Loading...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mathematics Teaching in Ghana; Is it the Problem?

Development in almost all areas of life is based on effective knowledge of science and mathematics. There simply cannot be any meaningful development in virtually any area of life without knowledge of science and mathematics. It is for this reason that the education systems of countries that are concerned about their development put great deal of emphases on the study of mathematics. In Ghana, mathematics is a compulsory subject at all levels in pre-university education. Due to its importance the government is committed to ensuring the provision of high quality mathematics education.The main rationale for the mathematics syllabus is focused on attaining one crucial goal: to enable all Ghanaian young persons to acquire the mathematical skills, insights, attitudes and values that they will need to be successful in their chosen careers and daily lives. The new syllabus is based on the premises that all students can learn mathematics and that all need to learn mathematics. It is therefore designed to meet expected standards of mathematics in many parts of the world. At the Senior High school (SHS), the mathematics syllabus builds on the knowledge and competencies developed at the Junior High School (JHS) level. The student is expected at the SHS level to develop the required mathematical competence to be able to use his/her knowledge in solving real life problems and secondly, be well equipped to enter into further study and associated vocations in mathematics, science, commerce, industry and a variety of other professions.

In spite of government efforts, mathematics has not undergone much change in terms of how it is presented. These reflect consistently in low achievement levels in mathematics among students at the SHS’s and JHS’s. Results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS); an international study conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) of the USA in 2003 and 2007 at the JHS level (grade 8 equivalents) are instances of poor mathematics achievement in the country. In the aforementioned study, Ghana’s 8 graders were ranked 43rd among 44 and 46th among 47 countries that participated in the study in 2003 and 2007 respectively. The situation is not too different in the SHS’s. For many years the failure rate in mathematics has been dramatically high at this level. The low scores of students’ over the years in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination attest to this. As a result many students are unable able to pursue higher education after graduating from the SHS because they failed in their mathematics examinations.

The teacher factor is considered one of the prominent reasons for students’ poor achievement in mathematics. In Ghana, the approach of teaching mathematics is mainly teacher centred which is characterized by transmittal techniques (chalk and talk, dominated by teacher talk), making students to completely depend on teachers. With this teaching approach, students can use formulaic algorithms, but they rarely internalize and develop deeper insight into the mathematics they are learning. But should we be quick to blame these mathematics teachers? Obviously, the answer is no; these teachers also have been taught in the same manner and for most of them adapting new methods for instruction to enhance mathematics learning is a complex innovation.

What could be done ?
There is no doubt that something needs to be done! Students must understand mathematics to the extent that they see how mathematics ensures efficiency in all human endeavours, especially how it applies to their future professions. This is possible if the study of mathematics is made less stressful and mathematics itself becomes meaningful and relevant to those who study it. For this reason, it is very important that teachers of mathematics are sensitised and equipped to provide opportunities for their students to enjoy the study of mathematics and be good at it.
Recent research findings from mathematics education show that integrating of ICT changes the nature of teaching and learning. ICT seems to provide a focal point which encourages interaction between learners and the technology itself. This implies that ICT used in instruction support constructivist pedagogy, where learners use technology to explore and reach an understanding of mathematical concepts. However, for ICT to be used effectively in everyday teaching, radical changes are advocated in approaches to teaching. Teachers must adapt to new roles.

My vision
I have a vision therefore to support mathematics teachers in this transition. I am committed to providing professional development and training needs which will assist mathematics teachers to integrate technology in their teaching practices. Also to be promoted are enrichment programmes for mathematics teacher education which will incorporate ICT to help train pre-service teachers to be able to use technology in their future classrooms. I have conducted a number of studies particularly in Ghana and in this page I post reports of some findings.

