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Africans Formulating Plan to Upgrade Secondary Education


Education officials from across Africa are debating ideas on improving secondary education and making the system more relevant to the needs of the continent. For VOA, Efam Dovi reports from the meeting in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

Officials attending the Third Regional Conference on Secondary Education in Africa are discussing ways to expand access and improve quality, while making secondary education more relevant to the needs of the continent.

Ghana Minister of Education Paapa Owusu-Ankomah says Africa has major problems with secondary education. He says, although education, under the United Nations Universal Education for All project, has significantly increased access at the basic level, a corresponding expansion has not taken place at the secondary level.

The Ghanaian minister says difficult reforms are needed to reduce drop out rates, expand access and improving quality.

He says the system in most African countries does not prepare graduates for the future.

"We have very, very low output in terms of mathematics, science and English, so our children go through secondary school. In terms of getting into the tertiary institutions, you have such a small number, lack of adequate grabs of numeric and literary skills while, at the same time, they are not properly prepared for world of work, because they've not been able to acquire the necessary skills," he said.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director of Basic Education Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta says the cause of the poor performance stems from the way education was introduced in Africa.

She describes the educational system in Africa as imported from other continents and says it does not take into account the African context.

"Therefore, we have been training, since the colonial period, to fit those type of context. First, it was the colonial period," said Ndong-Jatta. "Then, it was the post-colonial. But these were moving from elites type of system that could really cater for just a few that could get through the system, to one that seem now to be more attractive in the context where these models come from. So, I link that to why we have brain-drain. I liken it to why we have a lot of young people migrating."

Students from selected schools in Ghana are attending the conference as observers.

Agnes Asare-Konadu is a final-year student of La Bone Secondary School in Accra. She talks about some of the difficulties she faces as a science student, preparing for her examinations.

"[In] My school, for instance, all the books are primitive, old books. There are no updated ones, especially with the science books. Its very, very difficult, sometimes, when you go the laboratory, the equipments are not enough," she explained. " It's like five people to one [piece of] equipment and it really delays or one must stand behind for one to finish and watch. Sometime we are not really into the practical thing. Everything is theory and I think, if the equipment are enough and the practical is very severe [intensive] we will rather perform better in the exam."

The World Bank sponsored conference will also look at releasing more resources for secondary education, as well as closing the gap between rich schools, located mainly in cities, and rural poor schools.

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