The 46 public Colleges of Education in Ghana as from the 2020/2021 academic year are going to face some infrastructural challenges as a result of the introduction of the new 4-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree programme which started in the 2018/2019 academic year.
Before the implementation of the 4-year B.Ed. programme, the colleges were running a 3-year Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) programme in which trainees spent two years on campus and one year off-campus for their out-segment teaching practice.
However, with the completion of the last batch of DBE students from the colleges in July 2020, the three year groups of the 4-year degree programme students would have to be accommodated at the same time in relatively similar facilities that were used by only two year groups in the former DBE programme.
Considering the real challenge ahead, it is very important for government and all relevant stakeholders including the tutors of the colleges to come together to device ways of addressing the obvious infrastructural bottlenecks staring at us in the coming academic year.
As the saying goes, "There are several ways of killing a cat." I would like to suggest that the authorities consider the IN-IN-OUT-OUT accommodation policy which was introduced in some of the public universities since the 2012/2013 academic year when University of Cape Coast (UCC) started a similar policy to bridge the infrastructural gap and access to university education.
To start with, I suggest government consider abolishing the compulsory boarding system for the colleges of education. The reason is simple. As we are all aware, the colleges are currently running degree programmes which means that the curriculum has been reformed to meet current global trends in teacher education.
The continuous accommodation and feeding of all students on campuses must be reviewed so as to prepare teachers to face the world upon completion of their training.
Also, the provision of campus accommodation to all students has hampered the colleges ability to increase access to other qualified applicants who could find their own accommodation in the communities the colleges are located so as to access teacher education for themselves.
Another important consideration is that in the traditional universities, less than 40% of students are accommodated in the halls of residence on campus. The large number of about 60% students stays outside the campuses and attend lectures as and when they have one.
Unfortunately, the colleges continue to hold on to the old practice where trainees are subjected to strict controls by authorities who believe that is the best way to train teachers.
The idea of abolishing the feeding system has always been met resistance from college authorities who see it as an avenue for mobilizing Internally Generated Funds (IGF) to support the colleges because central government support to them is inadequate.
It is my conviction that if the compulsory boarding system is abolished, many qualified free SHS graduates could be admitted in the colleges in the coming academic year to reduce the pressure on the traditional universities and other tertiary institutions across the country.
The authorities must carefully assess the IN-IN-OUT-OUT policy which can be the game changer to avoid the option of introducing a DOUBLE TRACK SYSTEM in professional institutions like teacher training colleges of education.
The question I hope many of my readers would want to ask is, "How will the IN-IN-OUT-OUT policy work?" The answer is not far-fetched. By the proposal, all Level 100 and Level 200 students may be provided with campus accommodation whilst Level 300 and Level 400 (by the 2021/2022 academic year) students get their own accommodation outside campus.
However, Level 200 students who can get their own accommodation may be permitted to stay off-campus while the Level 300 students who have difficulty in getting outside accommodation may also be considered for vacant spaces in the halls as a result of the Level 200 students who decide to stay in off-campus accommodation.
In this case, all students who stay off-campus must be paid their full monthly allowances (including the feeding component) to help them pay for the hostel or other accommodation they secured outside campus. This will give government the opportunity to continue expanding the infrastructure in the colleges within the next one year or two to ensure that more students can be accommodated on the campuses.
In addition, colleges which are located in areas where students may find it difficult to get off-campus accommodation could be asked to admit many of their students within the local community who may not need campus accommodation. More so, colleges in the urban areas or well-endowed towns may be permitted to admit in excess of their usual quota to make up for the numbers in the underserved colleges while expansion works continue in those colleges. The above proposals need effective planning and execution so that students will not be taken aback.
In conclusion, I will like to enumerate the merits for the IN-IN-OUT-OUT policy over the possible DOUBLE TRACK system being suggested by some stakeholders.
First, the policy will guarantee quality teacher education since students will not lose any contact hours as well as their practical lessons. Secondly, it will also minimize the frequent interruption of the semesters which affects students' Supported Teaching in School (STS) activities. Thirdly, the policy will not over-stretch the lecturers/tutors as the same staff will be teaching all the different levels of students at the same period.
The fourth advantage is that, the government may not need to provide extra support to the tutors for teaching extra contact hours or employ more hands within a short period to beef up the staff strength of the colleges. Fifthly, the IN-IN-OUT-OUT policy will help reduce the E-learning contact periods which was introduced during last semester to make sure that student teachers are well-trained for the 21st Century education system.
Lastly, the facilities in the colleges can be used during vacations to run top-up sandwich courses for the DBE graduates in the system to obtain degrees instead of using the vacation periods for the DOUBLE TRACK.
By Thomas Ampomah
The writer is aTutor atSt. Monica's College of Education, Asante Mampong