Creating opportunities to succeed - Evidence for supporting development of global competencies

By Matthew MacGregor-Stubbs, Regional Director – Africa

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Matthew MacGregor-Stubbs, Regional Director - AfricaNFER colleagues recently attended Ghana’s National Education Week, to hear first-hand from policymakers and practitioners, meet with key contacts, and forge new relationships as we continue to look for opportunities to draw on our experience to support Ghana’s education sector.

The Government of Ghana is committed to transforming the education sector, with curriculum reforms in place and the ambitious visions set out in the Education Sector Plan 2018-2030 to make Ghana a “learning nation”, which gives “every Ghanaian child the opportunity to succeed”. Improvements are being realised in key areas, with increases in gross enrolment in basic education, the introduction of the new competency-based curriculum and free universal access to Senior High School. However, further work is required to make the vision a reality for all children in Ghana.

The Minister of Education, the Rt. Hon. Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September, reaffirming the importance of learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development as outlined in Action Track 2 of the UN Transforming Education Summit held prior to the UNGA in New York. Dr Adutwum emphasised the need to move towards learner-centred pedagogy which focuses on skills and the application of knowledge rather than memorisation.

He stated that “That kind of education system will not transform Ghana. That kind of education system is not going to give us critical thinking individually, especially since we are in the 21st century and education 4.0 and the industrial revolution. You can’t memorise your way out of poverty, but you can critically think and innovate out of poverty.”

It is crucial therefore that children in Ghana are educated in classrooms with opportunities to develop a broad range of skills, going beyond knowledge to foster transferable competencies such as critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving (GPE, 2020). These are captured in the National Pre-Tertiary Education Curriculum Framework as the Core/Global Competences of: Critical Thinking & Problem Solving; Creativity & Innovation; Communication & Collaboration; Cultural Identity & Global Citizenship; and Personal Development & Leadership.

Assessing the development of these skills among individual learners is an emerging field, and robust methods are relatively limited. However, there is a growing body of research that suggests by examining the educational environment to determine how the system supports a wide variety of learning opportunities, we can identify areas for positive intervention at classroom, school and system-levels. By focusing on the creation of these opportunities we both transcend the difficulties of measuring socio-emotional skills development (Care et al., 2016) and guard against narrowing of the curriculum (Anderson et al., 2018).

In 2020 NFER collaborated with UNESCO Institute for Statistics to develop an indicator for Sustainable Development Goal 4.7 which sought to identify sources of evidence for the creation of opportunities for the development of a breadth of skills[1]. This was considered from the perspective of the intended environment as outlined in national sector plans and policies, the planned environment outlined in school policies and the implemented environment through lesson plans, schemes of work and activities beyond the classroom.

As Ghana’s National Education Week Evidence Summit considered how to improve the implementation of education policies in support of the transformational vision of the Government of Ghana, we would encourage stakeholders from across the education sector to consider alternative sources of evidence for learning, particularly those which enable the development of the Core/Global Competencies. These might include:

  • The extent to which the development of socio-emotional skills is supported at the system-level through budgets, national teacher standards and education policies
  • The extent to which school management and leadership is focusing on the development of socio-emotional skills through the provision of curricular and extra-curricular activities and the school’s culture/ethos
  • The implementation of student-centred pedagogy and project-based learning and the support which teachers provide to developing the Core/Global Competencies.

References

Care, E., Anderson, K. and Kim, H. (2016). Visualizing the breadth of skills movement across education systems. Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution. [online]. Available: https://www.brookings.edu/research/visualizing-the-breadth-of-skills-movement-across-educationsystems/.

Global Partnership for Education (2020). 21st-Century Skills: What potential role for the Global Partnership for Education? A Landscape Review [Online]. Available: https://www.globalpartnership.org/content/21st-century-skills-what-potential-role-globalpartnership-education.

Anderson, K., Hegarty, S., Henry, M., Kim, H. and Care, E. (2018). Breadth of Learning Opportunities: A Fresh Approach to Evaluating Education Systems [online]. Available: https://www.brookings.edu/research/breadth-of-learning-opportunities/.

[1] A publicly available document describing this work can be accessed here: https://tcg.uis.unesco.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2020/10/WG-GAML-15-SDG-4.7.6-Breath-of-Skills-Interim-Pilot-Report.pdf

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