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Opinions of Sunday, 27 November 2011

Columnist: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley

Who is to Blame for the Recent Poor Results of Students ...

...... in the Basic Education Certificate Examination in Ghana?

Asks Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview Middle school, Toronto

News reaching us from Ghana (by the courtesy of recently speaks of a dire situation for most of the graduates of the Junior Secondary School (JSS) during last school year. Only forty-six (46) percent of the graduates passed the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE). This shows an awfully drop in percentage of successful graduates of JSS in the country by four percent during the last two years. Also, the Computer Selection System which places successful graduates to their respective Senior High Schools (SHS) in the country has been saddled with problems which have led to the unnecessary delays for the placements the JSS graduates. Many are the parents of the graduates who have been frustrated by the system!
Unfortunately, concerned Ghanaians in Canada, who met with His Excellency, President Prof. Attah Mills and his entourage from Ghana in Ottawa recently were not satisfied with answers they were given on the current state of the education system in Ghana. They were made to understand that the educational policies of the President Attah Mills’ led National Democrat Congress (NDC) government has not differed in any way from those put in place before the Mills’ administration came to power. However, the NDC government argues that the implementation of the good educational policies is being undermined by personnel in the education sector who are considered by the government as saboteurs of the current NDC regime. If the government’s allegation were true then it is serious! Ghanaians expect our appointed officers in that sector to live above partisan interest and make our education system relevant to national development. President Prof. Attah Mills (a renowned educationist) must wake up to the current situation and fix it!

It becomes obvious from the foregoing revelations that the education reform in Ghana is defective. While some experts in education argue that there has been inadequate preparation of students at Senior High School (SHS) for tertiary education in Ghana, I add that there has been shocking neglect of kindergarten and primary education which form the very foundation of the child’s basic education. Also, “there is an ongoing struggle among teachers to get the government to properly cater for the teaching profession in the new salaries’ (single-spine) system.” The latter is a huge case, which needs to be addressed on its own. For, a policy document on basic education published by the Ministry of Education in April in 1996 in Accra states in part, “The implementation of the new basic education initiative will not only imply increased financing in terms of inputs and infrastructure, but also additional recurrent costs in the training of teachers and other staff and salary expenditures with posting of additional teachers required as a result of envisaged expansion.” I would therefore limit my discourse here to the issue of basic education under the reform in Ghana.

Basic Education Improvement in Ghana:

Ghana like many other countries around the world has, over the years, sought to improve its education system by introducing reforms and making projections based on the education needs of the country. However, the basic education in the system is yet to experience the impetus the will fortify it as a strong foundation for the child’s educational journey. Hence, the appalling results in the Senior High School Certificate Examinations over the years and now poor results in BECE!

Basic education under the former system was 10 years in duration and Secondary education 6 years. Thus, making pre-university education in the country 16 years. This was not cost effective. So to reduce the duration of pre-university education in the country the government introduced the Junior Secondary School (3 years after 6-year primary school) and 3-year Senior Secondary School (SSS) system as part of the education reform in 1998. The 3 years duration for SSS (now Senior High School) education under President Rawlings’ NDC government was changed to 4 years under President Kufour’s NPP government and back to 3 years under the present President Mills’ NDC government. What a dilemma for Senior High School students in Ghana! A policy document on basic education improvement sector program put together by the government in 1996 to ensure Free Compulsory and Universal Basic Education (fCUBE) for all outlines government intentions for basic education in these words, “The Government is committed to making schooling from Basic Stage 1 through 9 free and compulsory for all school-age children by the year 2005. Through the components of its program for Free Compulsory and Universal Education, the Government of Ghana is committed not only to achieving universal access to basic education in ten years, but also to IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION SERVICES OFFERED.” (Emphasis supplied)
One can conveniently argue that we are yet to see any improvement in the quality of education offered at the basic level, if not at all levels, of education in the country since the implementation of the education reform.

The Neglected Part of the Basic Education:

Though some people argue for the return to the former system, especially for the duration of pre-university education, I agree with the President’s Committee (during President Kufour’s government) on its view that “the 11-year basic education made up of kindergarten, primary and junior schools will be adequate in providing the needed foundation for further education.”

However, I see the need for revamping the resources at the kindergarten and primary schools at the basic level to establish quality foundation for the country’s education system. Adequate learning and teaching materials MUST be provided in classroom at that level to ensure effective learning and teaching process.

Teachers must be well prepared for our primary schools throughout the country to facilitate learning and smooth transition for students from the primary to the junior secondary school. This calls for the involvement of the education committees at the district assemblies in effectively recruiting potential and capable teachers for training at the Teacher Training Colleges and their subsequent postings to primary schools in the districts. The programs at the Teacher Training Colleges must also be made to address the needs of teaching in our primary schools. Also, teachers must be adequately rewarded in the single-spin pay structure to motivate them for dedicated service in the classroom.

With the adequate preparation of teachers, good pay structure, well equipped classrooms and effective supervision of teaching at the basic education level Ghana will be on track to solving the problem of poor results of the BECE and Senior High School Certificate Examinations in the country.

There is also the absolute need to include “pre-school education, which prepares the child to acquire rudimentary skills for transition from home to primary school” as identified by the President’s Committee on education reform in the government’s plans to improve education in Ghana. Parents must be made effective partners in this effort. All said and done, education is undoubtedly an effective tool for national development which requires long term investment and coordinated efforts on the part of all the stake holders in education including the government, parents, teachers/educators, students, business bodies and the general public. It is therefore very prudent for any government not to play politics with education but rather take the hard/bitter but effective road to improving education in the country. This calls for long term investment and periodic reviews of national educational policies to assess progress being achieved in the area of education for national development.

With the recent poor results in our country’s Basic Education Certificate Examination the search light is on to identify the root cause of the problem. Is it poor learning skills of our students? Or lack of performance by our teachers in the classroom? Or is it the result of poor policies and inadequate provisions on the part of our government?