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Opinions of Monday, 15 August 2016

Columnist: Tse, Frederick K. Kofi

WASSCE 2016: There is more to it than duration

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Results for the 2016 WASSCE candidates have been released by WAEC and the record is awfully poor. This has sparked yet another controversy about senior high school duration with some highly placed academics like Professor Kwesi Yankah wading in. His is not surprising as it has been his position that the 4-years calendar is better than the current 3-years, since the beginning of this debate.

It is the president’s defence of the 3-years programme that is surprising as many would expect him to keep mute since he superintends over this abysmal performance. But ‘Commander-1’ is not used to keeping quite over issues like this. It is reported that this year’s performance statistics paint one of the gloomiest pictures since 1999.

The bit about 4-year students producing better results makes me and a host of my village ‘syto’ friends really proud of achieving clean sheets during 2006/2007 academic year. It was then a 3-year calendar and some of us never had the opportunity of buying the necessary books or attending extra classes even though we were science students. What is more, we did not hope for ‘apor’ to brave the rough roads into our village. But hey, we did not only burn the midnight candle we burnt and smoked the lantern wick. (You know ‘bobo’, right?).

This being an election year the NPP is bound to feed this into their campaign narrative. I hear the incumbent also has a committee that is reconsidering whether to revert to 4-years or stay with the 3-years calendar. The president’s comment, which comes on the back of several criticisms against the education sector’s performance under his watch, might mean that the committee okayed the 3-years duration.

The education sector has more problems than just duration. However, policy makers have shut their minds on the pressing issues and are unfortunately, focusing on the peripherals.

This year’s WAEC report says 1,576 candidates had some of their subjects results cancelled, while 598 candidates had their entire results cancelled.

Problems like these and several others have nothing to do with number of years, notwithstanding the statistics. For instance, teacher-competence, teacher-pupil ratio as well as inadequate classroom logistics have nothing to do with number of years. Need I talk about Ghana’s dysfunctional curriculum, too? How much impact would an extended SHS calendar have on students with poor basic education?

Governments can extend the number of years to 100 years but if the teacher is not good or students don’t find what they are reading interesting, the results won’t change. Teacher recruitment exercise needs revision and the process of recruitment ought to be rigorous and take the subject interest of teachers into consideration. Many teachers do not have interest in some subjects they teach much less developing students’ interest in these subjects.

The issue of teacher motivation is now a stale demand that stakeholders don’t want to listen to even though policy makers and other stakeholders still pretend to have the interest of the education sector at heart. As I punch at the keyboard of my computer, I do not see any significant progress in future results if teachers are not well motivated. WAEC’s Transparency

It is about time WAEC became transparent with how it marks the scripts of candidates. Aggrieved candidates should be able to easily access their scripts if they suspect foul play. In any case, what is the motivation in cancelling or withholding scripts all the time when your system is credible enough?

I understand examiners are paid according to the number of papers they mark and we should start asking whether ‘the need for speed’ in marking as many papers as possible does not affect the performance of teachers who mark these scripts. How much are they paid at all?is it adequate?

There is also this age-old allegation that WAEC fails candidates because they make a fortune from administering remedial examinations (i.e. NOVDEC). Candidates also widely believe that WAEC is stricter in marking remedial papers than its regular papers that are written in June. Why so? May be the WAEC monopoly should be lifted sooner than later.

As long as players in the education industry choose to play politics with duration as if it is a silver bullet that would cure students of poor performance, we shall continue in circus.

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