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09.03.2009 Feature Article

How long should the SHS Programme last? (3)

I STRONGLY, honestly and sincerely believe that in point of knowledge, experience and technical suitability, President John Evans Atta Mills took the right decision in appointing Mr. Alex Tettey-Enyo as the Minister of Education.

Mr. Tettey-Enyo has been through it all and seen it all: teacher, headmaster, Vice President of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) from 1988 to 1989, District Director of Education, Headquarters, Director of Secondary Education, Deputy Director-General and finally, Acting Director-General.

Along the way, he also picked up political experience as a District Secretary under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), and as a Member of Parliament on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Even before he was confirmed, appointed and sworn in as the Minister of Education, Mr. Tettey-Enyo had reiterated the NDC 2008 Election manifesto position, that if the party won the elections, it would revert the duration of the Senior High School (SHS) programme, from the current four years to the old three years before the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government made the change.

Did Mr. Tettey-Enyo speak as an educationist or as politician? Mr. Tettey-Enyo knows, or ought to know very well, that from the outset we were told that the level of the Senior Secondary School (SSS) programme, as it was then known and called, was higher than that of the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level, but lower than that of the GCE Advanced Level. What has changed from 1991, when the first batch of students was admitted to Year One of the course?

Secondly, he knows, or ought to know how, following the Examination disaster of 1993, Government had to negotiate with the universities on the admission of the students to the universities.

Why did the universities find it necessary to make the admitted SSS students do three-year courses in four years, while candidates with the Advanced Level did the course in three years? Why has the arrangement persisted till today?

Far be it for me to think that since December1993, our senior secondary schools have turned out nothing, but academic garbage.

I was a Headmaster between 1990 and 1998, and I can testify to the brilliance which a number of the SSS students displayed.

I am aware of the impressive performance of these students during the Science and Mathematics Quiz competition on television.

I know that, with each passing year, more and more of these students swamp the gates of both state and private universities and other institutions, looking for admission.

However, we must also seriously consider the still high rate of failure, especially among the so-called less-endowed schools which have to make do with BECE candidates with lower grades.

We must think of the special coaching which students taking part in the Science and Mathematics Quiz competition undergo, and the cost involved in point of time, money physical exertions and mental energy.

We must do a research into how much time and money is spent by these successful applications doing vacation or extra classes, either officially arranged by the schools or privately by some teachers.

Private or vacation classes, or extra classes certainly pre-date the coming of the 1987 Reforms. We must find out whether the organisation of such classes has gone up, has remained at the same level, or gone down. What about the re-taking of the examinations by students who wish to better their grades, in order to make it to higher institutions?

Before Mr. Tettey-Enyo speaks like a politician, he must act like the experienced educational administrator that he has been all these years.

He must not look at the performance of a comparatively few schools and come to the conclusion that if those schools have done well within the three-year period, then other schools must do equally well.

One of the “Laws” formulated by Professor C. Northcote Parkinson, a one-time British Professor of Public Administration, states, as follows: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Applying this “Law” to the matter of the duration for the SHS course, one might say one can come across students who might even be able to do the course in two years, while other students might still fail, even if they took five years.

Still, I beg to state that something has to be done about the duration of the course, or about the subject content.

He must ask the relevant questions regarding the content and duration of the SHS course. He must ask a cross-section of past SHS students, as well as those still in school, and he must ask heads of schools and their staff.

Some parents and others might applaud him and the NDC for cutting the financial cost, through the reduction in the duration of the course from four years to three years.

What about the cost in terms of quality and the rate of failures?

I do not need to be told that merely increasing the duration from three to four, five or even six years will not automatically bring the desired results.

I know that our schools need quantitatively and qualitatively adequate teaching and learning materials. The schools need enough teachers, able and willing, and strongly motivated to help develop the talents of the student under their care.

Heads should take their supervisory duties seriously. Students must also be prepared and motivated by good quality teaching to enjoy learning. Parents and guardians must also be alive to their responsibilities, as very important partners in the education enterprise. And the larger society should also play a role in donating or maintaining teaching and learning equipment and materials.

If we are to maintain the four-year duration, we must ask ourselves whether we can add to the existing stock of classrooms, dormitories, furniture (academic and domestic), equipment for language, computer and science labs.

We should ask the same questions, even if we are going to revert to the old three years. While Mr. Tettey-Enyo and his party are looking at the senior high school, they should also take a look at the root of the problem: the basic and the junior secondary school level whose products finally end up at the senior high school level. Can anything good come out of there, when school children sit on a dusty floor and write on the floor in collapsing buildings?

Mr. Alex Tettey-Enyo, please what we need from you, and what President Mills expects, or should expect from you, is not partisanship but scientific fact. Do you still stick to three years as against four years? I recommended four years, or another look at the subject content.

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle, © 2009

This author has authored 1023 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: GhanaianChronicle

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