A Look at the Trend of Distance and Adult Education in Ghana
Kumi-Yeboah, Alex, International Forum of Teaching and Studies
[Abstract] Distance learning in sub-Saharan Africa is very limited and inefficient. Information, communication, and technology seem to be struggling in the third world as result of inadequate infrastructure, financial constraints, and social or cultural barriers, as well as minimal government policies as compared to successful programs in the developed world. Not much has been researched on the contribution of distance learning and adult education in Ghana. There has been successful distance learning programs in Ghana that need much recognition in the outside world. Adult educators and researchers in the field of open and distance learning must know the contributions of adult and distance learning in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the case in Ghana.
[Keywords] Distance education for adults; adult education; Ghana; sub-Saharan Africa; distance learning programs; education trends.
In sub-Saharan Africa, adult education is utilized to educate and empower the general population on the most pressing issues in society. Examples include: the use of technology, social awareness, and staff development. With the emergence of technology and e-learning, adult education has taken a different paradigm in Africa. Adult learners are now provided with the most recent technological tools for learning, such as computers, podcasts, radios, laptops, and other accessories. Most public and private universities have started distance education programs for adult workers to create an opportunity for them to advance their skills. So far, there is little research on the impact of distance learning and adult education in any of the sub-Saharan African countries. In most conferences and peer-reviewed journals, the trends and contribution of distance education are not highly considered.
However, at the major universities in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana, there have been many successful distance education programs using recent technology to help reduce problems in education, such as teacher education, women empowerment, democracy, financial, health education, and human resource development, in continuing education centers at the major universities in Ghana.
It is important for adult educators to recognize how technology has influenced distance and adult education in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana. Therefore, this article will address the trend of distance and adult education in Ghana and highlight the role distance education has played to promote adult education in both formal and informal sectors in Ghana. It will look at the future trends of adult and distance education in Ghana.
In Ghana, adult education is primarily focused on providing education and human resources training to individuals at all levels so they can solve the most pressing issues adults face in their quest to make a better living. Adult education in Ghana also provides functional literacy programs for individuals above 15 years of age outside the formal school system, thereby offering a second chance for learning. These opportunities include apprenticeships, vocational training, and technical informal activities that are recognized by the government and training provided by other state institutions. The Institution of Adult Education in Ghana defines adult education as "all activities meant to bring improvement in the living of the individual and the communities in which they live. It embraces leisure, occupations, social roles as well as peripheral activities" (Institute of Adult Education Report, 2006).
Adult education in the developing world creates a participatory environment for people to be involved in socio-economic activities and to develop the ability to take leadership initiatives, ultimately leading people at the local level to better understand the social, political, and economic forces that impact their lives. The three main public universities in Ghana have established a distance learning centers, including the Institute of Adult Education to train and offer degree programs to the increasingly rapidly growing population. Many universities in Ghana were founded in the 20th century. The University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology were established around the 1950s with the aim of preparing more people in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine. The University of Cape Coast (UCC) was established in 1962 to train and prepare more teachers for primary and secondary schools. Additionally, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), located in Ghana's capital city Accra, was set up in 1961 with the purpose of training people for the public and civil service in Ghana. More recently, two more public universities were started, The University of Education, Winneba (UEW) in 1992, and the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale in 1992, (Oppong-Mensah, 2009).
With the increasing demand for access to educational opportunities and decreasing budgetary allocation for educational provisions in sub-Saharan Africa, there is a growing interest in distance education and open learning (DEOL) as efficient means of providing quality education to people (The Association for the Development of Education in Africa, 2002). In Africa, south of the Sahara, about four million additional teachers will be needed to fill both new teacher positions primarily to deliver quality teaching to the primary schools for all children. This need is caused by attrition issues, such as effects of low income of teachers and the increasing migration of trained teachers into other sectors of the economy and countries outside of the region (UNESCO, 2008).