The Overview of the study:
The research is meant to contribute to improving teachers’ teaching in the secondary schools. It is expected that the study will bring about an improvement in the teaching/learning by making mathematics pre-service teachers more critical of their teaching in order to help learners to improve their thinking skills in general and mathematical concepts in particular. The study will also serve to improve teachers’ actual use of ICT resources, thereby helping to contribute to bridging the gap between curriculum intentions and actual practice. The target group of pre-service teachers would be equipped with technology integration skills and knowledge for their future careers as professional teachers at the pre-tertiary level. The study was conducted in different stages. I discuss the main concerns of the studies as were addressed in the various stages.

Stage 1: Feasibility of ICT use in Ghanaian Mathematics Classroom
In this particular study, I tried to explore the situation in Ghana to see the possibility of using ICT in instruction in mathematics classroom and what kind of support mathematics teachers need to be able to integrate ICT in their teaching. The relevance of this study was to (i) provide an understanding of the context of mathematics teachers in the SHS’s in Ghana regarding ICT integration in mathematics lessons and (ii) determine the features of an ICT intervention that fits the realities in the SHS’s that can prepare pre-service teachers to effectively design and implement ICT in teaching mathematics. Questions such as:
1. What are the barriers of ICT use in teaching mathematics in SHS’s in Ghana?
2. What are the needs of pre-service and in-service mathematics teachers in teaching mathematics with ICT in SHS’s in Ghana?
3. What are the opportunities of ICT use in the teaching of mathematics in SHS’s in Ghana.
were asked. A total of 180 educators constituting of 60 practicing mathematics teachers and 120 pre-service mathematics teachers participated in this study. The practicing teachers were selected from 16 Senior High Schools (SHS) ranging from government, mission, private and international schools. The results showed that lack of ICT facilities in SHS’s was not the major barrier of teachers as far as integrating technology in teaching was concerned. However lack of knowledge to integrate technology into their teaching and lack of training opportunities appeared to be the major concerns of the teachers. Preliminary analysis confirmed that the government of Ghana and other institutions had invested huge sums of money in procurements of computers and establishment of computer labs in most Senior High Schools (SHS,s) following her ICT for Accelerated development (ICT4AD) policy to introduce information and communication technology (ICT) into the school curriculum at all. The findings reported directed attention to areas that require further attention to enable teachers use ICT in mathematics teaching. In particular, a professional development scenario that will assist pre-service teachers develop skills on ways to integrate ICT in their teaching processes was one of the significant issues identified by the researcher. Bearing in mind the complexity of the problems mathematics classroom in Ghana face in terms of ICT infrastructure and lack of application software, an environment with a more generalised application that offer a technology readily available and user friendly among mathematics classroom with the potential for supporting students’ higher-order thinking in mathematics (such as spreadsheet) was proposed for use in such a professional development programmes. The study also showed that opportunities for such a programme existed. First of all policy documents highlight the importance of integrating ICT into the curriculum at all levels. Curriculum documents in this context suggest that teachers should start every lesson with a practical problem to help students acquire the habit of analytical thinking and the capacity to apply knowledge in solving practical problems and also make use of the computer for problem solving and investigations of real life situations.

You will find the abstract and more details of this report here and here.

Related to this study is another study on Exploring the potential of the Will, Skill, Tool model in Ghana: Predicting prospective and practicing teachers’ use of technology.
You can find the abtstact of this report and the full text here and here.

3 comments:

  1. Hello Mr. Agyei,

    I just found your blog. I would be visiting there very frequent. Hope to learn a lot from there.

    I wish you all the best. Have the best of the year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree Mr Aygel. ICT is a potentially powerful tool to extend the knowledge and also to expand the education opportunities. Once I read in a book that “Maths should be a journey of discovery, rather than a case of 'teaching to the test'. And ICT can be the key to making this work” and after reading your post I believe that it is true.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just pounced on your blog. Really impressed with your findings and the way forward. I have taught Maths with ICT in a secondary school in London for a period of years and retiring soon. I am relocating in a couple of months time in Ghana. I have your e-mail address and hope to contact you to have further discussions.
    Rev E. Addai-Munukum (Addaiedwardaol.com)

    ReplyDelete