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Ghana’s schools don’t teach enough about geoscience: why kids need to know how the planet works

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Over the last few decades Ghana has seen a rise in environmental degradation such as pollution, deforestation and land degradation. These have been driven by urbanisation, industrialisation, carbon emissions and waste burning. Environmental problems have an impact on public health and the economy. One path to finding solutions is geoscience education, but it’s lacking in the curriculum of Ghana’s schools. Geoscientist Marian Selorm Sapah has published research on the subject. She explains that geoscience education is closely related to everyday experiences, and it can help develop the skills that people need to make wise decisions about the world we live in.

What is geoscience education?

Geoscience education is the study and teaching of earth sciences. The disciplines include geology, hydrology, atmospheric science, environmental science and marine science. Geoscience education conveys knowledge about Earth’s structure, processes and history. It explains the interactions between the planet and all who live on it.

Geoscience education aims to improve scientific literacy and critical thinking among students. It uses a variety of teaching methods. These range from hands-on fieldwork to laboratory experiments and the use of technology and simulations. The field also concerns itself with issues such as climate change, sustainability, natural resource management and natural hazards.

Why should geoscience be in Ghana’s education curriculum?

My review of the level of geoscience education in Ghana’s schools showed that it is inadequate particularly at the basic and high school levels. A survey is now underway to put numbers to this. However, as reported in the paper, out of about 129 tertiary institutions in Ghana, only seven offer geoscience programmes. The Department of Earth Science at the University of Ghana, for example, has graduated only about 350 students over the last four years.

Teaching geoscience in the formal educational curriculum in Ghana at basic and high school levels would offer several benefits.

Relevance: Subject areas are closely related to the natural environment and to students’ daily lives.

Environmental awareness and literacy: Geoscience education can improve environmental literacy. It enables students to understand challenges such as climate change, natural resource management and pollution. Meeting these challenges is the starting point for sustainable development and human development.

Economic and resource management: Ghana is rich in natural resources, including minerals and hydrocarbons. Geoscience education can equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for sustainable mining and management of these resources. This is vital for economic development with the least possible damage to the environment.

Disaster preparedness and mitigation: Ghana faces various natural hazards. These include flooding, coastal erosion, landslides and earthquakes. Geoscience is the basis to develop strategies to avoid or manage disasters.

Alignment with global development goals: Integrating geoscience into the curriculum supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This is particularly true for those related to quality education and climate action. Educating the next generation in geosciences will equip them to combat climate change and promote sustainability.

Overall, adding geoscience education to Ghana’s education curriculum can help to develop a scientifically literate population capable of overcoming environmental challenges.

Has it been done anywhere? How has it worked?

Geoscience education is well established at all levels of formal education in countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and the UK. These countries have strong traditions of geological research and education. Their curricula vary, but the International Geoscience Education Organisation and the International Union of Geological Sciences Commission on Geoscience Education have developed an international geoscience syllabus for schools. It’s based on existing curricula around the world and countries can adapt it.

These efforts have led to the development of a skilled workforce. It has had an impact on scientific progress, global cooperation, environmental protection, proper management of natural resources, and other societal and economic benefits.

How should it be done?

In my paper I have recommended a collaboration between the skilled geoscience workforce and relevant government agencies. These include the Ghana Education Service, Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology. Together they can build stronger geoscience education in Ghana.

They can:

  • incorporate geoscience courses into the curricula of teacher training colleges

  • revise science curricula in basic and high schools to include geoscience

  • support teaching, learning and research through capacity building, infrastructure development, scholarships and funding

  • hold workshops, seminars and training programmes

  • support and empower the geoscience workforce led by the Ghana Institute of Geoscientists to educate the public. This can be done through arts and the media. This can include social media, print, electronic, television, radio, exhibitions, quizzes.

Marian Selorm Sapah does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: theconversation.com

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