According to Prakash (2003), access to education in the developing countries is limited with less than 5% of the students in tertiary education compared to the world average of 16%. The situation is no different in Ghana where the demand for quality education is higher than the capacity to deliver and is offered to a small, privileged portion of the population. Distance education in Ghana is primarily based on the need to provide and widen access to basic education, improve the quality of teaching, and provide vocational training to a young population that is eagerly seeking any opportunities for work and economic development. Due to a variety of economic, political, and historical complications, experts contend that there is a need for education at all levels to absorb the increasing numbers of primary, secondary, and college-level students. Distance learning and adult education has, therefore, become the best alternative for the government to train more teachers and workers in order to fill the gap created as a result of the quest for education and increasing population to meet the demands of the people.
African Virtual University
In Ghana, distance education has been promoted to reduce the increasing challenges of access, equity, and cost. Consequently, distance learning provides better higher education to improve the pace of socioeconomic development in the current global trend of education on the continent. One of the methods that the government adopted was the virtual university system where large numbers of students are admitted to offer courses in business and information studies. African Virtual University (AVU) began in 1997 as a pilot study in sub-Saharan Africa by the World Bank and transformed into an independent, non-profit organization headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. Its mission is to increase access to educational resources throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and promote quality higher education in the most critical area of economic development. It started with 57 learning centers in 27 African countries working to support economic development and offers various programs leading to certificates, degrees, and short in Business administration and computer science (African Virtual University, 2009).
The method of delivery is asynchronous, videotaped classes and synchronous satellite video where students have the opportunity to pose or ask questions through the use of telecommunication, email, or fax. It also uses the use of content from overseas universities, and courses from either prerecorded instructional programs or online. In Ghana, the University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, University of Science and Technology, and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) have AVU centers to augment distance learning programs in their respective institutions, thus reducing the problem of admission to many students who are denied due to lack of infrastructures in these universities. The teaching methods include the use of videotaped and Uve lectures in a one-way video, two-way audio, and digital satellite broadcast. Email-interaction between students and instructors is often used. It is, therefore, important for stakeholders in distance learning and the government to pay keen attention to and promote the fragile growth of ICT in Ghana, since any form of distance learning will be the best alternative to increase higher education opportunities for people willing to acquire education but who cannot get access because of inadequacies of infrastructure (Ayeh, 2008).
Distance Learning and Teacher Training Education in Ghana
To address the challenges of teacher education and accelerate the number of teachers-to-pupil ratio in Ghana, the government reformed the educational sector in the late 1980s. There was the need to train more teachers in the K- 12 school system. The Ministry of Education (2002) intended not only to solve the problem of teacher shortages but also the high attrition associated with teacher migration to other sectors of the economy. It was also to provide teachers higher academic and professional training skills for basic teachers, to equip teachers in Ghana with adequate knowledge and skills for lifelong learning, and raise the performance level to be able to compete and provide quality teaching. This was not limited to Ghana but prevalent in all sub-Saharan Africa (DeJaehere, Chapman, & Mulkeen, 2004, 2006). The latest development in distance learning has the potential to train more teachers, both in-service and pre-eservice, as part of the professional development in the K- 12 schools (Sampong, 2009).
A study conducted in 2000 depicts that to train all untrained teachers in Ghana by the year 2005 and to achieve a gross enrollment ratio of a hundred percent by the year 2010, the total number of teachers required per annum would be from 13,000 to 16,000, and this output would have to be sustained up to the year 2010. The current total output of trained teachers does not meet the demands for teachers in Ghana (Akyeampong et al., 2000; Akyeampong, 2001).
There is a phenomenal rise in school enrollment over the past decade that demands more qualified teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio is estimated to be 35:1 (trained and untrained) and the pupil-trained teacher ratio is 94:1 (Oppong-Mensah, 2009). Distance learning would the next alternative method to provide an opportunity to train more qualified teachers to fill the shortage of teachers in Ghana. Distance learning can be used to provide in-service training of active but untrained teachers and for professional upgrading in K-8 school (Perraton, 1993; 2000; Perraton et al., 2002; Robinson & Latchem, 2002; Saint, 1999).
