Education is arguably the single most sustainable investment for every individual. The return on investment from education is unparalleled. As said by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon of which you can use to change the world.” Our memories of our own education are often memories of our teachers, not only the methods and techniques. Teachers are the heart of the educational system.
Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Unfortunately, despite a future pointing decidedly in the direction that requires creative thinking and innovation, Africa’s current educational system is characterized by theoretical content, top-down teaching approaches and teachers who are either uncommitted or are paid less than what they deserve. Education becomes ineffective when it is structured to end at the walls of a school, or institution. Quality education must transcend the school walls to accommodate workplace immersion, soft skills and ethical leadership.
As we celebrate International Literacy Day, I’d like to share some recommendations for educational reforms that are practical, scalable and sustainable across Africa. These recommendations have the potential to reform the educational system to bring value to governments, school administrators, teachers, learners, and the society. They are:
- Create a Non-competitive Classroom Environment: Students should be recognized as individual learners who may not have the same resources, support and IQ levels which require them to perform at the same levels. Education should not promote competition among students but rather it must recognizes each learner’s efforts and aptitudes and reward individual progressive performance.
- Promote Participatory Teaching and Blended Learning: Teachers should ensure that lessons are interactive and participatory. Students should not be seen as passive recipients of knowledge but also active contributors to solving societal challenges. Lessons designed to engage students in discussions help to test their perceptions and deeply-held beliefs against reality. They also build creative and critical thinking skills as well as innovativeness.
- Record Lessons to Reinforce Learning and Memory Development: Lessons taught in an African school systems typically do not make provision for recording interactions, contributions, questions and responses. Getting a class recording device to document key lessons for slow learners and absent students can help them catch-up on the lessons using the recorded audio at their own convenience.
- Incorporate Practical Immersion into Workplace Culture: Experiential education is critical. Academic lessons in the classroom must be complemented by workplace experience for learners. This affords the learner or student an opportunity to reinforce theory with practice and deepens their understanding of new concepts.
Author: Harrison Owusu, Development and Partnerships Manager at JA Africa