan’s teacher supply is far greater than the demand, so there is no pressure on the authorities to hire teachers. They can still select students of higher grades into teacher education programs. This will not cause any harm to their system. They believe that issues related to teacher selection are more important than issues related to recruitment. The issues related to recruitment are important in both western and African countries. Because the demand for teachers is far greater than the supply, this is true. Teachers are not highly valued in the West and Africa. Students with very high grades are not attracted to teacher education programs. It is important to note that it is not just the recruitment process that decides whether teacher education will be highly regarded. However, high-quality candidates will ensure that teachers are able to demonstrate the qualities necessary for effective teaching. If the teaching profession is highly regarded and able to attract top-quality applicants, teacher education can be successful. Teacher education programs will not succeed if there are no incentives to attract qualified applicants or measures to improve teacher education.
Teacher preparation programs are needed to support teacher preparation. They should provide excellent teacher training and continue to support teachers for the first few years of their employment. Lumpe (2007) supports pre-service teacher education programs that ensure effective teaching strategies are understood by teachers. Effective teaching strategies should be the focus of methodology classes. No matter what the route taken, it is important that the training program be structured so that trainees are able to learn about pedagogy and the subject matter. The trainees should have enough classroom experience, including both on-campus and off campus teaching. No matter whether there is a need to fill teacher vacancies due to high teacher attrition in many countries, teacher preparation programs must aim to produce effective teachers and not just fill vacancies.
3.0 DETERMINANTS FOR TEACHER QUALITY
The quality of teachers has a huge impact on student learning. Anybody who has worked in education will tell you that teacher quality is a key component of reform efforts. Priagula Agam & Solmon (2007) identified teacher quality as an important factor in schools that has a significant impact on students’ learning. Students’ success is influenced by the quality of teachers. Students learn better when they have effective and qualified teachers. Students who have ineffective teachers experience learning declines. Teacher quality refers to continuous self-assessment to improve teaching and professional development. A teacher educator who is able to build on his/her subject-matter knowledge and pedagogy knowledge is a quality teacher.
Exemplary qualities are exhibited by outstanding teachers. They are able to teach every child with the right skills and knowledge. They provide their students with the knowledge and awareness necessary to be able to make independent and sound judgments. Here are three factors that determine teacher quality. These are pedagogical and subject-matter knowledge as well as experience.