In the table below, I will explain and analyze the trend of teacher education training in Ghana from 2003 to 2009. Observation from the above Table 1 indicates that all the 38 teacher-training colleges in Ghana turn out about 9,000 teachers per year. With this trend, it is difficult to meet the increasing student enrollment. This may be due the traditional approach system where teacher training is based on a campus or in the colleges, hence the problem of infrastructural facilities to provide effective learning competencies.
Zhao (2005) opined that distance education program would increase the chance for interaction among teacher-trainees. It increases the chance of being better rated than its face-to-face counterpart. To meet the demands for quality teachers, the government of Ghana has decided to make more concessions in distance learning to augment the need for quality education. The need for an alternative method of training and re-training of teachers to support the conventional face-to-face method cannot be overlooked. Distance learning is a form o
f learning in which, majority of the instruction occurs with the instructor and students separated by geographic distance or/and time. Distance learning offers students the opportunity of completing their assignments without having to regularly attend classes on campus and interact with their instructors without physical presences. The traditional face-to-face system of teacher education is beset with problems, such as access to quality education, adequate number of faculties, financial constraints, and inadequate infrastructural facilities to admit more teacher education students. There is a critical need to widen access to university teacher education in Ghana (Asunka, 2008).
Beginning in the 1990s, the University of Cape Coast and the University of Education (Winneba) initiated distance learning centers with the goal of training more teachers to fill in the demand for qualified teachers in Ghana. The Center for Continuing Education, University of Cape Coast (CCEUCC), runs two dual distance learning programs in Ghana, Diploma and Post Diploma in Basic Education Degrees, for the training and retraining of basic teachers in Ghana. The Centre for Continuing Education has 23 study centers for the Basic Education Programs, each with a Regional Coordinators charged with the responsibility for students' and course tutors' affairs, monitor face-toface sessions, oversee all examinations and quizzes, supervise students' project work and off-campus teaching practice, and arrange for students to get guidance and counseling services.
The mode of delivery is highly centered on the use of print-based materials usually written by university professors and instructors. The course writers formally train the tutors and serve as chief examiners, charged with the responsibility of setting end of semester examination, quizzes, and weekly assignments. The course materials are designed in applicable ways so that students will understand them practically on their own. Recently, there has been a gradual shift from print-based materials to internet and audio materials. With a grant from Hewlett Packard, the University of Cape Coast in collaboration with other Western universities, is beginning to offer classes for its distance learners through technology.
In a similar way, the Institute of Education Development and Extension (IEDE) is in charge of a distance education program in the University of Education, Winneba. The JEDE also has programs for teachers and non-teachers, such as certificates, diploma, post-diploma and degree. The IEDEI has centers at all the ten regions in Ghana in addition to the two major branch campuses of the university. Each center has a regional coordinator whose responsibility is student affairs, affairs, and proctors end of semester examinations. At the University of Education, Winneba, the method of delivery is more than 80% in a "Sandwich Program" (a distance learning program where students meet face-to-face with instructors mostly on vacations, especially in the summer) (Oppong-Mensah, 2008).
I will use the table below to analyze the trend of distance learning education and enrollment for teachers in Ghana by various universities that offer distance learning program(s). Table 2 shows enrollment of Basic Diploma degree program at the Center for Continuing Education, University of Cape Coast. There was a steady increase of both male and female students from 2001 to 2005. However, the number of students admitted to the program dropped to 913 for males and 751 for female from 2006 to 2007/08. This may be due to inadequate financial resources, and infrastructural problems stemming from the large number of students in ratio to the available resources. However, student enrollment increased in 2008/09.
Table 3 depicts a different scenario for Post-Diploma degree program in basic education. The number of students who got admission to the program decreased from 2005 to 2009. This is due to inadequate infrastructural facilities, such as accommodation and course materials at the various learning centers. Again, there were not enough facilities to admit more students into the program.
