PERSONALITY PROFILE: CoEWJ Interview with Prof. Jonathan Fletcher, Dean, School of Education & Leadership – University of Ghana. Key Advisor – Teaching & Learning Partnerships, T-TEL.

CoEWJ: Briefly, how was life growing up as young Fletcher?

Prof. Fletcher:  I really enjoyed my childhood. I was the fifth child among six siblings, was born on the fifth of May and on the fifth day of the week, counting Sunday as the first day of the week. My parents thought I was special and named me after my father’s favourite Uncle. My affectionate name was Nana Yaw! I am my parents’ third son among three sons in a row and was pampered by both my parents and big siblings.  My father was an ex-police officer and was keen on education. He saw a great potential in all of us and supported us fully till he passed away when I was only 12 years old. My mother’s younger brother who was a headteacher then took over from where my father left off and provided adequate support to see us through various stages in our education.

CoEWJ: What were your aspirations as a child?

Prof. Fletcher: Naturally, I wanted to become a police officer but I later developed great admiration for my teachers. I grew up in a town where there was a Teacher Training College and some of the student teachers were very young and smartly dressed so they served as role models for a lot of children particularly those in the primary schools in town. As a child, I had very good literacy and exceptional numeracy skills so all my teachers liked me so much and I liked them too. This relationship contributed a lot to my decision to want to become a teacher one day.

CoEWJ: Do you have any Ghanaian name aside your English names?

Prof. Fletcher: Yes, it is Arko. My paternal family name is Fletcher and my maternal family name is Arko. My mother’s maiden surname was Arko and we all used that name as our middle name.

CoEWJ: Could you tell us a little about your parents and siblings. Were your parents strict on you as a kid?

Prof. Fletcher: I grew up with all my five siblings. My father had worked as a law enforcer for some time, so compliance was something he loved to see happen when the instructions were clear enough. However, he had a soft spot for me because I was a funny little boy who made everyone laugh. My mother was more assertive when it came to education and none of us had the chance to skip school for whatever reason even though she herself never got the opportunity to go to school.  Her father sent his brothers to school but being her father’s first daughter, she had to help her mother in the market where they sold farm produce. My brothers had secondary education and while one ended up working as a civil servant, the other obtained a Bachelor of Education degree in Social Studies and taught the subject at the secondary level. Both of them have retired from active service.  My big sisters got married and left home early while my other sister trained to become an automobile electrician after completing middle school education.  She worked in a mechanic shop for a while and later got married, had children and retired from that trade.

CoEWJ: Tell us about your school days, from basic school to the tertiary level.

Prof. Fletcher: I had my basic education in the Central Region, spending five years in a primary school (skipped Primary 2) and four years in a middle school.  After middle school, and on the advice of my uncle who was a headteacher, I sat for and passed the entrance examination for selection of prospective teachers into Teacher Training Colleges.  I gained admission to Ajumako College and studied there for three years till the institution was turned into the School of Ghanaian Languages.  All the final year male student teachers were transferred to Foso College and the female student teachers continued at Kibi Women’s Training College for a year. While at Foso College, I wrote the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level Examination in six subjects including Mathematics, Additional Mathematics and Statistics. I passed very well in these subjects and that spurred me on to do the GCE Advanced Level Examination the following year while teaching in a small village in the Eastern region. At this level too, I passed very well and after teaching for two years, I got a study leave to do a Post A-Level Mathematics programme for three years to become a Mathematics Specialist at the Advanced Teacher Training College in Winneba (now UEW).

On successful completion of the programme, I was posted to Akrokerri College where I taught Mathematics for two years while at the same time teaching A-Level Mathematics at Obuasi Secondary Technical School on a part-time basis.

I left for Nigeria and taught mathematics in a grammar school for three years and proceeded to England for further studies. While in England, I studied for a BSc Degree in Financial Mathematics (Valuations) at the University of Reading and went to study Mathematics Education at the Master’s and Doctoral Levels at the University of London’s Institute of Education. I also studied Numeracy at the Master’s Level at the London South Bank University.

CoEWJ: Could you tell us a little about your nuclear family?

Prof. Fletcher: I have been married for over 33 years and my wife and I have three children who are living in the UK permanently with my wife. All three children had their primary, secondary and university education in the UK and I have always served as their personal tutor throughout their academic lives. Interestingly, all of them studied A-Level Mathematics and A-Level Chemistry (my wife is a Chemist and a Health and Safety Expert) and selected two other subjects from Physics, Further Mathematics, Biology and Psychology. In any case, all of them studied STEM programmes (Medicine, Engineering and Biochemistry respectively) at the University level and are pursuing careers in these fields.  My youngest child supported a lot of his colleagues in A-Level Mathematics to the admiration of their parents.

CoEWJ: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far in life?

Prof. Fletcher: It is being the first black African to Head a Department in the World’s No. 1 Institute of Education (Institute of Education, University of London) after studying there for seven years! When I got the job, my professors were elated and described it rightly as a success story.

CoEWJ: Any regrets about the way your life has unfolded for you?

