The study and application of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) play a pivotal role in national development. This has necessitated the need to encourage the younger generation to pursue science and its related courses to the highest level on the academic ladder. Although it is a fact that the theoretical and practical study of science goes hand-in-hand, the traditional method of teaching science has fallen short of the practical aspect. Consider its impact on 4,618 basic schools in the country.
The challenge is multifaceted and deeper than just providing a single solution. Understanding the problem reveals that unavailability of modern science laboratories, inadequate teaching and learning materials, low level of specialized staff for teaching STEM, and the inherent fear of learners for STEM are major setbacks to Ghana having improvement with STEM at the basic level.
As a result of this, there is a growing expectation towards science instruction. This requires the need to examine alternative ways to approach the teaching of science than the traditional method of teaching science, as the ultimate aim of teaching science is to bring students to a stage where they delight in being involved in learning science and feel committed to continuing its studies.
Prac-science Lab, a subsidiary of Kumasi Hive, therefore, started as a project to address this challenge by converting available spaces within schools into labs and stocking them with low-cost materials and providing contemporary skills training to science teachers (Trainer of trainer’s workshop) to enable them use the labs effectively to improve teaching and learning outcomes in science at the basic school level.
Even though it is a well-known fact that several challenges (Lack of teaching and learning materials, lack of skilled STEM tutors etc.) abound with science education at the basic school level in Ghana, there is little data to consolidate that. Hence, it became necessary to start collating data to inform all stakeholders within the Ghanaian educational system using the Prac-science Lab project as a case.
Prac-science Lab works in 6 basic schools within Kumasi and Ejisu respectively. Within these schools, there are 4 operational labs with two schools sharing two of these labs. Kumasi metropolis which we currently serve is made up of several basic schools with none of the government schools having science labs except few private schools that have science labs which are either nonfunctional due to inadequate materials for science practicals. A recent survey conducted among 11 science teachers in 6 schools through the Prac-science Lab project to access challenges faced by teachers in the teaching of science at the basic school level and also challenges they face if they have practicals revealed the following;
- Lack of teaching and learning materials (TLMs)
- Large class size
- Lack of support from Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and
- The others directly can be linked to inadequate skills by science instructors (Skill gap)
Challenges faced by teachers mostly in the teaching and learning of science among basic schools in Ghana is due to the lack of science teaching and learning materials which was reflected in our survey.
The lack of teaching and learning materials (TLMs) for science education in Ghanaian basic schools has invariably affected the way science is taught hence having a tolling effect on how students understand science concepts hence translating mostly into poor performance at the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and lack of interest in science. The data from our survey clearly depicts that occurrence.
The challenges within the basic educational system regarding the teaching and learning of science are not only inherent on lack of TLMs but other challenges which are faced by teachers and schools including difficult concepts, time constraint to finish practical sessions and lack of support from Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) respectively.
Written by: Harry Akligoh | Prac – Science Lab Lead and Project Coordinator – Kumasi Hive