Make Double-Tracking System Shine Through Open Nationwide Debate and Consultation
The free SHS has come to stay and there is no doubt that the Akuffo-Addo led government will not rescind its decision on this policy. The reality in going into the second year of the policy is that more and more JHS graduates would seek to further their education into the outnumbered SHSs with limited resources with regard to space, teaching and non-teaching staff. With the present number of classrooms and dormitories deficit, it would take any government not less than half a decade or a term in office to build sufficient classrooms, dormitories, dining halls, libraries, and complete the abandoned ones to fill the gap. This reality dawned on us brings out the million-dollar question; how do we manage the booming numbers of SHS students? Government is making an intervention to manage the situation, and that is, the double-track system.
It is a positive thing that as a nation, we can gather experts to do some brainwork to find solution to our problem. Double-track system is the result of such a brainwork by experts, but there are very legitimate questions as well about the intervention from a section of Ghanaians that government can consider in the system’s implementation.
The government may pay heed to a section of Ghanaians raising concerns about taking steps to immediately and properly brief parents on the difficulties associated with its flagship education policy, the free Senior High School (SHS) program and the double-track system. In the effort by the government to properly inform and educate Ghanaians, open nationwide information, consultation and debate could be swiftly organized in all the regions before the policy is rolled out in September, the beginning of the academic year. Ghanaians in the academia, students, parents, politicians, and so on could be invited to a debate in a form like those organized for presidential candidates prior general elections for soliciting ideas for the seemingly inevitable double-track system. Alongside the nationwide open debate and consultation, the information services should be resourced to inform parents, whose wards would be the direct recipients of the new policy.
Another school of thought is about the urgency of the program’s implementation, and of course, the wholesale implementation of the double-track system. Usually, the government has detailed information on issues than the citizenry, but one may ask, what prevents the government from buying the services of the private SHSs to educate some of the new entrants into the senior high school, and pilot the implementation in selected schools across the country in all the regions? Would it not do us more good in piloting and handle the challenges for a year or so before going all out? Could not the government give the same amount of money that is spent on a student in the public schools to the private schools to do the job for the nation? Is it difficult for government to set some standards for private SHSs as a requirement to win a contract to educate the Ghanaian child on government’s behalf? At this point may I suggest to the government some lessons from how the Finnish government partner with private organizations or schools to educate students in Finland. Finland, by the way, has one of the best education systems in the world and education is free from pre-school to the university levels.
Most education in Finland is publicly funded and responsibility for educational funding is divided between the state and the local authorities. Most private institutions also receive public funding. Pre-primary and basic education is part of the municipal basic services that receive statutory government transfers. The statutory government transfer for municipal basic services is approximately a third of the calculatory costs. The funding for upper secondary education and vocational education and training is based on the number of students reported by the schools as well as on the unit prices set by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In the funding of universities of applied sciences, the Government allocates resources in the form of core funding, which is based on unit cost per student, project funding and performance-based funding. Polytechnics also have external source of funding. Finnish universities are independent corporations under public law or foundations under private law. Universities receive funding from the state but they are also expected to raise external funding.
Like the Finnish government, the Ghana government may prepare a document on steering and financing of the private SHSs under the following thematic areas; Objective setting, Criteria for the allocation of government funding, Funding of expenses shared by the private SHSs, Payment, Discontinuation of payments, Repayment of financing received, Recovery of payments, Interest and interest on late payment, Offsetting of payments, Appealing a funding decision, and Implementation.
There might be equally very practical examples around the world that open nationwide debate and consultation may bring out. Transfer of knowledge that is suitable for our very unique case would add to the government’s information bank to roll out the program more satisfactorily to Ghanaians if open nationwide debate and consultation is approached with all the pragmatism it deserves. May God bless the Ghana project.
Eben Johnson – Finland
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