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Opinions of Thursday, 24 November 2011

Columnist: Nyarko, Kingsley

Reconsider the 4-Year Senior High School

The theory of evolution by Charles Darwin teaches us about natural selection—i.e. survival of the fitters. We can survive as a nation when we have established a strong and solid educational system. It is a solid educational system that can deliver the country from abject poverty to economic freedom. It is a shame to witness the way we address issues of education in the country. It appears populism and political showdown have been the rationale behind addressing educational issues in the country instead of allowing ourselves to be informed by evidence on the ground. After the passage of the 1961 education Act during the first republic, there have been not less than 3 major educational reforms in the country—the Kwapong, Dzobo, and Anamuah-Mensah reforms in 1967, 1974, and 2007 respectively. The 1987 reform was based on some modifications of the Dzobo 1974 proposals. All of these reforms were meant to achieve one thing— retooling the educational system being practiced in the country in order to produce the needed quality human resource that can improve the socio-economic outlook of the country.

It is in fact a truism that the academic standards of our dear nation have hit the nadir on the ladder of educational excellence. The results of the 2011 Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) which showed that about 50% of the pupils failed should tell us that we need not stick to political leanings when we are addressing issues that pertain to education in the country. Why aren’t we able to produce the human capital that can engineer the economy and bring it up to speed to the level that befits a nation like Ghana—a nation that can boast of a plethora of natural resources? The painful truth is that all our natural resources will remain inessential if we don’t develop and refine our human resource. You need a refined brain to develop those unrefined natural resources. We appear to be failing as a nation because our school system is failing us.

The afore-mentioned reforms were undertaken because our economy over the years has failed to respond positively and progressively towards detaching itself from poverty, hunger, disease, technological advancement, inter alia. It is strange that our precarious economic outlook is not imbibing in us the spirit of nationalism for us to collectively figure out the best educational system that will lesson our socio-economic woes. What we do instead, is to play politics with everything, including education—the pillar of a nation.

As a nation we need to understand that issues regarding educational advancement or improvement are not for governments to score cheap political points; they are to prepare our youth to fit into a global competitive economy. In this day and age, nations that survive or are likely to survive are those that are doing everything possible to improve their educational standards. The motivation to improve upon every system of education must be primed on the assessment of the efficacy of the current system in relation to how it addresses the needs of the nation, especially preparing the youth in meeting current and future challenges; and not political antagonism.

As I have indicated elsewhere on this topic, the falling standards of education in the country might not be due to the structure. The structure might be non-essential if other interventions that foster academic excellence are available and implemented. Some of these interventions are already in place, but are not sufficient to bring about a transformation of our educational and economic fortunes. The 2007 educational reform, though far-reaching cannot accomplish its objectives if the sorry state of infrastructure at our schools is not addressed urgently; if we still arrogantly stick to the 3-year duration at the senior high school, and fail to address the discrimination within the school system.

After the call by the catholic bishops for us to revert to the 4-year system that was prematurely abrogated by the National Democratic Congress government, as expected, the voices in the media are divided into NPP or NDC. This is unfortunate and does not bring about progress in our society. The concern raised by the clergy is very salient and must be considered in relation to the future of our children and the country. For me, it is not about the position or personalities of the clergy; it is more about the position of the country among the comity of nations. It is about our children and their future in terms of their survival in this sophisticated world.

That is why I find the stance taken by the minister of education—Betty Mould Iddrisu to the effect that the current 4-year system is non-negotiable, strange. As a matter of fact, this posture taken by her and members of her party is preposterous and sheer arrogance. What is strange and mind-boggling about her unfortunate stance is her assertion that the decision of the government to revert to the 3-year duration was based on the finding of a research they conducted. But the reforms that brought in place the 4-year system was also based on extensive research conducted by experts in the educational sector and other stakeholders who are interested in improving educational standards in the country. Mrs. Iddrisu, where is your research that shows that the 3- year duration is better or will be better than the 4-year duration? Come on; let us be fair to the pupils who are the beneficiaries of our school system.

If we want to experience the best educational outcomes in the country, then we should appreciate the call by our bishops and those who hold the view that the reversion of the duration of schooling at the senior high school to 3 years was a grave mistake. That decision was cancerous and its repercussions will catch up with us if we don’t act timely. In the first place, the reversion of the duration from 4 to 3 years defies commonsense, not to talk of logic. A system has been implemented, and without waiting to evaluate its potency after a reasonable period, it is abrogated. How on earth can you explain this attitude of the government? It doesn’t make sense, and I expect the NDC government to rethink its stance on the current duration at the SHS level. But for political flexing of muscle, no well meaning government that understands the cost implications of terminating such a system would have dreamt of doing that.

In summing up, let us all come together to figure out how to ameliorate the egregious state of our school system. The forwardness being exhibited by politicians in the country such as the minister of education—Betty Mould Iddrisu will only lead to Ghana being the loser. She should understand that being responsible for a sector ministry doesn’t provide you the platform to arrogate to yourself absolutism; other views matter. She must listen to those who care to express their views on developments in the educational sector that affect all of us, especially our children. God bless Ghana!

Source: Kingsley Nyarko, Psychologist, Accra (