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Licensing of teachers is perhaps the most important mandate of the National Teaching Council (NTC) as prescribed by the 2008 Education Act (Act 778). The NTC has been given a nine-point mandate as spelt out in section 10 of the Act.
The drafters of the 2008 Education Act, of which I had the opportunity to make some inputs, in their collective wisdom included the three regulatory bodies of the Ministry of Education (MoE); namely the NTC, the National Inspectorate Board (NIB) and the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA), all in an effort to help improve the quality of teaching and learning in our pre-tertiary educational institutions.
By the teacher licensing regime, a person may not be admitted to teach as a professional teacher without satisfying the laid-down credential requirements issued by the council. The issue of licensing teachers has become topical in recent weeks due to the seeming non-clarity of the modalities for the licensing, which quite a number of teachers are finding difficult to come to terms with.
Per the dictates of section 12 of the Act, which deals solely with licensing of teachers, it states emphatically that it is only the possession of the NTC licence that can guarantee or certify someone as a professional teacher. That section, therefore, gives a clear indication that teaching as a profession will be the preserve of professional teachers.
This makes the possession of the council’s licensing certificate an evidence of professional standing and authorisation for teaching. Similarly, the legal possession of the council’s certificate signifies that the teacher meets the knowledge and skill standards prescribed by the NTC and is duly licensed to teach.
The teacher unions such as the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) and almost all the professional teachers in the Ghana Education Service (GES) have no qualms about the teacher licensing, since it is born out of an Act of Parliament. Teachers themselves will be the first to admit that licensing of teachers will be of great benefit to them, since it will make teaching more of a profession than what pertains today.
Although teaching has remained a profession over the years, it has not received the due recognition it deserves because of untrained teachers, popularly referred to as “pupil teachers” within its ranks, unlike the medical and legal professions (just to mention a few) where non-certified individuals cannot hold themselves as members of that profession.
Therefore, the licensing regime will give meaning to the teaching profession, since the possession of an NTC licensing certificate will be the only evidence of one’s professional standing and authorisation for teaching. Nobody is questioning the mandate of the NTC to license teachers because per the Act, that function falls within their purview.
Perhaps what some educationists are calling for is broad stakeholder consultations with the constituents who are going to be affected by the licensing, notably the teacher unions.
Two modalities for the licensing come to mind.
Non-exam refresher course for the current serving teachers before the actual licensing takes place. That is, teachers who fall within this category will have to undergo a refresher course for two weeks in each term in an academic year (totalling six weeks cumulatively) to qualify them for the award of the licence. The refresher course could take place at the district capitals of the GES under the supervision of the NTC. It could either be residential or non-residential depending on the circumstance of the teachers concerned.
The second modality should be a three-month exam-intensive residential practical course under the aegis of the NTC for teacher trainees from the colleges of education who will be coming out at the end of each academic year.
The venue for the three-month training course could also be in one of the senior high schools (SHSs) in the district. Those trainees will have to sit a written examination at the end of the course to qualify them for the award of the licence. Those who fail the written exam should be given a provisional licence to operate on a probation basis at a salary to be determined by the NTC. The provisional licence should remain in force up to a maximum of five years, after which time if the teacher fails to pass the written exam, the provisional licence should be withdrawn.
The fact that the NTC has stated on several platforms that no decision has been taken as to when the policy will be executed and the modalities thereof is ample manifestation that there are some grey areas that need to be ironed out.
Some of the grey areas may include:
The actual date for the implementation of the licensing.
The modules/themes or programmes of study for both the non-exam refresher course and the written exam by the new entrants, i.e teacher trainees.
III. The resource persons to be engaged for the programme.
Who pays for the proposed three months’ residential course of the new entrants, since feeding and accommodation will be involved.
Ghana Education Staff Development Institute
It is in view of some of the above expectations that perhaps, as a fallout of the Ghana Education Service Act 1995 (Act 506), the Ghana Education Staff Development Institute (GESDI) was established at the defunct School of Ghana Languages (SGL) at Ajumako, when SGL was moved to the University of Education, Winneba (UEW) to become a department of the university.
Unfortunately, GESDI was ceded to the UEW per a letter dated August 26, 2008 and headlined: “Transfer of Ghana Education Staff Development Institute (GESDI) to the University of Education, Winneba (UEW).” GESDI, thus, became an additional campus of UEW.
By acceding GESDI to the UEW, the implication was that GESDI could have been the accommodation hub for the GES to undertake all its courses, be them refresher, residential workshops or otherwise, with enough accommodation for the trainees and resource persons.
This would have made all GES courses, workshops and seminars (both residential and non–residential to be centralised).
Therefore, the NTC would have found GESDI a very convenient place to run its teacher–licensing programme on both residential and non-residential basis and would have found suitable accommodation for the resource persons.
The NTC should revisit their notes and do a lot more stakeholder consultations so that when the teacher licensing becomes operational, the key stakeholders will all agree to the modalities that may be arrived at. We cannot but wish NTC well as it prepares to carry out one of its key mandates as enshrined in section 12 of the 2008 Education Act (Act 778).
The writer is a former Headmaster, Okuapemman School and former National Secretary of CHASS.
Writer’s E-mail: email@example.com