Table 4 shows that the number of teacher education students' enrollments at IEDE increased from 2002 to 2004 for both males and females due to the expansion of the distance learning program. With financial constraints, the number decreased in 2005/06 but increased again due to government response to the situation and improvement of facilities at the centers.
In 2009, the IEDE lunched a master's degree program in mathematics, music, technology, social studies, and science education through its "Sandwich Program" distance learning program and plan on starting a collaborative Doctor of Philosophy PH.D program with the same disciplines using distance learning.
The Importance of Distance Learning in Teacher Education in Ghana
Distance learning is the best alternative for more teachers to be trained and re-trained as it is cost efficient, it turns to accommodate more students with fewer instructors proving to be the best economies of scale, helping institutions to increase student enrollments. Distance education could demonstrate great potential for increasing flexibility, offering easy access, and providing affordable higher education to learners anywhere and at anytime (Association for the Development of Education in Africa, 2004).
Distance learning has removed the two key barriers for teacher education: location and funding. Students are able to enroll in the distance learning program, whether they are close to the institution or not, which is of critical importance for people in rural areas. This provides learning opportunities to other professionals who have considered the teaching profession. With distance learning, teachers could remain at post and learn by integrating college work with their teaching work (DarlingHammond, 1998).
Distance learning will facilitate the development of lifelong learning, which is needed particularly in Ghana where staff development is at critical stage. Distance learning promotes ongoing professional development to veteran teachers who have obtained qualification and need to upgrade their skills and knowledge to meet the demands for the current global form of education. Distance learning is clearly the best alternative to providing access to higher education in sub-Saharan Africa. It has an edge and potential as it provides wider channels for reaching students anywhere in Ghana.
Adult Education and Distance Learning In Ghana
Since 1970s, the Institute of Adult Education (IAE) at the University of Ghana has offered Workers College, a distance education program for workers, which has centers in all the ten regions in Ghana. Workers and young adults take classes during the day and at night. Students were taking the ordinary and advanced level West African Leaving Certificates as a pre-requisite for entry into the major universities. The focus changed in the late 1980s when the government made reforms in the educational sector. Today, the trend is the same, where senior high school students and workers take classes at any of the IAE' s Workers College, where it is primarily at night. The Accra Workers College has been transformed into Accra City Campus University, where workers take degree or diploma courses all year round at night. The goal was to reduce the problems of infrastructure, accommodations, and learning facilities at the university of Ghana; to widen educational access for the majority of qualified students; and finally; and to provide quality professional development for workers to upgrade their knowledge skills.
The IAE has been given the responsibility to start degree programs in a bachelor of arts program a with concentration in economics, social work, geography and resource development, information science, and psychology in distance learning to be located in some of the IAE' s centers in Ghana. This is part of the University of Ghana's distance education efforts to begin in 2008/09 academic years. Selected IAE centers have been equipped with modern technological resources to promote distance learning. The Institute is also one of 24 tertiary institutions in the Commonwealth given the mandate to offer a diploma program in youth development in a distance education program. The program has since graduated three batches of students from 2001. The IAE, at the University of Ghana, also began offering a master's and certificate level degree courses with concentration on HIV/ AIDS counseling. The program is a distance education format where students attend classes in the summer termed "Sandwich Program."
The Institute has been offering professional development courses for workers to upgrade their skills to improve competence and production for Ghana to compete in the sub-regional markets. This runs though programs such as rural development, HIV/AIDS education, elections, human resource management and development, and agricultural extension. Beginning 2003, the Institute has been coordinating a Master of Science degree program in collaboration with the Imperial College, University of London, in a distance education program. To date, about 20 Ghanaian students have completed or graduated with degrees in environmental management, and rural development. With the use of the mass media, IAE has used distance learning to educate and train more people on HTV/ AIDS awareness and offered training in health related issues such as child mortality, child labor and malaria. IAE is actively involved in the Functional Literacy Project in Ghana, which is partly sponsored by the World Bank. IAE helps in the distance learning part of the functional literacy section, where clients are mostly farmers in the rural areas of Ghana. Trained tutors teach and provide materials to learners at a designated location/center and return for a face-to-face session. The Institute of Adult Education has made it possible in a small way for Ghana literacy campaign to be successful and contributed immensely to distance learning in Ghana, considering technology and education in the 21st century's globalized world.
