Prof Clement Dzidonu, President of the Accra Institute of Technology and Chairman for this historic occasion; Hon. Vincent Sowah Odotei, MP for La Dade-Kotopon and Special Guest of honour; Members of the St Thomas Aquinas Board of Governors; Old Toms from all generations and year groups;
Distinguished Invited Guests, Parents, Students of St Thomas Aquinas, Friends of the media, Ladies and Gentlemen,
36 years ago, I entered the gates of this great School with mixed feelings of excitement and uncertainty as a Form One Day Student from a disadvantaged background. This afternoon, I have entered again with mixed feelings of nostalgia and a sense of gratitude. As I reminisce my days here at Aquinas, and as I reflect on the lifetime virtues and values I imbibed as a student on this campus many years ago, I can only thank the Almighty God for the opportunity to have schooled here and for the solid moral and spiritual foundation bequeathed to me by my Alma Mater.
Mr. Chairman, before I proceed, let me recount one significant episode which occurred during my time and how it impacted on me both during and after school.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the management of this School for the honour of inviting me as the Guest Speaker for this historic occasion. For me, this is not only a high privilege but indeed an opportunity to pay-back my School for moulding and equipping me with the values which have positively transformed me and many others. On such an occasion, I should not fail to mention names like C. K Koomson (previous Headmaster), Mr. Vortia (Assitant Headmaster) Reverend Father Batsa, among others.
Mr. Chairman, the theme for this occasion, QUALITY EDUCATION: A MEDIUM OF SUSTAINABLE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT - THE DAY SCHOOL’S EXPERIENCE is both intriguing and intellectually challenging, as the word ‘Quality’ is thought to be definitionally elusive. Nevertheless, I will attempt to discuss a few issues which I believe will provoke all of us to collectively inject some Quality in our Day School system to enable it play its role as a medium of Sustainable Social Development.
Mr Chairman, many definitions of quality in education exist, testifying to the complexity and multifaceted nature of the concept. As defined by The UNICEF Special Ambassador Audrey Hepburn “Quality education has the power to transform societies, provide the citizens with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labour exploitation and diseases, and give them the knowledge, skills and confidence to reach their full potential to develop their countries”.
Liston (2009) defines quality as “the total effect of the features of the process, or service on its performance. It is not just a feature of a finished product or service, but involves a focus on internal processes and outputs, and includes the reduction of waste and the improvement of productivity”. This view of quality applied to education implies that “quality cannot be measured by looking at the outputs, which are the examination results. Rather the internal efficiency of the school system, with controls for wastages in the form of school dropouts, repetition rates, or wastage ratios, is a more appropriate measure of the quality of education”.
Mr. Chairman, Quality education includes: Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities; Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities; Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life, Processes through which trained teachers use student-centred teaching approaches in well-managed classrooms and schools and skillful assessment to facilitate learning and reduce disparities; and Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, that are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society. This definition allows for an understanding of Quality education as a complex system embedded in a political, cultural and economic context.
Quality education - A medium of Sustainable Social Development
Mr. Chairman, it cannot be gainsaid that Quality Education is a medium of sustainable social development. Quality Education in every sense is one of the fundamental factors of development. No country can achieve sustainable economic development without substantial investment in human capital. Quality Education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and world. It improves the quality of their lives and leads to broad social benefits to individuals and society. Quality Education raises people’s productivity and creativity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. In addition it plays a very crucial role in securing economic and social progress and improving income distribution.
Sustainable social development cannot be achieved by technological solutions, political regulation or financial instruments alone. We need to change the way we think and act. This requires quality education and learning for sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts. The human mind makes possible all development achievements, from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For Ghana to reap these benefits fully, she needs to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than Quality Education.
Quality Education and the Day School Experience
Mr. Chairman, having operated in the Knowledge Industry for so many years, and having reflected on the theme for this occasion, I am advancing an argument on this historic occasion that though our Day School system presents cardinal challenges to stakeholders including students, teachers, and parents, it can still deliver Quality education to students if well-managed.
As we all know, Day Schools have several limitations. To mention a few, Day Students walk long distances to and from school, sometimes in harsh weather conditions and mostly arriving in school late and tired due to traffic jams and transportation difficulty. They enter into lessons midway or completely miss lessons. The home environment usually fraught with distractions and interruptions is not conducive to learning. Quality learning time is easily lost. Moreover, Day students have less restrictions or access to the Internet and mobile phones (which boarding school students are barred from) and so are overly exposed to their ravages. Notwithstanding the foregoing challenges with Day Schools, my view is that Quality Education can still be attained with the Day School System. My personal experience here at St. Aquinas convinces me that if all concerned work together, it is possible to ensure high quality Day Schools. Permit me therefore at this juncture, Mr. Chairman to recap my Day School experience.
