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VIAM Africa condemns ideology of head being load carrier

Date published: Monday, 4th April 2016

Dr. Prince Armah, Executive Director of VIAM Africa (Ghana)

VIAM Africa (Ghana) Centre for Education and Social Policy has condemned the author of a pupils’ textbook, which suggested that the human head was designed only to be a load carrier.

Author of the book “Natural Science for Primary Schools – Pupil’s Book 1”, Albert Joseph Quarm, did not receive any proper endorsement for his work but rather, was lambasted by policy think-thanks, groups and people in academia for churning out such ideology to supposedly brainwash and misguide pupils in their academic pursuance.

Others also said the continued use of the books in the basic schools would corrupt the pupils, hence, called for their immediate removal from the shelves and all schools using them.

Many more groups have been aggravated by the easy ways the Ghana Education Service and the Ministry of Education validate textbook contents to be taught in schools.

A news release signed and issued by Dr. Prince Armah, Executive Director of VIAM Africa (Ghana) disagreed that the head was meant to carry loads because “a large body of studies has shown that promoting positive health behaviour of pupils within schools has the potential to improve their educational outcomes, and their health and wellbeing.”

The statement explained that the function of the human head included ingestion of nutrients, intake of air, use of senses such as vision, hearing, tasting, feeling and smelling.

It added the human head helps to circulate information to all the other parts of the human anatomy and so it would be very misleading to refer to it as a load carrier.

Therefore, “It is in light of this that we reject the pontification of the function of the human head as a load carrier,” it stated.

Below is VIAM Africa’s statement

Last week, there was a public uproar over the content of a Primary 1 textbook titled “Natural Science for Primary Schools” written and published by one Albert Joseph Quarm. According to the said book, the function of the human head is for carrying objects.

Both the Author and the Ghana Education Service (GES) have since said they find nothing wrong with the description, despite public concerns. VIAM Africa (Ghana) joins others to strongly object to this inappropriate description of the functions of the head.

The function of the human head includes ingestion of nutrients, intake of air, use of senses such as vision, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling.
The human head also provides communication, mind and brain functions. Given that the functions of the sense organs, mind and brain are extensively treated in Primary 3 and later years, the Author could have emphasised the communication function of the head such as nodding (up and down), and shaking (from side to side).

This can easily be mimed by the kids during lesson delivery in the form of a role play. It is not the case that the human head cannot be used to carry objects but that example is inappropriate given that an important purpose of education is to instil good habits and moral values.

So the Author could not have equally said the mouth is used for smoking Marijuana; or the leg for kicking ass! Indeed, there is some evidence, especially in African context, suggesting that carrying objects (e.g. containers with water) on the head over a certain distance is associated with musculoskeletal disorders, such as spinal (neck or back) pain or other joint problems, with recommendation for desisting from carrying things on the head.

We contend that the role of the body parts including the head must be taught within the context of healthy lifestyle. A large body of studies has shown that promoting positive health behaviour of pupils within schools has the potential to improve their educational outcomes, and their health and wellbeing.

It is in light of this that we reject the pontification of the function of the human head as a load carrier. An important observation about the present issue is the fact that, the specific content in question was captured in a Primary 1 textbook, although it falls under Unit 3 of the GES Syllabus for Primary 2. To think that the GES approved this content together with the obvious inappropriate examples stated above is very worrying.

This comes at the back of a similar report published on citifmonline.com (24th November, 2015), in which a Junior High School (JHS) teacher, Mr Phanuel Ayawly, petitioned the Ministry of Education, requesting the withdrawal of a set of integrated science textbooks for JHS.
According to the petition, the book titled “New Integrated Science for Junior High Schools: Discovery series, authored by Theodore E.T. Kom-Zuta and published by Sedco and Pearson” were full of grammatical and typographical errors.

Till date, little or nothing has been said about it and the books are still in use. VIAM Africa (Ghana) holds the view that the blame for all these problems in the textbooks should be laid squarely at the door step of the Ministry of Education and GES.

A textbook is generally conceptualised as a standard work on a particular subject designed for classroom use with appropriate vocabulary, illustrations and student exercises. They are supposed to be used as the primary material for referencing and instructional delivery. The implication is that textbooks must necessarily be purged from factual inaccuracies, grammatical errors, misrepresentations and inappropriate illustrations.

At present, there is a textbook development and distribution policy for pre-tertiary schools published by the Ministry of Education. Section 7 of the policy highlights the processes that textbook manuscripts go through before final approval for printing in wholesale.

The testing of the manuscript according to the policy is carried out by the Curriculum Research and Development Division (CRDD) and is supposed to be done for a period of not more than two months and covers not more than five units per textbook (Section 7v).

The policy further states that, every textbook selected should meet a minimum evaluation standard which includes 80% conformity with the syllabus. However, the recommended duration and the scope of coverage for evaluating the quality of the textbook manuscript are likely to undermine critical scrutiny of the textbook.

Hence, important details and information might skip the personnel from CRDD who are mandated to carry out this exercise. We contend strongly that this policy imperative and arrangement has not made CRDD perform this function effectively. It is also questionable for the MoE to be accorded the right to waive the entire process of assessing the quality of the textbook for use in the Basic schools as contained in the policy document.

The questions that we wish to ask are, why should evaluation criteria cover not more than five units of the entire textbook? What constitutes the pre-evaluation stage of the manuscript testing? And under what circumstances would the MoE waive the entire process of post evaluation? VIAM Africa (Ghana) wishes to make the following policy recommendations: 1. To align the curricula with the aims of education in the 21st Century, the MoE should conduct a holistic review of the curricula and develop an open and flexible curriculum framework that caters for students’ diverse needs. 2. The MoE must re-evaluate all government approved textbooks as practically as possible. 3. Textbooks which contain factual inaccuracies, inappropriate illustrations and poor proofreading should be withdrawn from the school system immediately. 4.

The minimum evaluation standards established in the textbook should be revised to take account of the components of the curriculum (aims, content, learning/teaching activities, assessment) as the main benchmarks of quality textbooks. 5. Teachers must be the final point of the textbook evaluation criteria and the post evaluation should cover all the units in the textbook.

Signed

Dr. Prince Armah

Executive Director

COMMENTS/CONTRIBUTIONS ARE WELCOME

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