Prof. Fletcher: No, I have no regrets about the career pathway I have followed and what I have achieved following that pathway. I really wanted to become a successful Mathematics Education Practitioner and I have achieved more than that. I have become a successful leader as well.

CoEWJ: Why do you think people say you are too principled?

Prof. Fletcher: I believe teachers should be guided by strong moral and ethical principles. I weigh the professional decisions I make carefully considering the pros and cons of them so when I have made them, I stick to them sometimes with some flexibility but in many cases, I do not make any significant changes in my decisions. Indeed, those who know me know that I stick to my decisions. I feel very uncomfortable amidst people who dither.

CoEWJ: Tell us about your journey to becoming the Dean of the School of Education and Leadership, University of Ghana.

Prof. Fletcher: I should say that journey was smother than I had expected. About six years ago, the University of Ghana (UG) had established a College of Education with three Schools. The School of Education and Leadership (SEL) was the only new School among the three.  The University was looking for someone who had experience in teacher education and leadership. I had served on several committees at the West African Examinations Council with the then Provost of the College of Educational Studies at the University. He represented University of Ghana while I represented the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on the committees.  He approached me about a vacant position of Dean of SEL and my immediate response was that I needed to discuss the offer with my family back in the UK because my plan was to return to the UK after retiring from UCC and spend my retirement with my family. While in the UK, I received a written offer of the job which I shared with my family. The decision we took as a family was to put my retirement on hold and give the role a go. I have been in the role for six years now.

CoEWJ: How many publications do you have? And how easy or hard was it coming out with all these publications?

Prof. Fletcher: I have forty-five (45) publications and am working on a couple more now. In most of these publications, I am the sole author but I have enjoyed working with others in joint publications. In either category, I have been driven by the motivation to support teaching and learning at the least opportunity and colleagues that I have worked with have in co-authored publications responded appropriately. I have enjoyed the activity and this has somehow made it sustainable.

CoEWJ: Kindly take us through your career life.

Prof. Fletcher:  I began my teaching career in a primary school in a small village in the Eastern Region for two years and those were the most beautiful years of my career. I worked with very dedicated teachers and the pupils were wonderful. I gained my first study leave after two years to study to become a Mathematics Specialist. On completion of the programme, I taught in a College for two years and left the country. I taught in Nigeria for three years and went to England to pursue my career in Education as I have said earlier. I have since then taught Mathematics and Teacher Education in British and Ghanaian universities and I am a former Head of Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at the Institute of Education, University of London, a former Head of PGCE at the University of Greenwich, a former Head of the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Cape Coast and a former Deputy Director of the Institute of Education also at the University of Cape Coast. I have also served as a Teaching and Learning Inspector in the UK in the past.

CoEWJ: What are your most proud moments of life?

Prof. Fletcher:  My most proud moments are when the people I have taught, including my own children, have achieved relevant success in their endeavours particularly in relevant assessment events that would move them to the next level of their career pathways.

CoEWJ: How did you come by the name Teacher Fletcher?

Prof. Fletcher: In the primary school where I taught, the pupils put teachers’ names in songs and because my name rhymes with teacher, the pupils found it easier to put my name in any song about teachers. They literally sang my name daily at assembly, marched to their classrooms singing my name and continued singing may name when they got to their classrooms. The Primary one (P 1) pupils loved me to bits and thought I was the Head of State of Ghana when in actual fact General Kutu Acheampong was!

CoEWJ: Tell us about your current role at T-TEL.

Prof. Fletcher:  There has always been only one T-TEL and we all work towards achieving a single goal of transforming education, teaching and learning in Ghanaian schools. All the roles in T-TEL are interlinked so we are able to achieve this single goal. Like everyone associated with the organization, I am required to support every aspect of the work of the organization that involves teaching and learning, and I am sure you will probably agree with me that there is practically no work of the organization that does not involve teaching and learning. As a result of this, I show interest in whatever happens in T-TEL (NGO) as much as I did in T-TEL project and contribute my quota appropriately.

CoEWJ: What are some of the major contributions you think T-TEL has offered to Ghana’s educational sector?

Prof. Fletcher: As you know, T-TEL was mandated to work with National Council for Tertiary Education (now Ghana Tertiary Education Committee) and all public Colleges of Education (CoEs) to improve the quality of pre-service teacher education. T-TEL has worked well with Colleges of Education and their mentoring Universities to create positive learning environments that support teaching and learning at the Colleges.

T-TEL has involved partner schools and mentors directly in the training of teachers in the Colleges and this has helped student teachers to have more insights into the basic school system. This will make it a lot easier for them to hit the ground running when they complete their programme.

Also embedded in the T-TEL programme is a support model that is used to reach over 1800 CoE Tutors through weekly professional development sessions. These sessions have created a very good culture of peer interaction in CoEs which has enhanced collaboration among staff and improved learning outcomes in CoEs.

CoEWJ: In your opinion, how effective will T-TEL function now as a Ghanaian NGO?

Prof. Fletcher: As a Ghanaian NGO, T-TEL is able to continue the work done under the T-TEL project, which has come to an end. T-TEL has the structures and personnel with relevant expertise to emerge as the most successful Ghanaian NGO.

