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Opinions of Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Columnist: Eyiah, Joseph Kingsley

Let’s save Basic Education in Ghana

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview Middle School, Toronto

News reports reaching us from our motherland, Ghana, about the falling standards in education in the country are very alarming if not disheartening. Whatever be the reasons assigned to such appalling situation, one cannot accept the harm being done to education, especially at the basic level in our dear nation. The recent poor results of graduating students in the final examinations at the Junior and Senior High School levels are bitter testimonies of such harm.

Whilst it is not the intention of the writer to apportion blame to anyone for such an unfortunate trend in the education system of Ghana, it is hoped that this discourse will help in the formulating of a national policy on education to prevent governments of the country (present and successive) from experimenting with the education system of Ghana. Such policy must be truly NATIONAL (not partisan) in nature, interpretation and implementation to the benefit of the nation as a whole!

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 that will fortify it as a strong foundation for the child’s educational journey. Hence, the appalling results in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations over the years.

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 the Senior Secondary School system as part of the education reform in 1998.

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 outlined 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 series of education reform programs the country has been taken through since then by both the NDC and NPP governments.

When the NPP regime took over from the NDC, the President’s Committee on Review of Education Reforms detected a number of defects in the then existing educational structure.

In April, 2007 the President of Ghana, J. A Kufuor launched a new education reform in the country. The new system, which was implemented from September 1, 2007, started with two years of kindergarten for pupils at age four; six years of primary school at which the pupil attains age 12; to be followed by three years of Junior High School (JHS) till the pupil is 15 years. President Kufuor noted that the reform was designed, among other things, to prepare the appropriate human resource in the form of skilled, technologically-advanced and disciplined workforce with the right ethics to service the growing economy.

He said, “the Reform placed emphasis on Mathematics, Science and Technology, but to develop a well-rounded society, the Arts and Social Sciences would continue to receive the necessary support in the curriculum.”

Unfortunately, soon after the launching, there were reports that the new Education Reform Program, which introduced new structures in the country's educational system at various levels, would be a fiasco if pragmatic effects were not put in place for its smooth take-off from September, 2007.

With barely a few months to the take-of, of the reform program, members of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) categorically stated that they were not prepared adequately enough for the smooth kick-off of the program.

The Upper East Regional Secretary of GNAT, Mr. Linus Attey Cofie, was quoted as warning that, “rounds conducted by the Association in most schools in the Region have revealed that teachers do not have fertile knowledge as far as the yet to be implemented reforms were concerned.”

Well, that effort had come and gone, and the standards in our education keep on falling and falling with the passing years of the late Prof. Mills and John Mahama led NDC administrations!

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 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.

With the adequate preparation of teachers, 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 Senior Secondary 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 former 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 stakeholders 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.

The hen that lays the golden egg must be taken very good care of. In the education system, Basic Education is that hen! It prepares the child who will become a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher or an accountant or a scientist or a nurse or a businessman, or a pastor in future for further education.