The Chairman of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Professor Ato Essuman, has called for reforms in the country’s secondary education policy to give young people the opportunity to acquire skills to become national assets for development.
He said the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy, in its current form, was fraught with skills development challenges, teacher training and orientation difficulties, inadequate resources and delays in the release of funds to schools.
Beyond that, Prof. Essuman said the budgetary allocation for the Free SHS was too “lofty” to the extent of weakening basic education funding, the foundation of education in the country, hence the need for a reform.
“The policy of making education free and available for all is a lofty one but such a goal will be useless and needlessly expensive if all it does is to create opportunities to give young people access without the skills that will make them great assets for national development,” he stated.
“Reforming what will be taught and how they are taught are important, otherwise the problems are likely to continue,” Prof. Essuman, who was delivering a keynote address at a forum organised by the Old Achimotan Association (OAA) in Accra last Thursday evening, said.
The forum was chaired by Professor Ernest Aryeetey, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana and President of OAA.
Dubbed :“Achimota Speaks”, the forum was on the topic ‘The Governance, Management and Financing of Secondary Education in Ghana”.
It featured a panel discussion with different stakeholders sharing their thoughts on management and financing secondary education.
The five panellists were the President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Angel Agbe Carbonu, a former Global President of Ola Girls Old Students, Dr Eden Welbeck, Irene Sam, who represented the National Council of Parent Teachers Association (PTA), and the Managing Director of Merson Capital Ltd, Yaw Benneh-Amponsah, who is also an old student.
Prof. Essuman noted that the Free SHS policy would have been more desirable, if a phased implementation had been adopted, while drawing key lessons from past interventions such as the Capitation Grant and the Free, Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE).
Regarding inadequate resources and delays in the release of funds to schools, the three-time Council of State Member said there was the need for the policy to have focused on the poor and vulnerable at its initial stages, if the phased implementation route had been chosen.
“The arguments about Free SHS focus on issues such as access and not enough about the contents and outcomes expected,” Prof. Essuman, who was also the Chief Director at the Ministry of Education, stated.
“Matters of skills development, teacher orientation, training and development as well as new approaches are less stressed in the discussion,” he added.
President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Angel Carbonu, said all the attention had been shifted to SHS while ignoring the public basic schools.
"The saddest aspect is the basic schools. All our public basic schools are running down and some private schools in ramshackle are getting students more than the public schools because the confidence in the public schools is gone,” he said.
Dr Welbeck stressed the need for the government to review the governance structures of SHS to ensure equality and good quality education.