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Prof. Francis K. A. Allotey

 

Mr. Chairman,

President of Regent University College,

Chairman and Members of the Regent University College Council

Rev. Ministers,

Invited Guests,

Faculty,

Parents and Guardians,

Students,

Members of the Press,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is a great pleasure, honour and privilege to participate in the 10th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the Regent University College. I congratulate the Founder and President, Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Kingsley Kwabena Larbi on this great achievement.

 

I have been requested to respond to the topic “Enhancing Mathematical Education at the Tertiary Level: The place of Mathematical Learning Centres”

 

The question is why mathematical sciences? The answer is that from health research and delivery of information technology, from finance and banking to food production, climate change forecasting and natural resource management, mathematical skills including modeling data, simulation analysis and computation are very essential for our contemporary society.

According to a recent report entitled “Mathematical Research, Leading the way to Economic Growth” by the Engineering Sciences and Physical Sciences Research Council of the United kingdom (U.K), mathematical sciences account for 10% of UK’s jobs and 16% Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy through mathematical science research alone. Thus, Africa can increase her GVA through mathematical science education and research. It is worth noting that the investment and cost in mathematical science education and research is low and cost effective. Mathematics also provides rational and logical thinking.

 

Despite the importance of mathematics for our socio economic development, the study of mathematics at the tertiary level is declining because of poor teaching of mathematics, inadequate motivation and recognition, and the fear of mathematics as a difficult subject by the students from basic and high schools to the tertiary level.

In his presentation, Dr. Adefemi Sunmonu a professor of mathematics at the City University of New York (CUNY), at York College in USA, endeavors to examine the role of Mathematics Learning Centres (MLC) in assisting institutions in their never ending quest to attract, retain and graduate their students. Most science, technology and engineering disciplines require a good working knowledge of mathematics beyond algebra. As Prof. Adefemi Sunmonu has suggested, research has shown that poor performance in basic mathematical skills tempers the progress of students in reaching their college educational goals. In fact, it has been recognized that the most significant barrier to finishing a degree in both Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and non-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields is due to failure in mathematics course.

 

I agree with him. The first college mathematics course students take can make or break their confidence. Students who find their entry level mathematics course challenging may abandon their dream major, spend many precious semesters taking irrelevant courses or drop out altogether. It has been noted that about 50% of students do not pass college algebra with grade C or above.

 

Mr. Chairman, many studies have shown that the traditional teaching format is not the most effective mode of instruction. It has not changed for over 3000 years: Classrooms full of students deferring to the wisdom of all knowing and all powerful teachers. Despite many technological advances and the introduction of the new pedagogical concepts, the majority of today’s classroom continue to utilize this traditional mode of instructions. Many educators believe that this trend will not continue to be an accepted mode of instructions. They will move towards Mathematical Learning Centers.

 

It has been established that the most effective modes of instructions are the teaching methods that use active learning and interactive engagement between faculty and students and students and their peers.  According to Shirley C. Smith of Drexel University, “the locus of control for the educational process is shifting from teachers/professors to students. Students now have more power to experiment and play “what if” games” (Benderson, 1985, p. 14). In fact, some technologies give students total control over their learning and this is where MLC plays important role.

 

Dr, Sunmonu asked the question whether MLC is necessary. My answer is yes.  He defined a Mathematical Learning Centre (MLC) as a centre where students go to get help on various mathematical courses offered at the university. The centre is made up of a director, a coordinator, tutors, front desk worker and students.

 

Some of the benefits colleges and universities obtain from the creation and maintenance of MLCs were also given: such as promotes deeper learning, improves students retention of material studied and hence retention of students, reduce drop out and failure rates among students which intend improves graduation rate, provides a cost effective means of providing individualized instruction to students who need it.

 

He also discussed several important benefits of MLCs which includes peer tutoring for students which in turn improves attitude towards mathematics and school in general, better use of appropriate and efficient learning and studies strategies, improved personal and social development, improves motivation for studying, develops communication skills, and develops confidence in learning ability.

 

Mr. Chairman, the important role of modern technologies particularly Information Communication Technology (ICT) in MLC was not treated. It is a big omission. Modern technologies, particularly the internet plays important roles in education at MLC. It allows for greater individualization of learning. Students are able to progress at their own speed to start learning when they are motivated and stop when they are tired.

 

Learning that was once closely held in designated spaces now becomes available from any location at any time where there is a computer which has access to the internet. The easy access to information and learning resources, coupled with students familiarization with technology and their ability to multitask, puts increasing pressures on the faculty and university authorities to rethink what learning spaces should look like and whether current lecture halls and associated approaches to teaching are still as effective as it should be.

 

New technologies are creating learning opportunities that challenge traditional schools and colleges. A look ahead tells us that the classroom of tomorrow will be a place where the lecture hall will be empty and the professor will have to deliver a lecture to students not found in the classrooms but learning centres at different locations at different times. In the future, there will be more learning centres as it is happening now.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, right now, our education is moving along at a snail's pace, while the world outside is moving at supersonic speed. According to Fulton (1989, pg. 12), "Classrooms of today resemble their ancestors of 100 years ago much more closely than today's hospital operating rooms, business offices, manufacturing plants, or even scientific laboratories. For example; if you put a doctor of 100 years ago in today's operating theatre, he or she would be lost, yet if you placed a teacher of 100 years ago into one of today's classrooms he or she would not see any difference. Does this mean that the end is in sight for education? The answer is YES, if you’re asking if it means the end of education as we know it as of today.

 

Since teachers have long sought to individualize instructors, modern technologies are a real asset toward that objective. These technologies allow the instructor to individualize instructions. The new teacher will provide contextual learning environments that engage students in collaborative activities and that will require communication and access to information that only technology can provide. Communication technologies have potential to transform the educational process. They also have the power to change the whole of the faculty in the community, schools and colleges to the point of reducing the numbers.   

Education can no longer take the time it wants. The trend in technology is creating a future that is arriving faster than education is prepared for it.

                                               

Managers of MLCs should recognize that the accelerating pace of technological change is having a major impact on university educators, including altering and influencing how students, faculty and staff interact; how students are taught, how they learn and what they expect from a modern university in tune with technological development.

 

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, education is in the business of sharing information and ideas. The teachers’ role will be shifting from that of the transmitter of facts to a facilitator, coaching students on how to find and use facts specific to a particular context. Mathematics Learning Centres make it easy for students to interact with their peers and faculty 24/7 and have immediate access to digital resources, instructional technology and interactive learning. MLCs should be encouraged to use technology-mediated teaching and learning tools and other educational delivery technologies to support the entire learning process and experience of student at MLC. At these centers, students will be empowered to use and exploit all aspects of technology to learn and accumulate knowledge, more efficiently and smartly.

 

Thank you.