Accra, Feb. 3, GNA - The Government has taken some radical decisions in critical areas of education to address some of the key concerns, President John Agyekum Kufuor said in Accra on Thursday. He said the Government had published the White Paper detailing the structure of education that would prepare the nation's human resource adequately to meet national aspirations and respond to global challenges.
President Kufuor was delivering the State of the Nation address to the First Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic. He said formal education would now start at four years with two years of kindergarten to ensure that equal opportunities were provided for all Ghanaian children from an early age.
The next nine years made up of six years of Primary education and three of Junior High School will lay the foundation for literacy and numeracy required for meaningful second cycle schooling.
President Kufuor said these 11 years would meet the Constitutional requirement of Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) for all children.
He said the Senior High School of four years duration would be radically transformed to offer four different strands comprising technical; agricultural; vocational and grammar type of education. "Those who do not make it to the Senior High School at age 15 will be catered for with a year's apprenticeship course, the cost of which will be borne by the State."
President Kufuor said National Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training would be established under the Ministry of Education and Sports to implement this new programme. He said in line with current policy, private industry, commerce and services would be encouraged to participate with the Government in the running of these programmes and the provision of the apprenticeship course.
"I recommend both the Committee's Report and the Government White Paper on the Educational Reforms for study by Parliament and I sincerely hope that the measures will receive wide support to make their implementation easier," he said.
President Kufuor said the Government was certain that the new system would make the country's human capital better trained and better prepared for the challenges of the modern world.
He said the success of all these reforms would depend on the quality of teachers and their commitment. Therefore, teacher education and the skills training would be at the heart of all the proposed reforms.
President Kufuor said it had been planned that by 2015, all Primary and Second Cycle Schools would be staffed with professionally trained teachers to ensure effective teaching while the current teacher incentive schemes would be reviewed and expanded to benefit more teachers.
"Government accepts that these reforms will cost a lot of money but are necessary. I, therefore, urge Parliament and the nation at large to give them their fullest support.
"Government is very much conscious that this is a major policy decision with far-reaching implications. Implementation is, therefore, being carried out very carefully and systematically," he said. At the tertiary level, President Kufuor said it had witnessed rapid growth in the past few years and should continue to grow to meet the manpower requirements of the economy.
He said the Government was engaged in the upgrading of the physical infrastructure at the public universities and a scheme had also been put in place for the development of the faculties to attract and retain young people into the profession.
President Kufuor said the economy could not fully support the level of funding required to run the public universities at an appreciable level and acknowledged that all over the world, and even in stronger and more established economies, cost sharing had become the norm at tertiary level education.
He, therefore, expressed the Government's appreciation to the role of private universities and stressed the need that they must be helped to expand to provide access to the many that could not otherwise find places.
On the Polytechnics, President Kufuor said the Government was committed to continuing to invest and to help them to grow in self-confidence because that was the place to train the hands of technical personnel the nation needed to move the economy. President Kufuor said there could not be human resource development without the integration of Information, Communication Technology (ICT) at all levels of training.
He said the Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development Policy Document had been prepared and a revised National Telecommunication Policy had been published to determine the overall guiding vision, which defined the market structure, institutional roles and developing strategies.
President Kufuor said plans were far advanced to rapidly improve the telecom infrastructure and establish a first class backbone to inter-connect the entire country and beyond.
He said currently there were a variety of telecommunication services available to more than 50 per cent of towns with Senior Secondary Schools and Training Colleges that were already making the Distance Learning Programme possible.
President Kufuor said in furtherance of this policy, the Ghana Investment Fund for Telecommunication (GIFTEL) was being established to extend the telecommunication infrastructure to cover both the public and private sectors.
To the youth, President Kufuor said the Government was putting in place all the necessary measures to enable them to prepare themselves for the future.
He said the most important part of any training was mental and attitudinal, adding: "Disciplined life will ensure success in whatever field of endeavour one chooses."
President Kufuor said proper work ethics had been missing in the country's workplaces and the Government would make sure that the training programmes being put in place emphasised discipline and good citizenship.
In this regard, the Skills Training and Employment Placement Programme (STEP) would continue. Additionally 4.5 billion cedis had been released to improve and expand the facilities at the Youth Leadership and Skills Institute at Afienya, he said, adding other Youth Institutes at Nalerigu, Ajumako, Afranse and Wassa Akropong were also receiving attention.