Thursday, 5 May 2016


Why is Schooling Like Playing a Football Game?

I don't watch football and I can hardly claim to know the best football teams in the world. Actually, I doubt if there is a decidedly best team as that usually depends on who is doing the evaluation, what their basis is and which teams they support. So Hearts of Oak supporters will never agree that Kotoko is the best team in Ghana's Premier League and the other way around is also true. Same way Man U supporters will disagree if you tout Chelsea as the best; neither will Real Madrid supporters ever take it that Barcelona plays better than their team.

But even with my layman football lenses, I can tell which team plays good soccer when I watch a football game. The passes, ball possession, crosses etc define the quality of the game. However is the quality of football a team displays on the field the yardstick for making them win or lose the match? Absolutely not. It is the team that scores the most goals which wins the match.

This is exactly how our educational system is run in Ghana. Indeed, it appears to be the case in many places across the world. There tends to be too much emphasis on examinations. This is to the extent that nobody counts unless they are able to pass exams. I had a friend in primary school who was very good with drawing. We used to pay him with food, biscuits and other provisions to draw pieces of art for us and he could draw practically anything, his imaginations were wild and intriguing and his drawings were brilliant. But he was not so good in class and eventually fell in the cracks and could not continue. Why? Exams.

There are several of such stories that I can recount from various levels of schooling and that is just me. Thousands, even millions of such memories are there with people everywhere. Our educational system is structured in such a way that people's talents are hardly recognized let alone harnessed; students are only as good as the grades they make in exams.

The point has always been made that examination especially as it exists in our schools does not test the holistic abilities of students. Most often, students are tested on their ability to memorise and reproduce to obtain marks. That is why students mainly concentrate on passing their exams in school and not necessarily on acquiring knowledge and this in turn explains why most will complete school without knowing exactly what they learnt. They didn't learn to know or to apply but to pass exams.

In order for our educational system to work, there is the need for us to de-emphasize exams and focus more on skill building. The current orientation plays a huge role in the non-performance of the educational system. In other words, even if the curricula at the various levels are changed, there will be little improvement if emphasis is still on the "Chew-Poor-Pass-and-Forget" mode of assessment of students.

There have been oft-repeated calls - in the context of the discussion on graduate unemployment - for entrepreneurship to be added to the school curriculum. I usually find such calls ridiculous because anything added to the curriculum will only add to the pressure on students. So long as the emphasis is on exams, students will make grade A's in entrepreneurship and still end up joining the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana. Wonder why I think so?

Take a look at your primary school curriculum and you will find Environmental Studies; you probably scored 100% in that subject every term but you still drop plastic material indiscriminately without knowing what damage that does to the environment. You might have learnt (no, chewed and poured) several definitions of corruption in a lot of social studies textbooks in JHS and in SHS but you still give bribes and at the least opportunity, you plunder other people's resources to your own advantage.

The point is that as long as exams remain the top priority, students hardly learn. Content is not imbibed. Most of the time, it is only memorised and reproduced because that is what is rewarded. Skills are neither rewarded nor potentials developed.

In much the same way that a football team is only as good as the goals it scores in a game, students are  only as good as the grades they make. If a team does not score enough goals in a season, it drops out of the league. Likewise, if a student does not pass as many exams as are required, they drop out of school.

School cannot work if it is run like a football game.

Hardi Yakubu

Also check out the following

MAKING EDUCATION WORK (1): Merge Technical Training with Mainstream Education


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