“It must be noted that popular support for governmental policy proposals is not necessarily coterminous with feasibility, effectiveness, and relevance” (Gyampo, 2018, p. 1). In 2018, Prof Ransford Edward Van Gyampo of the University of Ghana in one of his journal articles made the above statement. As a student of Political Science and Public Policy and one of Prof’s academic admirers, I believe Prof Gyampo is right and I agree with the statement. I would like to ask Prof Gyampo: Does he still associate with this statement he made in 2018 in his own publication? I believe he does because academics are trained to defend their statements.
If they find evidence contrary to their initial positions, they publish it and emphatically say so. My deep search in the literature did not reveal any publication by Prof Gyampo that suggests a contrary proposition to his initial statement in 2018.
Consequently, I assume that Prof Gyampo still stands by his statement. If the foregoing has been established then I must say I am respectfully disappointed in Prof Gyampo judging from his recent statement purporting to support a proposal for the cancellation of licensure exams opined by the Former President John Dramani Mahama, the Presidential candidate of the main opposition party in Ghana, National Democratic Congress (NDC). I disagree with his position about the cancellation of the licensure exams. My reasons are discussed below.
THE RATIONALE OF THE LICENSURE EXAMS
In 2016, the Ghana National Teaching Council (NTC) initiated the NTC Teacher Licensure Exams under the Education Act 2008 (Act 778), Section 9 to improve the professional standing and status of teachers and to license and register teachers in Ghana. The policy rationale is to regularize the teaching profession to enable qualified teachers from Universities and Colleges of Education to acquire professional licenses to ply their trade and improve the state of teaching as well as the quality of teachers and educational delivery in the country. According to the Council, the license is subject to renewal just like how we renew other licences to enable them to monitor the professionals impacting knowledge in our classrooms. The renewal of teachers’ licenses is subject to going through professional development programmes and appraisals.
All over the world, professionals have had high standards for their profession and have instituted measures to ensure that their respective revered professions remain relevant, respected, and recognized over the years. These are the reasons professionals such as pharmacists, lawyers, and doctors, have specialized institutions to regularize their profession apart from their usual educational training from their curriculum. Even to be called a professional accountant, despite the rigorous training in accounting for years, one still needs to pass as a Chartered Accountant.
In the classroom, where Prof Gyampo belongs, scholars of public policy are trained to advise policymakers that any new educational policy introduced must be wise in the sense that it does not cause new educational problems in the sector. Education is hinged on three principles: access, quality, and relevance. Educational policies are expected to encourage internal and external efficiency while maintaining all three principles. Judging from best practices across the globe and other professions, teachers are regarded as professionals with a specialized institution implementing their professionalism. The NTC licensure exam is currently serving this purpose in Ghana.
Consequently, any proposal to cancel the policy must be able to answer the following questions. 1) How is the cancellation of licensure exams relevant to the educational sector? 2) How would it improve access? 3) How would it improve the quality of education? In fact, I believe the cancellation of the licensure exams would reduce the quality of classroom delivery and the relevance of education because there is no regularization of the teachers who are delivering the curriculum to students. There might be challenges regarding the implementation of the policy since its inception. Scholars of public policy consider this as an integral part of any new (or even old) policies hence the inclusion of policy evaluation and adaptation in the policy cycle.
WHY THEN THE CANCELLATION PROPOSAL? A CASE OF ANOTHER ELECTORAL COMPETITION?
Thinking through the foregoing as a student of Political Science and Public Policy vis a vis the statement made by Prof Gyampo on Facebook, I’m faced with certain puzzles such as: what is the government seeking to achieve with the proposal to cancel the licensure exams? If President Mahama wins the 2024 elections and adopts to cancellation of the licensure exams, would that be a case of fulfilling a campaign promise or achieving development for the people? Ironically, these puzzles I’m faced with are issues that had been raised by Prof Gyampo in one of his publications in which he sought to emphasize that as a developing country fighting to extricate ourselves from the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment, the focus of governmental policy initiatives must be towards the development of the people (Gyampo, 2018, p. 15).
The emergence of new democracies implies that voters are often following elections (of political parties) more closely, and citizens are increasingly viewing policies as an integral part of their livelihood, with a direct link to democracy. Teachers constitute a bulk number of the voting population, and many people also have the desire to enter the classroom to teach. Teachers also have a great influence on an appreciable cohort of voters. Whereas some teachers may appreciate and identify the impact of their licensing on their teaching profession, others may think otherwise. In fact, others may have the desire to enter the classroom right after their standard education programme without going through the licensing exams, hence a policy proposal to scrap the policy will resonate well with them. My conviction is that President Mahama is proposing this irrelevant policy to teachers and would-be teachers so that he can maximize his votes within the competitive electoral democratic politics in Ghana. Using Prof Gyampo’s own words, the policy proposal is popular but irrelevant.
The cancellation of Teachers Licensure Exams is not identified to be linked to providing a solution to a pressing social need that needs to be addressed. It’s rather going to reverse a solution proffered to an identified social problem. The problem is how to maintain the quality of the educational system. The proposed policy seems semblance to the same old story characterized by many policy proposals we have witnessed in Ghana. T
hey are clouded in populist ideology targeted at achieving majoritarian votes during elections. Theoretically, the cancellation of the licensure exams has no sound basis and practically it will contribute in no way to the improvement of the quality of education in Ghana. For these reasons, I find it weird that a professor of Political Science vexed in public policy will support such a proposal. We can improve upon how the policy is being operationalized rather than cancelling it.
Gyampo, R.E.V. (2018) ‘Creating New Regions in Ghana: Populist or Rational Pathway to Development?’, Ghana Journal of Development Studies, 15(2)
The writer, Gabriel Asante is a social scientist researching fee-free educational policies in Sub-Saharan Africa to assess their utility to social and human development, the policy processes and their drivers and the alternative means to improve these policies.