Distance learning has been considered as the best alternative to help solve the growing need for higher education, and to bridge the technology gap between the developed and developing world on educational skills. In Ghana, issues such as financial constraints, inadequate infrastructural facilities, shortage of skilled personnel and government commitments reflect how we are behind in educational development to provide efficient distance learning programs to meet the human resource needs. The current global trend in ICT and the establishment of AVU and other distance learning centers is making Ghana realize the immense contribution of distance education approaches to the national development. With the increasing democracy in Ghana, a new trend of information technology, more radio and internet centers has emerged to fill in the gap of social barriers. Experts have strongly argued that the trend of distance learning is very encouraging despite numerous challenges. For example, distance learning is now highly utilized in the emerging financial, educational and agricultural sectors in Ghana.
Agricultural extension centers have been established to teach farmers new and effective farming methods and modern storage procedures, as well, using distance learning methods where farmers attend face-to-face classes at the designated center. The Ministry of Education plans to integrate ICT into the secondary level curriculum and set up virtual high schools on a pilot scheme. The government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Information, uses radio and TV to launch and educate people on new government policies, such as taxes, health, and education. Plans are also underway to launch distance learning programs in all public universities and regional polytechnics to broaden the affordability range and make education accessible to all Ghanaians.
Distance learning programs have crossed a new threshold in Ghana; they are culturally accepted by the people and have become part of the learning needs of students in Ghana. The average Ghanaian possesses a cell/mobile phone and, with an improved economy, more people will be able to afford the cost of tuition and enroll into the distance education program. The trend seems to be promising with more acceptance and infusion of ICT into all sectors of the economy with education being the first priority.
The phenomenon of distance learning programs in Ghana has reached a threshold to assess its strength and weaknesses. Through distance learning programs in many forms, the academic and professional competence and skills of a significant proportion of teachers and other professionals with skills for lifelong learning has been upgraded. It is important for stakeholders and policy makers of distance education programs in Ghana to acknowledge that people will learn best when the program is integrated with modern technological tools, excellent methods of using printed materials, audiovisuals, video cassettes, multimedia, and TV as well as the infusion of radio programs. With distance learning programs in Ghana, there is now, a new medium of communication and technology that has given the opportunity for students to compete in a global economy. Students have been offered the chance to be trained and retrained in basic skills in teaching and human resource development as a result of more collaboration between local universities in Ghana and partners abroad. It is a proven fact that with continuous effort on the part of government and distance learning centers, the challenges mentioned above can be reduced by promoting an efficient distance education program in Ghana. This study will contribute as a secondary source for researchers in the filed of distance learning to know the existing trend of distance learning in sub-Saharan Africa considering the case in Ghana. African leaders and, for that matter, leaders in Ghana, need to do more by investing in ICT in education to widen access to education for all so that we can achieve the goal of education for all by the year 2015.
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The University of South Florida, Tempa, FL USA
Alex Kumi-Yeboah is currently pursuing doctoral studies in adult education at the University of South Rorida, Tampa Rorida. He is an international student from Ghana, West Africa. His research interests are learning styles of international students, women empowerment, issues in poverty,
international adult education and distance education in sub-Saharan Africa.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: A Look at the Trend of Distance and Adult Education in Ghana. Contributors: Kumi-Yeboah, Alex - Author. Journal title: International Forum of Teaching and Studies. Volume: 6. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 1, 2010. Page number: 19+. © American Scholars Press, Inc. Winter 2007. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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