CoEWJ: What are your views on the new curriculum and the new reforms that has taken place in the Colleges of Education?

Prof. Fletcher:  The new curriculum has been described as a ‘world class’ curriculum by external assessors with international experience. The developmental and integrated nature of the curriculum makes it unique and relevant to the Ghanaian basic education system.

Having trained teachers in the UK using a similar curriculum, I can say that learning in our school will change for the better if we are able to implement the curriculum fully. The main challenge is to find enough resources to implement the curriculum. Regarding the reforms, Colleges of Education have been transformed into stronger tertiary institutions that will enable them to deliver the Bachelor of Education curriculum successfully. 

CoEWJ: What is your take on state of Education in Ghana? What are we doing right, what are we doing wrong and what can be done to improve it?

Prof. Fletcher: A number of reforms are in progress and all of these are designed to improve learning outcomes in our schools, colleges and universities.  There have been significant increases in access at the various levels of education and these increases are a good thing as everyone is given the opportunity to learn and make progress in their life. Indeed, as more and more people are educated, cost of health provision, for example, is bound to fall as people become aware of how to prevent both communicable and non-communicable diseases. However, access without corresponding amounts of resources will affect quality adversely. This issue can be addressed if everyone sees education as their responsibility and contribute their quota towards its development. More interest and investment from parents and other stakeholders will go a long way to improve the quality of education and its delivery.

CoEWJ: What is your view on the implementation of Teacher Licensing in Ghana?

Prof. Fletcher:  I see Teacher Licensing as a way of protecting the teaching profession. It will help identify teachers who need support after going through the formal training to seek and get the support they need. That way, we can build capacity that will help deliver the various curricula in the education system. Teacher Licensing should not be seen as a way of weeding out the so-called bad teachers. It should be seen as a way of supporting all teachers to discharge their duties successfully.

CoEWJ: How do you think Principals of Colleges of Education can sustain and implement the training T-TEL has given to them over the years?

Prof. Fletcher: Colleges of Education Principals are working with the various mentoring Universities to implement the new Bachelor of Education curriculum. I think the more Colleges work with Universities while maintaining their autonomy status, the more likely Principals of College of Education can sustain the contributions they are making in their institutions. Sharing the load with their mentoring Universities will help in this direction.

CoEWJ: What is the future of Colleges of Education after their mentoring period with the 5 affiliate universities?

Prof. Fletcher:  I expect Colleges of Education to keep their unique characteristics that focus on and support teacher education. Colleges of Education should remain teacher education centres when they become part of their mentoring universities with the Principals becoming heads perhaps with a new designation within the university system.

CoEWJ: As a leadership expert, what is your view on student leadership? Do you think the current crop of leaders are living up to expectation?

Prof. Fletcher:  Student leadership is a vital part of training and development in any institution of learning.  Research shows that peer support could be more effective in many contexts than managerial support as peers are more likely to understand challenges that affect their colleagues better than anyone else. It seems to me that the education reforms underway in the country have made the work of student leaders a little easier than it used to be when learning environments were hostile. The reforms are highlighting learning outcomes and this accent on learning outcomes means that people in authority have become more aware of students’ learning needs. It is always helpful when the relationship between students (through their leaders) and school authorities and government is cordial and one that supports learning.

CoEWJ: Where do you see yourself in the next decade?

Prof. Fletcher: In the next decade I can see myself supporting teacher education at the various levels of education through continuing professional development programmes. I cherish teaching and learning so much and I am sure I will still be in a position to support in these two areas to the best of my ability.

CoEWJ: What is life like for you away from the office? What do you do to relax?

Prof. Fletcher: I am yet to get the work-life balance right. At the moment, this is tilted towards work and understandably so. Class sizes have become bigger and bigger and this means that all teachers including myself have had to take a lot of work home. Despite this, I make room for family matters and observe quiet times. Hopefully, I will get the work-life balance right one day.

CoEWJ: What are your interests and hobbies?

Prof. Fletcher: I enjoy watching football when I am not reading something on science fiction or playing scrabble with my family. I love music and can sometimes work while listening to music. Perhaps this is because music and mathematics have a lot in common – counting and patterns, for example.

CoEWJ: What food do you enjoy most?

Prof. Fletcher: I love vegetables so I would say my favourite food is yam and palaver sauce with fish.

CoEWJ: Do you have a role model?

Prof. Fletcher:  Yes. As a result of his interest in mathematical sciences, the late Professor Francis Allottey was and continues to be my role model alongside selfless teachers who make a lot of sacrifices to ensure learning takes place in our schools.

CoEWJ: What are your final words to our readers.

Prof. Fletcher: Teachers constitute the most important resource in education and this means that every education system is as good as the teachers in it. Yet Teacher Professional Development is one of the biggest challenges education systems are grappling with globally. This places a huge responsibility on all stakeholders in teacher education to provide the much-needed support for both pre-service and in-service teachers so that they are able to improve their performance and enhance learning outcomes in the Ghanaian education system.

CoEWJ: Thanks for the opportunity to interact with you despite the short notice.

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