Government’s plans to improve accessibility to senior high school by introducing free education has been criticised as inadequate.
Executive Director of the Institute for Education Studies Prince Armah argued that a lot more students are not getting access to Senior High School because they fail to pass the Junior High School exams known as the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
If government wants to improve SHS accessibility then it should remove the need to write BECE as a requirement to progress to SHS and make basic education a seamless transition from JHS to SHS, he suggested.
The NPP government has announced it is absorbing five fee items on the students’ bill in fulfilment of a 2012 campaign promise re-emphasised in the 2016 general elections.
From September 2017, no parent will pay tuition fees for boarding students as well as admission fees, no library fees, science centre fees, computer lab fees, examination fees and utility fees.
The cost of the policy is yet to be known. But the last time government absorbed part of the fees, it paid GHC12million which was the cost of implementing the policy for 313,301 day students.
This was under the NDC government and was termed progressive free education. Despite another promise to include boarding students in September 2016, the NDC government failed to do so. The NPP wants a holistic implementation of the policy to include boarding students.
Speaking on the policy as announced by the president over the weekend, Dr. Armah believes the policy is “not likely to target the specific people that need the support.”
Dr. Prince Armah
He said 50% of students who sit the BECE do not obtain qualifying grades to go on to SHS. He gave the breakdown pointing out that in the Northern region only 22% make it to SHS while in the Upper East a paltry 11% progress.
Summing up the statistics, the Executive Director said the top 20 Senior High Schools in Ghana contribute at least 46% of admissions into the University.
With more than 500 senior secondary schools in Ghana, it means more than 400 such schools are adding some 54% of university students.
This is problematic, according to Dr.Armah. It shows deprived schools need help to compete better and to do this government could improve conditions in such schools and also complete all the senior high schools started under the previous administration so people don’t have to struggle to gain admission.
Whilst at that, government can remove the JHS component so that instead of three-year JHS and later a three-year SHS, there can be a new six-year secondary school system uninterrupted by the need to pass an exam, Dr. Prince Armah continued.
“We have to scrap BECE so that everyone will have access to continuous secondary school” he suggested.