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15.12.2003 Feature Article

Salvaging Basic Education in Ghana

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Recent news report that only 27,766 out of 81,076 registered candidates passed in seven subjects of this year’s Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSSCE) was very appalling. Equally disturbing is the assertion attributed to the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Hon. Kwadjo Baah-Wiredu that basic schools in Ghana need 16,000 teachers. The minister based his assertion on the findings in a research conducted by the University of Cape Coast, which revealed that “only 86,000 trained teachers and 24,000 untrained ones were at post instead of the required number of 126,000 teachers for basic schools in the country.”

It becomes obvious from the foregoing revelations that the education reform in Ghana is defective. While some experts in education argue that there has been over-emphasis on grammar to undermine the study of technical and vocational subjects in the system, I add that there has been shocking neglect of kindergarten and primary education which form the very foundation of the child’s basic education. Also, “there is neglect of teacher education to produce teachers to cater for the new system.” The latter is a huge case, which needs to be addressed on its own. For, a policy document on basic education published by the Ministry of Education in April in 1996 in Accra states in part, “The implementation of the new basic education initiative will not only imply increased financing in terms of inputs and infrastructure, but also additional recurrent costs in the training of teachers and other staff and salary expenditures with posting of additional teachers required as a result of envisaged expansion.” I would therefore limit my discourse here to the issue of basic education under the reform in Ghana.

Basic Education Improvement in Ghana:

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 the 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 outlines 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 education reform. No wonder the news report from Ghana last month that the President’s Committee on Review of Education Reforms has detected a number of defects in the existing educational structure!

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 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 stake holders 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.

Joe Kingsley Eyiah
Joe Kingsley Eyiah, © 2003

The author has 27 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JoeKingsleyEyiah

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