The issue of whether mobile phones should be used in basic and second-cycle schools in the country stirred controversy at the fifth quadrennial regional delegates conference of the Greater Accra branch of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) in Accra on Tuesday.
A Ghana Education Service (GES) policy does not permit students in second-cycle schools to use mobile phone.
Speakers at the conference were unanimous that there was the need for teachers to adopt innovative strategies to enhance teaching and learning but held dissenting views on the use of smartphones to enhance the process.
Phone use good
According to him, there was the urgent need for holistic structures to be put in place by policy makers in education to allow mobile phones to be efficiently used by students.
“Under no circumstance must we deny young people access to smartphones because it can provide more information for students than any teacher can. I taught in California as far back as 1984 and students were allowed to use mobile phones. We cannot deny young people access to this technology in the 21st century.
“I can understand how people feel about the need for this new trend, but we need to put the structures in place to incorporate discipline in the use of these mobile phones.
“Teachers themselves need to be taught to use smartphones so that they can in turn use them to teach students appropriately and take away the monotony of teachers always being at the centre of the learning process,” he stressed.
Mr Haffar, who is also a columnist on the rubric “Education Matters” in the Daily Graphic, stressed that the continued reliance on traditional teaching methods and conventional teaching strategies ought to be reviewed to make it possible for teachers to imbibe modern technology, so that the educational system would be in tune with what happened in other jurisdictions.
He described the theme for the conference: “Transforming societies through education under Agenda 2030: 60 years of Ghana’s educational system; educating for certification or educating for self-sustaining life transformation”, as apt.
He urged teachers to adopt innovative technologies that would make teaching more practical and student-centred.
While agreeing with Mr Haffar that it was important for teachers to adopt innovative strategies to enhance teaching and learning, the General Secretary of GNAT, Mr David Ofori Acheampong, said opening the floodgates for smartphones to be used in basic and second-cycle institutions would be suicidal for the country.
“Even for adults, if you are discussing serious issues at a meeting, you can see some people fidgeting with their mobile phones.
“The mere fact that some people are doing it somewhere does not mean that we should also do it here because we live in different cultural contexts. Homosexuality and other unacceptable acts in our society are acceptable in other jurisdictions, so if we are not careful, we will be introducing some demonic things into our society that will haunt us one day,” he said.
He said any attempt to allow students to use smartphones would expose the classroom environment to destructive tendencies.
Mr Acheampong said the prudent thing to do was for the government to establish and equip more computer laboratories in public schools across the country to facilitate the teaching of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
“Our educational system emphasises equity for students in both the urban and the rural areas and now we are even talking about free senior high school education. If we give the opportunity to students to use smartphones, the equity gap will widen because some people will not even have access to those phones,” he said.
He, however, said since the calls being made for the use of smartphones were suggestions by individuals but not a policy by the government, GNAT would keep its fingers crossed to see how events would unfold.
“If the government thinks that it has a policy to allow the use of mobile phones, there is the need to engage all stakeholders, so that we will sit down and think through it and do what will be good for this country,” he added.
Touching on the brouhaha over the teacher licensing regime, Mr Acheampong said due diligence ought to be done to regulate teaching but not necessarily issuing licences.
“Those who are clamouring for it are just jumping the gun. After all, teachers are not afraid of examination because we set questions every day.
“We are not against it but whoever wants to license teachers should come out clearly with the modalities for doing so because there are rules and regulations for everything,” he said.
Wading into the ongoing debate on whether to extend the teaching hours to 4 p.m., as has been proposed, Mr Acheampong said any move to do so would be an exercise in futility.
“If decisions that are national in character are to be taken, there is the need to consider not only people in the cities because rural dwellers are also part of the country. Some children walk many kilometres to school in the rural areas and get tired, so there is no point keeping those children up to 4 p.m. We need to rather look at how to make maximum use of instructional time,” he said.
The Greater Accra Regional Minister, Mr Ishmael Ashitey, who officially opened the conference, urged teachers to brace themselves up to play an integral role as the government rolled out the free SHS initiative in September this year.
He urged teachers to change from the root method of teaching, which was geared towards passing examinations, and embrace practical methods that would impart critical thinking skills in pupils and students.
Mr Ashitey gave an assurance that the government would continue to adopt teacher-friendly policies to motivate teachers to play their roles as expected of them.
The regional quadrennial delegates’ conference of GNAT is a platform for the teacher union to assess its performance over a four-year period and also make projections into the future.
At such conferences, elections are held to elect new officers to lead the association for a four-year term.
It is also a platform to address grievances and make policy proposals and recommendations to be adopted at the national delegates conference.
The fifth edition of the conference for the Greater Accra Region drew participants from all the 16 districts and representatives from other regions.
District and Metro Directors of Education in the region were present at the conference.