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31.05.2009 Education

Government must come clean on duration of SHS

By Public Agenda
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A the two-day national forum on the duration of Senior High School started in Accra on Wednesday and closed on Thursday. According to the organizers, the broad aim of the forum was to foster consensus for enhancing an effective implementation of programmes to ensure equity in education.

Specifically, the forum was to examine the feasibility of making students spend either three or four years in Senior High School.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government revised the school year from three (3) years to four (4) years. This came along with changes in the school curriculum; and French and ICT became core subjects from the basic school to senior high school. Kindergarten became part of primary education.

This review came along with its challenges including infrastructure and logistics to facilitate the implementation of the 4-year programme which started from the beginning of the 2007/2008 academic year.

Barely two years into the implementation of the 4-year SHS programme, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government in a bid to fulfill a manifesto promise announced its plans to revise the school year from 4 to 3 years. What many stakeholders have not realized is that behind the scenes the NDC government has put in structures to revert to the three year programme.

Information from some teachers on the ground suggest that by revision, each Elective subject area has already lost a total of 128 instructional periods in the first year of students currently in second year.

To recover this lost periods in tuition, the Secondary Education Division (SED) of the Ghana Education Service (GES), made the following proposals in a document, titled 'Proposed Options For The Revision Of School From Four (4) years To Three (3) Years For Senior High School':

1. Increasing the number of weeks per school term.
2. Increasing the number of periods on the time table for the elective subjects at the expense of the core subjects.

3. Part time teaching- Afternoon classes.
This newspaper is well informed that Heads of Senior High Schools, who are against the reversion to three years have been served copies for implementation and this would increase elective subject instructional periods by 58. As a result teachers and students will enjoy nine (9) weeks holidays out of a total of eighty five (85) weeks being the duration from the second term of the 2008/2009 to the third term of the 2009/2010 academic years.

It is also no secret that the Secondary Education Division has made two proposals;

Firstly, that the students could be made to write the May/June 2010 examination and secondly that the students could be made to write the Nov/Dec 2010 WASSCE. In the event that the students are made to sit for the Nov/Dec 2010 WASSCE, their certificate may not bear the name of their 'alma mater' since that examination is for private candidates. So who is telling the truth?

What is baffling therefore is that despite the above directives being secretly implemented the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service still want Ghanaians to believe whether or not to revert to three years would be left to public concensus.

In the event that they are made to sit for the May/June examination the stress that the students will go through will undoubtedly have adverse effect on their performance in the examination.

It is also ironical that whereas the government has set up an eleven Man Committee to look into the 4-year Senior High School System, that same government has already directed Heads of Senior High Schools to sensitize their students and staff and to recover lost instructional periods as a result of revision of the school year from 4-years to 3-years.

In this light this newspaper thinks that the stakeholders meeting held on Wednesday and Thursday was a waste of the taxpayers' money. From all indications, the government is bent on reverting to its favourite three- year programme and it seems nothing can stop them. However, we would caution that for a key sector like education which determines the future of every country, the government should take aboard all views.

This newspaper reiterates its earlier stance that the four-year programme is worth implementing in much as it has started and will give more opportunities for our youth to improve their chances of qualifying for tertiary education or even learning a vocation.

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