The current education system in the Gambia is indeed a national disaster which has become prevalent since Dictator Jammeh came to power. The ministry of education has many incompetent staff who cannot even write a proper sentence, let alone formulate meaningful education policies. The head of that ministry has no interest in advancement of the educational system of the country. Instead minister Fatou Lamin Faye is busy massaging the ego of dictator Yaya Jammeh by conducting unnecessary programs/ policies or beauty pageantry which are detrimental to the interest of Gambian people. The problems are too many for the dictatorial regime to overcome. There will never be improvement as long as the dictator is in power. The main problem starts with ministry of education that fails to design curriculum that suits the current national education needs. They have outdated curriculum of 20th century that is poorly implemented. The result is the failed outcome.
Another huge problem of the Gambia’s educational system is lack of competent and well qualified teachers across the country. The Gambia College used to produce less than 40 highest certificate teachers graduates (HTC) in the 1990s but today the College produce close to one 1, 000 teachers of both PTC (primary teacher’s certificate) and HTC. Many of these teachers do not have entry qualifications. How can students pass their exams when majority of teachers are not even qualified to be enrolled at the college? Majority of teachers on training at the college do not have five credits. They don’t have credits in Englis and mathematics. Thanks to corruption and nepotism, we have all these teachers enrolled at college without proper qualifications. The massive enrollment of student teachers has significant impact on little resources available at the college because of large class size. The quality of education these student teachers get at the college is very low because of lack of learning materials such as curent textbooks, research articles, journals or sufficient internet at college library, poor student – professor ratio (if there is any qualified professors) and many other issues which students personally deals with in their daily lives such as little monthly stipends (250 dalasis), lack of transportation and housing. Majority of students at the college in 1990s used to live on the college campus and there was enough food and housing to cater for students needs but today 90 percent live outside the campus with significant problems.
Those student teachers who are lucky to be enrolled in the college encounter so-called professors with outdated approach to 21st century learning needs such as lack of application of technology in their classroom presentation. Gambia college still lacks basic projectile or video presentations of important lectures. In a nutshell, there is zero use of latest technological innovations to help students at the college in their learning. The same scenario can be said about the university of the Gambia which also started mass production of graduates since 2005.
However, if we want to have better educational system where students learn to develop themselves and strive hard to learn the values of life, we must focus our energy and resources on the college where it all begin. We must have the right people with right qualifications at the ministry of education – people who are honest, decent and determine to ensure that our brothers and sisters are successful in their education. I think our current students at the high schools are victims of failed education policies designed for mass production without any quality education. We need total transformation of the education system to suit the current national needs and also meet global standards. The current leadership has failed the younger generation both morally and educationally, which is it is about time the county changed course before the final distasteful disaster hits the country.
I didn’t think you and I can agree on anything, but I do agree with a lot of what you stated here…
In addition to the numerous problems you have highlighted, I think an already existing problem in education (as standards were already in decline by 1994) was exercebated by a regime that was obsessed with quantity, as opposed to quality, for propaganda and self justification purposes, and the result of this is what we see today..
If you recall, the then (15yr) New Education Policy (1998-2003), amongst other things, had the objective of increasing access to basic education across the board, and in so doing, the selection process that used to usher transition from primary to secondary education, through the WAEC conducted Common Entrance Examination, was abolished.
This was, in my view, the point where quality was sacrificed for quantity and whereas those who could not acquire the cut off marks at the Common Entrance Examination to either enter high school or secondary school were allowed to repeat the last grade (as many times as necessary), under the new education policy, everyone was allowed to proceed to grade 7, with almost no serious assessment to determine suitability.
Whilst the efforts of the then government to expand access to education is commendable, the abolition of the independent selection process at the end of primary education and the phasing out of the two tier secondary education system (High Schools & Secondary Technical Schools) was a major factor in the loss of quality education.
The military government exercebated this problem by randomly building schools in areas where they had not been planned, and in addition to the logistical problems this created, primary and middle schools in those areas were put under immense pressure to fill the classtoom spaces that these newly built schools created.
