Education is very essential to the betterment of every society since it is the means through which knowledge and skills are acquired in order to bring about development. In relation to this, quality education is indispensable and should not be compromised. This paper argues that the Double-track system which was introduced after the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy is detrimental to students’ performance and mount pressure on the teachers which affects the quality of Ghana’s educational system. Hence, there is the need to opt for different approaches in addressing some of the challenges posed by the Double-track system.
The Free Senior High School (SHS) policy is a government of Ghana initiative which was introduced in 2017 to ensure that every Ghanaian child will have equal access to education with the intended objective of increasing the rate of literacy, fostering industrialization, improving the living standards of the people and provide entrepreneurial climate that will contribute to the socio-economic and political development of the country.
Despite all these anticipated benefits the policy will deliver to Ghanaians, there are myriad of challenges the policy poses on the quality of education in Ghana. Some of these challenges include excessive increase in enrolment of students, infrastructural deficits and huge financial drain on the Ghanaian economy. These challenges precipitated the introduction of the Double-track system in order to enable various Senior high schools in Ghana take more students and ensure that all Ghanaian students have access to senior high school education.
The Double-track system is in two sessions thus, the Green track and the Gold track. The Green track represents the first batch of students who would go to school for a semester and later followed by the Gold track students who would continue after students of the Green track session have vacated on the academic calendar.
There have been several debates among policy analysts and critics alike as to how and the timing the free SHS policy should have been implemented. These intellectual discourses mostly center around the efficient and effective ways the government of Ghana should fund the policy paying little attention to the ramifications the policy is having on Ghana’s educational system. Those who criticize the free SHS policy and the double-track system argue that the implementation of the policy was hasty and that the government should have constructed school blocks before introducing the policy. This argument is buttressed with the statement made by the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) about his party’s decision to end the double-track system within 90days in case they are given the mandate to govern the country in the next election. He argued that the party will opt for commissioning more E-block schools that was under construction during the erstwhile Mahama administration.
This paper argues that the policy has already been implemented and if students are to wait for construction of more E-blocks before they are enrolled into senior high schools, it will affect their academic performance and also given to the fact that student population will continue to increase in some years to come which will not meet the existing facilities. Therefore, an effective approach should be adopted to address the free SHS policy’s enrolment challenges instead of the double-track system.
This paper appreciates efforts made by the government in finding solutions to the negative effects the double-track system poses on quality of education by providing adequate training for teachers as well as increasing enrolment of teachers to meet student ratio. However, the double-track system will compromise quality education and affect students’ performance since the number of terms within the academic year is limited to two semesters which reduce the 3year duration of study.
This paper recommends the merit-based approach to admitting students to that of the double-track system. The merit-based approach refers to the use of cut-off points to admit students into senior high schools which will help deal with excessive increase in enrolment of students at the senior high school level. There have been instances where students who have aggregates above thirty-six (36) are given grace period to select a school of their choice since they don’t meet the requirements for any of the selected senior high schools. This self-placement increases enrolments in senior high schools which compromise the quality of education and the intended purpose the free SHS policy seeks to achieve. It is often argued that the use of cut-off points do not ensure equal access to education but this idea is inconsistent to the concept of equal access to education given to the fact that admitting students based on merit(cut-off points) give all students equal chance of gaining admission into senior high school but their performance determines whether that student will be able to access free education or not. This merit-based approach of using cut-off points will challenge students to study hard in order to be enrolled in the free SHS programme. This will in turn improve the quality of students enrolled into senior high schools in Ghana and reduce the pressure on the existing infrastructural facilities in the senior high schools.
In conclusion, the free SHS policy is very beneficial in addressing some of the educational needs of Ghanaians but its attendants problems like the double-track system will create a vicious circle if political parties continue to politicize issues surrounding it. Hence, there is an urgent need for a merit-based approach through the use of cut-off points to ensure fairness as well as reduce the challenges the double-track system poses on the quality education in Ghana. Notwithstanding, there is also the need to construct more facilities in senior high schools to meet the rate at which student population continues to increase in the country.
We hope to see a better Ghana now and in some years to come.
Mr. Ebenezer Kojo Agyemang
Teaching and Research Assistant,
Department of History and Political Studies
Email: [email protected]