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General News of Thursday, 26 April 2018

Source: Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri

2018 Global Action Week for Education launched

There is a widening gap between the privileged and underprivileged schools in the country which points to the fact that among the over 800 Senior High Schools (SHSs) less than 20percent are gaining over 50percent of admissions into the various public universities to pursue high profile courses such as medicine, engineering and business administration.

The former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana (UG), Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah judging from the above statement said just about 80 to 100 top quality schools have over the years been providing over 75 percent of the students who make it from SHSs to the tertiary institutions? a situation he considered creating access without equity.

According to him, over the years Ghana has undertaken several educational reforms aimed at providing good quality education and equitable access for all children. But a critical examination of the outcomes of most of these reforms clearly shows that what most of these reforms have succeeded in doing is merely to widen the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged.

He said this at the national launch of the 2018 Global Action Week for Education (GAWE) organized by the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) in Accra under the theme, “Strengthening Citizen Participation and Accountability in Education Management: A Milestone for Achieving SDG4.”

During his presentation dubbed, “Creating a More Equitable Pre-Tertiary Education System in Ghana- the Wayforward towards Meeting Commitments to SDG4,” Prof. Adde-Mensah stated that only 52 out of 800 SHSs could meet the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) enrolment criteria of aggregate 6 with 8A-1s.

He added that out of the 458 schools, only 10 schools took 50percent of the placement in the University of Ghana’s school of Engineering in 2016/2017 with a total of 224 students.

According to him, 15 schools such as the Wesley Girls’ High School, ST. Augustine’s College, Holy Child Senior High School, ST. Peter’s Snr High Sch, Archbishop Porter Girls’ SHS, Adisadel College, Achimota School, Presby Boys’ SHS, ST. James Seminary SHS, Mfantsipim School, Pope John SHS, Prempeh College, Aburi Girls SHS, Koforidua Snr High/Tech Sch and Opoku Ware SHS have been dominating the tertiary schools with 8 A-1s required for admission into the high profiled courses.

Prof. Addae-Mensah stated that the quality of any school can be measured, not only by its academic performance, but also by several other subjective and objective criteria, including leadership and character training. However, for an objective quantitative assessment of a school’s standing among its peers, academic performance provides one of the easiest and most reliable and verifiable means of assessment.

Improving Equity and Access for All

On bridging the gap between access and equity, Prof. Addae-Mensah posited that most times measures meant to improve access have not gone hand in hand with quality.

He said Ghana must adopt measures that in the long run strongly produce social mobility rather than social stratification in order not to widen further and further the gap between the tiny privileged minority and the vast majority of children who come out of our present system.

Prof. Addae-Mensah indicated that the social mobility that is supposed to be provided by education as one climbs up the ladder from the primary to the tertiary level, seems to be widening more and more. At the primary level, access seems to be very good; about 90 percent for all children.

He intimated that but because of the poor quality of the majority of the public schools, movement from the primary to the secondary and vocational levels seems to favour more and more those who attend expensive private schools, where fees are paid and supervision is relatively more effective.

“There are about 800 Senior High (secondary) Schools in the country, and over 15000 primary and Junior High Schools. Of these, just about one hundred can be said to meet the sort of quality that the SDGs envisage,” he stated.

Prof. Addae-Mensah added that we have a new policy premised on the assumption that access would improve if we made secondary level education free for all, whether one could afford to pay or not.

“We are yet to determine whether this policy will be sustainable and will be accompanied by improvement in quality. We are yet to determine whether this policy, coupled with the previous policies that are still in operation, will serve as tools for social mobility or result in greater social stratification,” he posited.

Increasing Financing and Quality

He commended Government for introducing the Free SHS as one of the boldest educational reforms since independence however, it has implications on quality.

Prof. Addae-Mensah pointed out that experience over years since 1951 has shown that whenever governments take on direct financing of education without any or very little contribution from parents, quality suffers because governments are unable to meet their obligations in good time if at all, and to sustain the necessary financial outlays required.

According to him, this aspect of the implications of the free SHS scheme will need to be critically and dispassionately looked at without any political coloration, so that the scheme can become permanent and sustainable. The present experiment will only succeed if government will be able and willing to provide the necessary financial, administrative and personnel support for the scheme.

He added that the whole issue of funding of education in general, and pre-tertiary education in particular, will need re-examination. During the period from 2010, a report on sustainable funding of education from pre-school to tertiary level was produced by the NCTE at great human and financial cost.

The Academician said it was a very comprehensive and far-reaching report but unfortunately successive governments have simply ignored that report.

“I would strongly suggest that the present government revisits that report and see if it can glean from it some ideas for providing for sustainable quality education beyond just the mere facilitation of access,” Prof. Addae-Mensah stated.

Improving Citizen’s Accountability

The Executive Council Chairman of GNECC, Bright Appiah said the main objectives of the 2018 GAWE celebration is to strengthen citizens’ capacity to demand accountability from government in providing free, equitable and quality pre-tertiary education.

He added that will include an advocacy for more transparency and accountability in the use of resources for education from duty bearers; educate communities about SDG4 and the roles of stakeholders in achieving the targets and; to advocate for a clear roadmap from government for the attainment of SDG4.

Mr. Appiah believes that in order to achieve the SDGs, there is a need for more openness and accountability among all stakeholders - the international community, government, teachers, schools, parents, students, civil society and businesses - because education is a shared society endeavor and a shared responsibility.

Depoliticizing State Institutions

According to him, the excessive politicization of education issues must stop because in the end it is the child who suffers, not the politicians playing their games.

Mr. Appiah noted that the best interest of the child must be the key consideration in the formulation and implementation of policies and not political tactics.

He indicated that the Ghana Education Service, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, National Teaching Council and other agencies under the Ministry of Education must be strengthened to undertake their mandate effectively and be held to account for the responsibilities they have been charged with.

“Even though access to basic education has increased considerable there are still a lot of challenges – inadequate resources, unsafe school environments, poor leadership, to mention a few – which need to be tackled with a sense of urgency,” the Executive Director of GNECC stated.

Mr. Bright Appiah called for the establishment of accessible and effective accountability mechanisms at national and subnational levels.

He added the increased support to CSOs to help build citizens capacities to participate effectively in stakeholder engagements on education issues.

Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4

The Director of the Secondary Education Division, GES, Dr. Mrs. Angela Tena-Mensah indicated that strengthening participation in education management does not only rest on advocacy but includes identification of problems confronting education and providing alternative solutions.

According to her, the School Performance Appraisal Meeting (SPAM) and the activities of the District Education Oversight Committees (DEOCs) at the district level are all geared towards strengthening citizen’s participation and accountability in improving learning outcomes required for achieving SDG4.

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