Added to this was the lack of a clearly designed curriculum that would be geared towards providing training in knowledge and skills development that addresses the development needs of our country and thus, we have an education system that produces “graduates” at the end of the process (forms 4/5/6) with no life skills (until mid/late 80’s ) ( or grade 9/12) and if they can’t get scholarships to study abroad or find jobs, then they become unproductive and dependent on others.
Bax, I agree with you here about the regime total disregard and elimination of quality education . I also agree that it was a mistake to eliminate common enterance examination in our school system . Common enterance examination encouraged competition among students and it enabled students to take their education seriously . Even parents were more concerned about children passing the exams in those days than now when there is mass promotion without any significant efforts place on whether you pass the grade six exam or not . There are so many private schools which didn’t care about exam scores but they only care about students ability to pay expensive fees . Little attention is pay to quality education and why students needs to take their education seriously . The only people who benefits from this failed system is Jammeh and his cronies who send their children to marina international and other schools abroad for better education. Children of poor Farmers and middle income earners in the country are the victims. Education of our brothers and sisters shouldn’t be political issue because that is the future of our country . Our backwardness lies in the simple fact that we are country of too many igonrance people as far as western education is concerned. This is why countries like Senegal is ahead of Gambia in every aspect. our education system needs total transformation which will encourage better economic growth, scientific innovations , respect for fundamental human rights and democracy. I believe that even in politics , our illiterate population are far more honest and geniune than literate population majority of who are dishonest and responsible for backwardness . Example , majority of Gambian intellectuals who formulate the current education policies which lead to failure are keeping quite while they send their children to USA or Uk for studies .
Our biggest challenge as a former colony, as indeed that of most of the continent, is redefining and reassessing, not only our education systems, but the content, methodology and delivery systems, as well as the outcomes that we wish to achieve at the end of each and every stage of the education cycle, and then formulating curricular that would be geared towards attaining our educational development and training goals/needs..
African countries have been “independent” for the best part of a century and despite being in control of the education of our people, we are still lagging behind in the production of top scientists (especially) in all fields of study..
Today, whilst countries that have had as much turbulent histories as we had in our recent past, and have only acquired “self government” at about the same time that we had our “independence”, are thriving in the technological and other scientific areas of discovery, research and development (such as China:1949 & Iran:1979), most of us in Africa cannot even construct a modern top quality complex or infrastructure without outside expertise, never mind build power plants or state of the earth military equipment for defense and deterrence.
The problem, in my view, as is indeed pointed out by many distinguished researchers and scholars, is rooted in our colonial past, as well as in the world into which we, as independent nations, emerged at independence, which was set to operate in certain way, with Africa subtly appointed a specific role…
At independence, we inherited a number of systems, procedures and processes and one of these was the education system, which was created to fulfill a certain, specific function: initially, the training of low and middle grade clerks to facilitate the colonial administration and exploitation of the country.
Of course, the level of training post independence (and even during colonial era) has become more advanced and sophisticated, due to the pressing needs of the nation, but the essence of education, as far as outcomes are concerned, has remained the same..
In the words of one author, the outcomes of our inherited education system, “devalues our creativity, agency and cultural values and internalises a sense of inadequacy” in us..How true and appropriate is that summation…!
Archaeological discoveries have now established beyond doubt, that contrary to the propaganda of pro-colonial writers and media that Africa contributed nothing to human civilisation, very sophisticated civilisations, with complex social and political systems existed in Africa well before the Europeans arrived. You think about the Songhai Empire, the Ashanti, the Manding Empire, the Zulu Kingdoms, etc.. But what creative or innovative new thing (s) have we contributed to human civilisations since we became educated…? All we do is copy and imitate, even in scholarly academic spheres, where we actually excel. If we are not quoting North American scholars, historians or Philosophers, then it’s ancient Greeks and what have you.. Can’t we see that our creativity has been stifled by our education or rather indoctrination…?
Indeed, we possess so many signed and stamped pieces of papers, from the most prestigious institutions, that we proudly hang on our walls or display for others to admire, but are we really educated…?