Personal Day School Experience
Mr. Chairman, having successfully passed the then Common Entrance Examinations, I found my name on the School’s notice board and subsequently received a letter from the school inviting me to enroll. It was so smooth. There was no need to pay my way to enter this school. At the time, all manner of students from diversified families were admitted; rich, poor, educated; uneducated; expatriate, elite from Cantonments and Labone, as well as locals from Osu and La. There was neither discrimination nor favoritism at all. Everything was based on merit.
Mr. Chairman, the St. Thomas Aquinas environment was so perfect for teaching and learning in those days. The environment was very serene and conducive which made it possible for one to want to come to school.Every book that we needed was provided for such as “Tom Brown School Days”, “Your life of our Lord”, “Lexis and Structure” among others. The books were free and available and were collected and returned at the beginning and start of the academic year. For English course alone we had masters like Mr. E.K. Kasah, Charles Brown, Mrs Assimey, Mrs. Ben- Eghan and Kiki Bruku (aka. Okristoni). We also had the most handsome and spiritual Chaplain and Teacher, Most Reverend Gabriel Charles Palmer Buckle.
Teaching was the key for quality education. Qualified teachers for every course we took were available. These were student-friendly and professional teachers who truly had a passion for their job. They came to class punctual and well-prepared. I can vividly remember the names of Mrs. Gaisie, Ataa Anang, Monsieurs Ocloo and Wanga, and Mrs. Boateng among others.
Management those days maintained high level of discipline and spirituality on campus which moulded our character and kept the stubborn ones among us in check. The fear of God was instilled in us to shape our lives. Such atmosphere undoubtedly facilitated quality learning. Our parents and guardians at the time were consciously interested and involved in our education. They were encouraged to visit the school regularly for feedback on their wards’ performance. During those days we did not have the modern Scientific Calculator nor the high-speed internet of today. Nevertheless, we made good marks and entered the Universities with good grades although we were Day students. Mr. Chairman, I have recounted the foregoing as suggestive ways of injecting quality into Day Schooling in Ghana.
ENSURING QUALITY IN DAY SCHOOL EDUCATION
Role of Students
The quality revolution in our day secondary schools should start with the change of mindset from an inferior perspective to a positive one, especially for our day students. Day students should understand that Day Schools are not inferior to Boarding schools and must not be apologetic about being non-boarders. As a matter of fact, our students must know and understand that majority of Secondary schools in the UK, USA and other developed countries are day schools. Our Day students must believe in themselves and work towards achieving the desired quality. During my days here, I had colleagues and relations who attended boarding at Achimota, Mfantsipim, Adisadel etc. For five years, I remained focused at St. Thomas Acquinas as a day student committed to my studies. I regret to state that most of my privileged colleagues who attended boarding schools could not enter sixth form nor university like me. By God’s grace and by dint of hardwork, I was able to enter into sixth form, progressed to University and earned several postgraduate qualifications. Day students in my view should not perceive themselves as second rate to students in boarding schools.
Mr. Chairman, students should constantly be reminded that they are competing with boarding students studying in a more academically congenial atmosphere towards the same examinations. Day students should not loiter after school and should use their time (evenings and weekends) productively. They should be studious at home and implement private academic time tables for the evenings and weekends. They should leverage on public libraries and should not over-indulge in social programmes eg. funerals and other social gatherings. Day students should be disciplined and self-impose boarding-school regulations at home. They should restrain themselves from television and social media and completely avoid drugs, alcohol, fornication and other forms of immorality. Day students should use the internet and other ICT devices productively.
Role of Government
Mr. Chairman, Government must endeavor to support day schools more than it is doing by increasing Day-School subventions and providing needed resources. Day Secondary Schools should benefit from the District Assembly Common Funds in order to improve facilities like libraries and ICT Centres and other student –friendly facilities.
Mr. Chairman, it is indeed very gratifying to learn that the government has promised free SHS education from 2017/2018, which includes day schools. His Excellency the President, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akuffo-Addo said at Okuapeman School a few weeks ago that “By free SHS, we mean that in addition to tuition which is already free, there will be no admission fee; no library fee; no science centre fee; no computer lab fee; no examination fee; and no utility fee. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals and day students will get a meal at school for free’.
It is further gratifying that the 2017 Budget states that “over the medium term, Government aims to shift the structure and content of Ghana’s education system away from merely passing examinations to building character, nurturing values and raising literate, confident and engaged citizens who can think critically.” When Government fully commits to these promises, undoubtedly Quality would be injected into the Day School system.
