Cultural Comparison Project, Part 1

5 Commentsby   |  07.06.11  |  Accra, Ghana

International traveling always provides the opportunity to compare and contrast different cultures. This comparison is natural, and if analyzed outside of an ethnocentric lens, can be instructive and helpful. As part of a contract with the Honors College, I will be conducting a cultural comparison between Ghana and the United States in an attempt to broaden my worldview and take advantage of this wonderful blessing of cross cultural interaction. The Village of Hope is composed of a school, an orphanage, and a medical clinic. Thus, this project will focus on three topics for comparison: the educational system, the family unit, and medicine. The following post is installation one of my project and focuses on the topic of schooling. Enjoy!

Our team of interns landed in Accra, Ghana on June 1st and has been here for two and a half weeks. Since then, we have traveled to Village of Hope’s satellite school in the small town of Nkwatia. This school is understaffed and is in need of teachers, and thus, I have been teaching in the school and assisting the teachers. Needless to say, in this position it has been relatively easy to compare and contrast American and Ghanaian schooling. Three main factors which contribute to the differences between the two educational systems are the way in which the two cultures approach time, the amount of resources which are available, and where the responsibility for learning rests. A nation’s or culture’s approach to time can either be tempo-centric or event-centric. A tempo-centric culture is one in which time itself has value. Efficiency is considered incredibly valuable. In a country like the United States, the schedule itself is important and not just the events. However, in an event-centric culture like Ghana, more value is placed on the interaction. The schedule forms around the events and is subject to change depending on how the events turn out. The concept of time is held loosely in comparison with the task at hand. One way in which a culture can reveal its tempo-centricity or event-centricity is through its educational system. In the United States, the school systems are structured and scheduled literally down to the minute. Regulations about time spent on certain subjects and topics are stringent. However, in Ghana the school system is much more relaxed. Instructors teach on a subject until they are finished, at which point they move on. Start and end times are flexible and depend on the day and the teacher. Thus, while similar content is being taught in both systems, the way in which it is taught is vastly different due to the correlation of how time and events are valued in each culture.

The second main factor which dramatically affects both educational systems is the amount of resources available to the schools. Resources may include books, paper, school supplies, and technology. One main difference between Ghana and the United States is that America has vast amounts of resources, while Ghana is rather limited with resources. In America there is an increasing amount of not only learning and teaching tools, but also of technology in the classrooms, including computers, smartboards, and digital media centers. Additionally, Internet is available regularly for students who need to research for papers or projects. In contrast, Ghanaian classrooms typically consist of a chalkboard, wood desks, and a cement or dirt floor. Textbooks are not always readily available for all students, technology and computer learning is limited, and Internet cannot be accessed readily for research. Having spent time in Ghanaian schools has personally taught me how to rely solely on my teaching skills to give a lesson, rather than relying on any outside resources. However, even if the instructor’s teaching skills are adequate, outside resources bring dimension to the classroom and body to the lesson. If Ghana could improve in one area to bolster its educational system, I believe better access to resources would be the one which would have the greatest impact. That being said, the one area in which Ghanaian education tops American education in regards to resources is with languages. In America, typically English is taught in addition to one other language, usually French or Spanish. However, in Ghana the local language Twi or Fante is taught, as well as English and French. All students are at least bilingual. Thus, while Ghanaian schools lack material resources, the language learning skills taught are impressive.

The last main contrast between American and Ghanaian education deals with whose responsibility it is for learning. In America, the student is very much the recipient of learning and the burden rests on the teachers and administrators to convey the information in such a way that the student can best understand. Thus, learning tends to be catered to the student. However, in Ghana a student must be proactive in their education to continue on with schooling. Not all students are guaranteed entrance or have the opportunity to attend university or even high school. The responsibility for learning lies solely on the individual student to make it their priority. Obviously, these observations about proactivity are general and are not true for all Americans or all Ghanaian students, but it is still interesting to note the overarching comparison. While neither extreme of responsibility is most beneficial, a blend of the two would provide the ideal learning environment in which the faculty and student work together fairly towards a common goal.

To conclude, Ghanaian and American cultures differ from each other in several ways, which leads to differentiation in everyday life, including schooling and education. These differences include their views towards time, the resources and tools available in classrooms, and the amount of responsibility the student holds for his or her education. For the age of Ghana and its current constitution, the nation is doing relatively well for itself as a younger country. Though currently the United States may have more academic opportunities and resources, I believe Ghana has a realistic hope for its educational future. As the country continues to grow and progess, I look forward to seeing expansion in educational resources and opportunities for the youth of the country.

5 Comments

  1. Tom Trowbridge
    7:32 pm, 07.06.11

    Your letters are wonderful to read. So filled with excitement and joy. You are growing in the Lord at a very rapid pace. It is a joy to be a part of what is going on in your life.
    Be safe and keep well. I look forward to what the Lord has in store for you as you wind down your tour. My prayers continue.

    Tom Trowbridge @ Bethany

  2. Ben Grings
    2:26 pm, 01.20.22

    Hello, interesting blog! This topic interests me. I have read many books about culture and the education system. By the way, I got an excellent grade for the essay and wrote an excellent essay on American culture thanks to paper on nursing .It had a good structure and was grammatically perfect. Maybe this information will be useful for someone.

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  4. faders
    2:39 am, 09.01.22

    In America, typically English is taught in addition to one other language, usually French or Spanish. However, in Ghana the local language Twi or Fante is taught, as well as English and French. All students are at least bilingual. Thus, while Ghanaian schools lack material resources, the language learning skills taught are impressive.

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