Bax , in your second posting , you seem to blame colonialism for our education system failure while at the same time you highlighted intellectual supremacy of Africans and its successful civilizations in the past . You seem to confuse yourself or contradict yourself as always . So please review or revisit your posting to see where your contradiction lies . I think the era of blame game or simply attributing our education system failure to inherited colonial system is misplaced. My brother , it is 50 years since we had our independence , therefore it is unfair to blame our colonial past for our current problem. We need to grow up and take personal responsibility for our failures . South Korea had its independence at the same time with Ghana had its independence , Singapore and The Gambia had their independence at the same period. Both South Korea and Singapore are competing with developed countries in terms of economic advancement while The Gambia is among the poorest countries in the world and it’s population lives under $2 a day . The mere fact that you and I cannot agree on simple and common sense things tell me that we Africans or Gambians are not honest and geniune to find solutions to our problems . our political leaders fail us in the same way because each political party or leader think that his or her ideas are the best solution while they refuse to listen to each other.
The problem you have is that anytime reference is made to our colonial past, you see it as “blaming colonialism”..It’s almost like living in denial of the facts of our colonial past…It’s not blaming, but looking back into history to understand why we are where we are today..
Yes, we have had more than 50yrs of “independence”, but have we changed from what we inherited 50yrs ago..? Have you failed to see that I have placed the responsibility on us, by stating the challenges we face…? How can you even claim that I am blaming colonialism by merely mentioning a historical fact…?
You have completely missed my point about acheological discoveries and that is why you see a contradiction. The point is that Africa’s progress was disrupted by European intervention, through slavery and colonialism and at independence, we were bequeathed a role, through a system that stifles our progress and that unless we take bold and revolutionary steps to change direction, we will remain the wretched of the earth..
Going back to the crisis in our education system, the issue of teacher training you mentioned is indeed very important. No education can be effective if it is not delivered by qualified teachers, and teachers need to have a commanding and descent knowledge of subjects they teach, but effective education (and by this I mean transfer of knowledge and skills from teacher to pupil) is more about methodology, than it is about knowledge of subject matter and content.
In other words, being highly educated doesn’t translate into being a good teacher and often, even highly educated entrants into the teaching profession, who have no teacher training or teaching experience are found to be mostly disappointing.
What makes a good teacher is the methods used to teach and that is why I will say that the lack of professors at The Gambia College of education is not a significant factor in the loss of quality… What is needed are good and qualified lecturers with sufficient knowledge in a variety of teaching methodology, as well as, stringent and efficient student selection criteria.
As a former teacher, trained at The Gambia College, I know for a fact that the institution used to produce very good teachers that were qualified to teach at both the primary and junior secondary schools, up to the 1990’s..As an aspirant into the teaching profession, I had to complete an application form, sit to and pass an entrance examination and attend interview to gain entrance into the teacher training programme.
Training, during the entire two year programme, including two sessions of actual teaching practice in schools across the country, was more focused on methodology and group activities, ranging from lesson preparation, lesson delivery, assessment and group discussions, as well as, resource production and management (through mainly improvisation) was a regular feature of our daily training..
I am therefore alarmed (but not surprised in today’s Gambia) at allegations of nepotism at the college because that would seriously impact quality..How could student teachers be trained in methods, for example, if they can’t cope with the tasks and demands of teacher training..?
Methodology therefore, is far more important in teaching than knowledge, though knowledge is a necessity, and an essential component of methodology is the medium of instruction…
Bax , once again you put the cart before the house when you stated that methodology is far more important in teaching than knowledge. Knowledge is the key ingredient for anyone to be a successful teacher , lecturer or even professor . Even if you have the best method of teaching , when you don’t have required knowledge of the subject , you won’t be successful in teaching or even delivered the right knowledge of the subject . Therefore knowledge is the key factor you need then follow by methodology which will ensure effective education . It is because of this reason that I pointed out that lack of entry qualifications to college as key factor which contribute to lack of competent and well qualified teachers in schools across the country. Methodology is simply the application of various teaching strategies or methods which will help the students to have better understanding of the subject and to ensure effective learning or education. What you have in The Gambia is teacher-centered method where the teachers deliver the subject matter with little or zero input from the students and during exam students are expected to return the same exact material without any critical view or idea from their perspectives . In fact Gambia’s education system did not encourage critical thinking because the curriculum is designed to suit teachers-centered approach in learning. This makes the system “dictatorial ” because the teachers dictates to the students the subject matter and expect them to return the same content in the exam . This is evidently displayed in yearly or termly exams across the country . At the university of The Gambia , high schools and Gambia college , students are given free notes which they crammed for exams . At the college students hardly conduct research or even write termly project papers on research topics . The only time students write research paper / project paper is when they are graduating during which they will write Thesis paper as a requirement for graduation. As I said before The Education system of The Gambia do not encourage critical thinking because critical thinking enable individual to ask questions and be able to critically think on his or her own but teachers in The Gambia used teacher-centered methodology in their teaching profession which restrict critical thinking .
