23.02.2000 Education

Addae-Mensah says inequalities in basic education system is dangerous

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Accra, Feb. 23, GNA - The Professor Ivan Addae-Mensah, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, said in Accra on Wednesday that the present inequalities in the basic educational system between private and public schools is a "potentially explosive situation" that needs to be addressed.

This, he said, is necessary if the society is to be saved from becoming "irreversibly and permanently stratified". Prof. Addae-Mensah was delivering the first of a series of the three-day 33rd J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures under the theme "Education in Ghana - A tool for social mobility or social stratification".

His first lecture was sub-titled "Education, social mobility, urban/rural and public/private dichotomy". Quoting figures from studies he undertook, Prof. Addae-Mensah said between 65 and 90 per cent of students admitted into various courses in the universities come from only 50 top schools out of the 504 senior secondary schools in the country.

He said 18 of these top schools take up 45 per cent of the university places, adding that these top schools are those which selected candidates with aggregate six with six ones or better for the competitive courses such as Science, Business Studies and General Arts.

Prof. Addae-Mensah decried the performance of public schools at the Basic Education Certificate Examination which, he noted, "is so poor that only a tiny minority make it into any senior secondary school of any kind, let alone any of thee top 50 schools, to be able to eventually be ensured of a place in a tertiary institution".

He attributed some of the causes of the present state of affairs in public schools to poor supervision, the use of pupils on teachers' farms and teachers finding alternative means of livelihood, most of which take up more of their time than classroom work.

He backtracked to the sudden manner in which the new educational system was introduced "where middle schools metamorphosed overnight into junior secondary schools with only a change on the signboard.

"While children in private schools benefited from specialist teachers, public ones saw teachers adding new subjects to what they had already been trained to teach."

The Vice-Chancellor said the situation is creating a dual society with over 70 per cent of future professionals and managers emerging from a privileged minority located in urban centres where 225 of the 449 private schools, that is seven per cent of junior secondary schools are located.

The Vice-Chancellor said "the public school child from the rural or urban deprived area is, therefore, severely handicapped in so far as his social mobility through our educational system is concerned.

"This is a potentially explosive situation that needs to be addressed dispassionately without any partisan political considerations if our society is going to be saved from the trauma of becoming irreversibly and permanently stratified.

"If the world rejects political and socio-economic divisions in global affairs, then an education system combining poorly-equipped and well-endowed elements is equally unacceptable."

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