Role of Day Schools Board of Governors & Management
Distinguished Guests, Day Schools Management should inject quality in the administration of Day schools by starting with the recruitment of quality students and quality teachers who have met entry requirements. Board of Governors and School Management Committees in a bid to inject quality into Day Schools should adopt modern management strategies. It is my view that leading and managing a secondary school successfully today requires managing it in a systematic and consistent manner. Success should result from implementing and maintaining a management system that is designed to continually improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the school’s performance. I therefore urge management of Day schools to introduce Quality Management Systems, for example, instituting Quality Committees and introducing Quality Manuals to guide staff in the delivery of superior educational value. Such quality manuals will outline the policies, standards and academic processes of Day Schools to ensure uniformity and consistency in service delivery. It will further enable management to harmonize policies and practices, reduce ambiguity, create stakeholder satisfaction and minimize variations in the schools quest to deliver high quality educational service.
Day School Management should also be very firm with the supervision of teachers to ensure that they deliver full contact hours and deliver to the highest quality standards. It is my view that all teachers in Day Secondary Schools should be appraised at least once a year.
The Problem of transportation for students has been identified as a major problem confronting Day Secondary Schools which directly affects their academic work. During our time, we walked to school, living so close by. Today, things have changed and students (and in some cases teachers themselves) travel long distances to school, arriving late and tired, which does not auger well for quality teaching and learning. Day School Management could work out a scheme with the GPRTU or transport owners to ferry students and staff from strategic collection points in Accra to and from School.
The Role of Teachers
Mr. Chairman, Teachers must be effective in delivering their services at Day schools and exhibit a high level of professionalism. They must be encouraged to be passionate about teaching and must lend themselves to continuous monitoring, evaluation, training and development. Teachers must earn respect from Students by setting professional boundaries to facilitate quality interactions. Teachers should adopt modern ways of teaching at Day Schools such as: Project-based learning; Integrated Studies; Cooperative Learning; Comprehensive assessments; and Technological skills development for improvement of students intellectual and emotional ability. Undoubtedly, Day students of today are so vulnerable to the techno-social environment and lack the controls in place at boarding schools. Teachers are required to play the missionary roles of providing support to students to survive the environmental turbulence.
The Role of Parents/Guardians & PTA’s
Mr. Chairman, Parents and Guardians definitely have a key role to play in ensuring quality Day School Secondary education. Management of Day Schools should work hand –in-hand with PTAs to leverage on the positive benefits of Day school education.Day school students enjoy an enriching education and strong relationships with their parents, who can effectively support their academic success. Families are very much part of their children's ongoing daily education and parents get to play a hands-on role in helping with their Children’s homework and projects, which can contribute to their children's academic success. When children in day school and families get to spend more time together, there are fewer divides between parents and children which foster unity and social cohesion. This is very relevant for child development. Parents should be more interrogative whilst cooperating with management. PTAs should support Management initiative to improve quality in Day schools by making meaningful contributions in cash and kind for example by supporting schools to maintain their libraries, Science and Computer Laboratories and other user facilities.
The Role of Alumni
The Alumni of Day Schools must be more actively involved in the management of the schools. Their periodic donations and contributions to their Alma Mater must be more regular to step-up quality in Day Schools. They could provide internship and mentorship opportunities for students to enhance learning. I hereby call on OLD TOMS across various years to approach the Management of this School to identify projects which would enhance the quality status of our dear school.
The Role of Community members and Strategic Partnerships
Finally Mr. Chairman, in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility, Public and Private Businesses situated around day schools should be approached to make contribution to the quality development of those schools. Management of Aquinas must for example develop relations with all the leading Organizations, Businesses and Enterprises along the Osu Oxford Street, the Ringway and in the Cantonments area. Diplomatic Institutions such as the Togo Embassy; the European Union Office; the US Embassy and other Embassies in the St. Thomas Aquinas vicinity should be courted to make an input into quality administration of this Great School.
Day schools, working through their respective Alumni in the Diaspora could forge sister-links with other Secondary Schools abroad for quality support and for quality-enhancing projects for mutual benefit. It is my conviction that integrative forces such as strategic partnerships, capacity building and networking with foreign institutions can fast-track Day Schools strive to quality improvement.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just provided a mountain of tasks for stakeholders in Day Secondary Schools, although I am not a task master. What I hope I have achieved within the past few minutes is to set you thinking on some of the key issues that need serious answers for the sake of quality in our Day Schools. I remain confident that your collective talents will clear this mountain to resolve the quality deficiencies of Day Schooling in Ghana. Let us work together to ensure Quality Day Secondary School Education in Ghana. Let us work together to take Quality Day Secondary School Education at St. Thomas Aquinas forward. As the first verse of our famous School anthem states; “Let us strive for perfection in Spirit, Soul and Body, with Humility and Steadfastness.” Always remember that VERITAS LIBERAT – Only the truth shall set you free. Thank You all for listening and May the Almighty God bless us all.
Long Live St Thomas Aquinas School. Aquinas……….. Bei b3!!!!!