Many Gambian students I spoke to here in the USA ,initially find it difficult in their studies because they find themselves in the system where individual works on their own by learning to be independent in their thinking and teachers do not expect them to return the same exact information to them as usually done in The Gambia . This is why here in USA , learing method is student-centered where the students highly participate in the learning process and teachers serves as a guide.
If you go to university of The Gambia or gambia college , they do not have latest research materials/ papers or even latest textbooks. The library of the college can’t be considered as normal library because it lacks basis learning materials . Therefore , there is no way students can have access to vital information and be able to independently learn on their own using a critical mind . So I even question the methodology used in The Gambia’s education system .
On the lighter note , our system create ” little dictators” because we are all used to be dictated in schools and majority never learned on their own using their own critical minds .
Education, by its simplest definition, is the transfer or impartation of knowledge and skills from one person to another, and even in its simplest “one to one” format, it is still a very difficult process, especially at the foundations level because generally, regardless of what part of the world one lives in, it involves the transfer of concepts and ideas to very young and developing minds…
Imagine having to do that in a language that is alien to both the leaner and the teacher and also imagine having to do that in a formal setting, with about 40-45 individual learners, with different abilities and from different backgrounds, with virtually no resources and adequate teaching aids..An almost impossible task, so credit to the multitude of teachers and learners across Africa, who are achieving a lot in the near impossible task of “educating” our young..
We need to seriously think about the language we use to educate our children because using a language that is foreign to them, which they only interact with for only six hours at most, in 5 days a week, no matter how international it is, cannot be the best way to train our children..I don’t think it will be a far fetched claim to say that countries like China and Iran, that are thriving in various fields of study, less than a century after their most recent renaissance, have been able to achieve such progress because they deliver education to their children, in their own languages..
Finally, even the devil needs to be given its due, and credit is due to Western Imperialism that has managed to achieve what no imperialist power had ever achieved : The standardisation of human beings and human thinking. Not even the mighty Romans achieved this feat…
Western Imperialism realised that the way to subdue the nations of the world and bring them into line with imperialist world design cannot be achieved through military conquests and wars alone, and quickly worked out that the way to do this is conditioning of the human mind, through knowledge and information control…
Whilst they still maintain the military option to enforce their view on “recalcitrant” nations that refuse to tow the line, they have invested heavily in controlling, not only what knowledge we acquire, but also what information we access and receive, and until the emergence of alternative information medium like RT, Counterpunch, Globalresearch, VNN, PressTV, etc, the narrative was the same.
The tide is changing and hence, this explains the prevalent world wide military aggression we are witnessing from the imperial powers, and those clandestinely connected to them, in one or more ways, but the momentum is with the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world.
To standardise human beings and human thinking, millions or hundreds of thousands of professionals are either employed or provided funding to create extremely effective concepts and powerful ideas to be used as curricular in our highest institutions of training, to shape minds into comformity with the new order..
Upon graduation from these prestigious and much sought after institutions of learning, we come out, either unable, unwilling or simply discouraged from independent and revolutionary thinking and instead, we are limited to, and restrained by, strict intellectual straightjackets : all geared towards maintaining the status quo for good.
Attempts to think “outside the box” are mocked, ridiculed or punished whilst adherence is rewarded with high paid positions, numerous world renowned titles and generous research and other academic related funding..
The choice, though, is ours..Either we stand up for ourselves, take the bull by the horns and chart out a map that puts our destiny firmly into our own hands, or continue to depend and be spoon fed by a system whose very success depends on our continued failures..