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Opinions of Monday, 30 July 2018

Columnist: |Dr Richard Tia |

Double track system like an academic Dumsor

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On the announcement that government has adopted what they call the “double-track” system to deal with the huge numbers in the Free SHS system, I just want to remind the president that a cardinal rule of survival is that when you find yourself in a pit, the first thing to do is to stop digging. Nothing I have heard since the policy was announced tells me that this is a well thought-out programme. I am hearing some 40-days-in 40-days-out programme and that sounds to me like an academic dumsor. We need to know in clear unambiguous terms that this will not do irreparable damage to our education system.

To the small boys and girls who have taken to insulting people for critiquing the policy, please note that your party membership card does not give you superior knowledge on matters of education. If you know and believe that the policy is such a good one, it is your duty to explain it to us because government is using OUR taxes to run the system; it is not a favour. Especially since most of your paymasters have sent their children abroad to acquire world-class education, we need assurances that our children are not being used as guinea pigs and rats in the laboratory of campaign promise engineering.

As old man I have seen too much tinkering with our educational system over the years by politicians who do not pay attention to the details. My first day in school in 1987 fell on the first day of the Junior Secondary School (JSS) system, and I remember very vividly that we were taught a song that went something like this:

“Children of the land, Gather courage. J S S has come, To save all. Only handle the tools with care And psychomotor skills shall flow. Children of the land, Gather courage. J S S has come, To save all.”

But even at that age, the song sounded funny to my ears because there were no tools to talk of handling them with care, and therefore no psychomotor skills could be expected to flow.

Fast forward exactly two decades later, the Kufuor government changed everything from “Secondary” schools to “High” schools, almost as if by changing the name things were automatically going to get better. Then a year later they changed the three-year SHS system to a four-year system, without any provisions for the needed infrastructure - classrooms, dormitories, dining halls – due to the added year.

By the time those students got to the fourth year, another government was in power and the NPP then in opposition organized press conferences to blame the then-current government for not doing enough to provide infrastructure to accommodate the additional students. Fast forward another dec6ade and we are struggling with this beast called free SHS that is threatening to devour everything in sight.

A promise conceived on a campaign platform on the spur of the moment as a boy promises a girl marriage at the height of a rather passionate encounter, the full ramifications of the policy were not fully thought-out. Just a year into it we are rolling out a double-track system. By the third year, we might have to do a triple-track system.

We have not yet started feeling its impact on the tertiary institutions. We need a complete rethink. Govermment should not adopt the posture of "we will do whatever it takes to implement free SHS to shame our enemies and critics even if it collapses the economy or affects the quality of education". Governments come and go but this country remains.

We need a complete rethink!