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Monday, 18 June 2012

Towards Open Education in Ghana- What is Happening?

Last Friday, 8th June, I had the opportunity to participate in a forum on Open Education in Ghana. The forum was part of Innovation Week 2012 organised by the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE). The diverse audience included students, educators, software developers, entrepreneurs and people from government. Overall, the discussion was rich, informative and engaging making the event one of the best fora I've been in. Thumbs up to Dorothy Gordon and her team. 

A participant from Central African Republic sharing her joy at being at the forum
 The programme started with a discussion on open education, its relevance and the experiences of the audience. A graduate of SOS College shared how he used the Internet to study thermodynamics, a challenging topic, for his IB examination. An interesting debate on whether the rise of technology signaled the redundancy of the human element in education came up. The consensus reached was that "school was mainly for networking and socialization", and so the human element is still crucial. 

How are Ghanaians using open education resources?
The team from AITI-KACE then presented open courseware platforms such as Khan Academy, MIT Open Courseware, BBC KS3 and Videolectures.net. These platforms serve educationsl content free of tight copyright restrictions. The issue of dearth of relevant local educational content was raised. Someone mentioned that Ashesi University have their course materials freely accessible by the public. I recall that Prof Dakubu and co were working on an online system called Kewl at University of Ghana around 2006/2007. I'm not up to date on the status of the project. Some strategies for building content, including training for both students and teachers were discussed. 

Next was a panel discussion on Open Education resources featuring officials of the Ghana Education Service, Ministry of Education and AITI. Also on the panel was Anis Haffar, a thought leader in the Ghanaian Educationi space. Some of the key discussion points were on the need for government to step up its interventions to integrate ICT into education and the need for a conscious national effort to create open courseware for the pre-tertiary levels. It was revealed that government will soon roll out e-SHS to minimize the effects of some of the problems facing our educational system: lack of easily accessible textbooks, low number of quality teachers and inadequate science equipment. It was interesting to learn that the educational authorities will be reviewing the policy that restrains students from using various digital devices in schools, so as to ensure that the full benefits of open eduction are realized. 

Speaking on the keynote "Education in the IT Age", Annis Haffar stressed on the merits of deploying ICT as part of an integrated strategy, rather than as a standalone tool. Hands-on activities, schemes of work and teaching methodologies, he said, were other tools that needed to be sharpened to improve the status quo. By showing images of schools that lacked teachers, electricity and books, he demonstrated that much was left to be done in terms of the basic ingredients needed to ensure quality education. Also, he was of the view that educational instruction must be tailored to affect both the affective and cognitive domains of students, stressing that one of the most important things teachers must do is to inspire their students to be able to learn by themselves rather than trying to teach them everything. 

Annis Haffar in action: teaching methodologies and planning must accompany technology to make any headway
Presentations of various innovations interspersed segments of the programme. Anita Hato, a fresh graduate of the University of Ghana, presented her undergraduate project, Kiddie World, an online system to help kindergarten children to build basic literacy and numeracy skills. Another presenter spoke about a software system he built that uses 2D barcodes to check the authenticity of drugs. 

The forum on open education was a refreshing change from all the talk shops we are greeted with every now and then. The practical demonstrations of what is being done and what could be done was inspiring and challenging. What are your views on integrating open education into Ghanaian education? What should be done to ensure that it is done right? If you're a teacher, school administrator or just someone interested in contributing change to education in Ghana, join the Ghana Educators Network now.

3 comments:

  1. Nice post! I've had personal experience with the MIT Courseware -- great platform. Udacity is another platform worth checking. Stanford and Berkley also have courses online. Apart from MIT's Courseware which tackles subjects in all areas, the others handle computer-oriented courses. Enjoy.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kafui. I've heard great things about Udacity as well. Perhaps, you may want to do a post on Open Educational platforms?

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