The National Maths and Science Quiz, NSMQ is the longest-running independent production on television in Ghana. The programme is very popular with not only its main target group – Senior High School students – but also with parents and, especially, with former students (old boys and girls), who take great pride in the performance of their schools on this programme. The programme was first aired in 1994.
The objective of the National Science & Maths Quiz has been to promote the study of the sciences and mathematics, help students develop quick thinking and a probing and scientific mind about the things around them, while fostering healthy academic rivalry among senior high schools. Without a doubt, these aims have been achieved.
The quiz, popularly referred to as “brilla” by many who have gone through the secondary school system is by far one of the few academic events that bring all of Ghana’s secondary schools together. The schools and students look forward to it.
The idea for the production of a quiz programme aimed at encouraging the study of the sciences and mathematics was not mooted at a national science fair or conference. It all happened on the tennis court of the University of Ghana, Legon. Mr. Kwaku Mensa-Bonsu, then Managing Director of Primetime, was at the court to play the game after his own heart with his playmates, the late Professors Marian Ewurama Addy and Ebenezer Kweku Awotwe.
Mr. Mensa-Bonsu was curious as to why birds could stand on a live electric wire without getting electrocuted, but human beings could not do same. From Prof. Awotwe’s explanation, Mr. Mensa-Bonsu got the idea of putting together a quiz programme on science and maths. That is where it all began in 1993. Since then, the National Science & Maths Quiz (NSMQ) has seen 20 exciting editions.
When the quiz started, it involved only 32 schools across the country, and these were divided into the Northern Sector and Southern Sector, with 16 schools per sector. Winners in both sectors were then brought to Accra for the national championship. This format was changed after some six years. Since then, schools drawn from all parts of Ghana meet in Accra to compete for the sought-after title.
From 2000, the number of schools was increased to 40 and in 2013, the number of participating schools went up to 81, although 66 turned up for the competition. Thus, the participation format was changed to three schools competing per contest, instead of two, as had been the case since the programme’s inception. To give the programme a truly national character, the quiz has since 2014 involved 135 schools from all parts of Ghana.
In 2007, a West African version of the programme, named the West African Science and Maths Quiz (for Anglophone West Africa) was launched in Accra. This maiden edition featured three (3) teams each from Ghana and Nigeria and went down very well. This maiden edition was won by Ghana. However, due to sponsorship issues, the programme could not be sustained beyond its first year, although the organisers hope to bring the programme back in the near future.
Primetime expect, to build in a Science Fair component to the programme, so as to make it a Science and Maths Festival, which would then become even bigger and more interesting for the students and schools to participate in. It is believed that this would encourage students to put what they learn in their classrooms to practise and thus help them become innovative.