Promoting teaching practical physics in Ghana

11 August 2014

In a joint initiative, the Institute of Physics, the Oba Femi Awolwo University in Nigeria, and the Open University in England, worked to promote a practical approach to teaching physics in Ghana’s schools.

Pupils from St. Thomas Aquinas SHS in Accra

The research project was set up to investigate the approach taken by a number of African countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, to the teaching of physics. The initiative was worked on by Professor Steve Swithenby and postgraduate student Femi Babalola from the Open University, Professor Hezekiah Olaniyi from the Oba Femi Awolwo University, and the IOP’s Ghana representatives Charles Appiah and Roger Green.

Pupils from Cape Coast University Practice SHS show their enthusiasm for a practical physics lesson

In July 2014 researchers visited three senior high schools in Ghana: the University of Cape Coast Practice, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Ada, as well as the Asi Daahey International Junior High School. In each school students attended a practical electronics lesson, participated in discussions and filled out a questionnaire.

It was clear that there is little practical science education actually happening in the schools, in spite of the government spending tens of millions of pounds on equipping the secondary schools to a high level. For many science teachers a practical lesson means a practical demonstration at the front of the class, not an investigative class practical.

The situation was clearly stated by a lecturer at Ada College of Education when he said, “We are very much minds-on rather than hands-on”. 

William Ankora, coordinator of the Ada IOP Centre, taking an enthusiastic approach to teaching practical physics

Very few schools have technicians, and classes of 70 or more are common, so conducting practical work in Ghana’s schools has its difficulties. Nonetheless all the teachers spoken to were open to the idea of carrying out practical work.

Through carrying out a practical science demonstration in the schools visited, the researchers were able to show that it is possible to carry out a successful and enjoyable class practical lesson. The IOP will continue to promote a practical approach to teaching physics in Ghana.