A GNA Feature by Joachim Akagre (GNA Stringer)
Bolgatanga, Dec. 11, GNA - The theme for the Ninth Annual National Conference of the Ghana Association of Teachers of English (GATE) held in Bolgatanga recently was "Effective Teaching and Learning of English in Ghanaian Schools: New Dimensions, New Challenges, New Focus". Teaching has been defined as 'a series of interactions between someone in the role of a teacher, and someone in the role of a learner, with the main purpose of influencing the learner's intellectual, emotional and motor behaviour. In short, it is a process that facilitates learning.
Learning on the other hand is said to have taken place when there is a change in behaviour and attitude on the part of the educated. The teacher is the cog around which the wheel of teaching and learning revolves. The English teacher can, therefore, be said to be the cog around which the wheel of teaching and learning of the English Language revolves.
The English Language is the medium of instruction in Ghanaian schools and to quote Father Ntim on the language debate: "If others are now paying huge sums of money to learn the English Language what reason have we to reject it as our official and business language". This writer is of the opinion that: "We need to learn English and learn to write and speak it well. We need to make all efforts to maintain the good standard of English that Ghanaians are noted for, at least within English-speaking African countries".
Father Ntim argues that as a result of the growing process of globalization in which the world is becoming so small in business, commerce and economics, it pays to be able to speak and write good English.
The Ghana Association of Teachers of English (GATE) shares the same sentiments as there can be no quality education nor can high standard of education be maintained without a corresponding competence in the English Language among students.
It is an undeniable fact that the success or failure of the education system depends on the effective teaching, learning and use of English as a language. Ghana takes pride in the assertion that she has one of the best educational systems and standards in Africa. But today questions are being raised about this assertion. A lot of concern has been expressed about the falling standard of education in Ghanaian schools. One of the causes of this concern is poor linguistic competence among students.
Reference is often made to the past when the same educational system, of course with different well-motivated team players and circumstances, produced some of the finest scholars in Africa. People who make such references recall with some nostalgia the fact that students graduating from any level of the then educational system came out excellently trained and properly educated.
They would often say that anyone who finished Middle School or Standard Seven spoke impeccable English, wrote intelligible letters and pieces using the medium of English, and communicated freely and confidently; but can the same thing be said of the system today? To quote Mr Mathew M. Doh, National Secretary of GATE, "today a good number of our students leave school unprepared to communicate fluently in English; unable to write anything intelligible in English and totally handicapped when it comes to using English for any purpose. For their convenience they take refuge in the use of Pidgin English where no grammatical mistakes are made, where everything, anything they say is always correct". This poses a real challenge to language competence and its general effect on the standard of education. Another challenge, according to Doh, is that "the language is further corrupted in an age of technological development. The paradox of the situation is that technological advancement has introduced more danger into language competence.
"Today the use of mobile phones has introduced the sending of text messages most of which have their own self-developed contractions, language items and phraseology. Unfortunately, these do not conform to correct conventional grammatical and language rules."
It is in the light of these challenges that this Writer shares with GATE the danger in which it finds itself. What is at stake is not just a language that is being corrupted but also the survival of the educational system, especially the new educational system to be ushered in 2007 / 2008.
This Writer sees GATE as the window of hope, as remedial measures are in place to rectify this emerging phenomenon. Government only needs to give GATE the push by purchasing the GATEWAY English Textbook series for schools.
GATE also needs to extend the organization of workshops, seminars and real demonstration of teaching the English Language in all the regions to up-date teachers' skills and methodology for effective delivery of the subject.
This actually calls for a well-motivated teacher, as he is the pillar of the educational reforms. Indeed, one of the placards carried by GATE members at during a procession preceding the just ended conference in Bolgatanga sent a clear message to Government: =93Teacher's reward must be right here on earth not in heaven.=94 Source: GNA
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