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Diasporian News Sat, 30 Sep 2006

Speech delivered by Dr. George Afeti at the 2006 CEANA

The New Education Reforms in Ghana and Educational Development in Eweland[1]

George Afeti (Dr)


Principal, Ho Polytechnic

Introduction

I thank the leadership of CEANA and the organizers of this year’s convention for giving me the honour to deliver the keynote address. In a world that is characterised by sharp differences of opinion on almost every major issue of global concern, it is noteworthy that there is a general consensus on the importance of education in national development. The theme for this year’s convention – Educational Development in Eweland – also attests to this universal recognition of education as the driver of national economic growth and a vehicle for empowerment and upward social mobility of the individual. I do not know of any developing country where education and training is not on top of the national development agenda. Education is at the heart of progress. I am delighted therefore, for the opportunity you have offered me to share with you my thoughts and experiences on the development of education in Eweland, specifically in the Volta Region of Ghana.


In this speech, I shall first present to you an overview of the highlights of the New Education Reforms in Ghana so as to place my presentation in the proper national context.


Overview of new education reforms


Interest in education has been one of the major policy thrusts of successive governments in Ghana since colonial times. Over the past fifty years or so, there have been many attempts to reform the education system in a bid to improve access, quality and relevance. A number of commissions and review committees on education have made recommendations on how to improve the education system to make it more responsive to the needs of the labour market, to the promotion of culture and good citizenship, and generally to national development goals. Some of these interventions include the Accelerated Development Plan of Education engineered by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1951, the Education Act of 1961, the Kwapong Review Committee of 1966, and the Dzobo Review Committee of 1974. The current education structure began in 1987 with the nation-wide implementation of the Junior Secondary School concept recommended by the Dzobo Committee and the logical extension to the Senior Secondary School (SSS) system.


However, in January 2002 the Government appointed yet another education reform committee to review the 1987 reforms. The rationale was that the 1987 reforms have failed to meet the expectations of access, equity, quality and economic utility required of the education system. The 2002 Education Reform Review Committee was tasked to review the entire educational system to make it more responsive to national development needs. The review was also expected to address the current challenges of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) education, distance education, as well as the management and financing of education. The Education Reform Review Committee completed its work in October 2002 and the Government issued a White Paper on the Report in October 2004. The Government has decided that the implementation of the new structure of education should begin as of the 2007-2008 academic year. To this end, a National Education Review Implementation Committee (NERIC) was inaugurated in April this year to plan the smooth implementation of the new structure. (Incidentally, I am a member of NERIC.) The major reforms are at the pre-tertiary second cycle or senior secondary school (SSS) level. Perhaps you may ask: Is anything really fundamentally wrong with the current SSS system? Well, opinions differ.


The reforms at the second cycle level of education


However, whatever opinions there are, the Government has spoken. In effect, the Government White Paper on the reforms has proposed far-reaching changes to the current SSS education system. In particular, the name Senior High School will replace the current Senior Secondary School and the duration of secondary education will now be four years instead of three as from the 2007/2008 academic year. Government’s proposals further state that the Senior High School system should have four streams but that Mathematics, Computer Studies, General Science, Social Studies and English should be compulsory subjects in the first two years. The proposed four streams of Senior High School education are:

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· General Education


· Vocational Education


· Technical Education


· Agricultural Education


The implications of such a radical change to the education structure cannot be under-estimated.


Cost implications


The cost implication of extending the SSS duration to parents, students and the government is also enormous. According to Don Taylor, Representative of the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) in Ghana:


If the educational budget currently at 733 billion cedis should be increased to 2.9 trillion cedis at the implementation of the reform programme, then Ghana is in no position to sustain the programme

Dr Taylor was speaking on behalf of the International Development Partners (IDPs) or donors (in plain language) who provide financial aid and technical assistance for the running of education in Ghana. The IDPs have described the proposed reforms as unrealistic and unsustainable due to the cost implications (Daily Graphic of August 1, 2005). If the SSS duration is extended to four years, the schools will have to expand their existing physical and academic infrastructures. The workload of teachers as well as the financial burden on parents would increase. In the absence of massive inputs into the provision of teaching and learning facilities and adequate motivation of teachers, especially in the rural areas, an additional year in school will not translate into improved academic performance of students.


Teacher supply constraints


What will be the benefit to science students in particular in extending the SSS duration when the educational system is experiencing an acute shortage of science and mathematics teachers? According to the Minister responsible for Education, as reported in the Daily Graphic of February 3, 2006:


The system is short of 1049 science and 566 mathematics teachers and the shortfall is staggering and we have to find a solution to it.


The Minister further revealed that in 2004 and 2005 only 214 and 566 science and mathematics teachers, respectively, were produced as against a system-wide demand of 1263 science teachers and 1122 mathematics teachers over the two-year period. Without addressing the fundamental issue of teacher supply and motivation, the new reform programme is unlikely to meet the intended objectives and outcomes.


Internal inefficiencies


A recent study on the real instruction time in senior secondary schools (JICA 2006) has revealed that the average percentage of actual contact hours to the prescribed hours is only about 65%. The time lost is due mainly to teacher absenteeism, un-programmed school activities and “clashes” on the timetable. Although the authors of the report caution that the findings should not be generalised because the survey was carried out in only 25 of the country’s 534 senior secondary schools, the fact that nearly one-third of instructional time is lost or ineffective gives cause for concern.


Educational development in the Volta Region

What is the current state of education and education infrastructure in the Volta Region? There are currently 1428 public primary schools, 760 junior secondary schools, and 70 senior secondary schools in the Volta Region. In addition, there are six teacher training colleges, three technical institutes and one polytechnic, the Ho Polytechnic, which is the only tertiary level institution in the region for now. Over the past 10 years or so, the Polytechnic has grown into a reputable technological institution, offering a range of courses tailored to national development needs. The Ho Polytechnic is the first and so far the only polytechnic that has been granted accreditation to offer labour-market relevant bachelor of technology degree programmes in automobile engineering and hospitality and tourism management. The E.P. Church is in the process of establishing a private university in the Region, which is expected to take off in October this year, subject to the granting of accreditation by the National Accreditation Board. There is also a strong lobbying movement, supported by the Volta Region Parliamentary Caucus, for the establishment of a state university in the Region. I do not know how this lobby is going to work out, but I do know that there is a pressing need for Ghana to expand access to tertiary education.


As we all know, however, a good basic education constitutes a solid foundation for quality tertiary education. There is therefore the need to provide inputs that will enhance the quality of basic and secondary education. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is far from satisfactory. In terms of physical infrastructure, there is a total of 11214 school blocks in all the primary and junior secondary schools in the region. Out of this number of buildings, only 3003 (26.5%) are in good condition. 2546 (22.5%) of the buildings are in need of minor repairs, while 5670 or half the total number need major repairs. 124 of the schools have no buildings; in other words, classes are held in the open air or under trees. The provision of infrastructural facilities is therefore a major challenge.


At the basic level, the primary responsibility for the provision of school buildings lies with the District Assemblies. However, given the enormity of the problem and the weak financial base of the District Assemblies and their inability to generate or mobilise adequate financial and material resources, the schools will need support from outside the District Assemblies. At the SSS level, the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service are responsible for infrastructure development. This responsibility is now more or less shifting to the Ghana Education Trust Fund. The religious bodies also do help, but there is a clear need for external support and funding.


What can CEANA do?


The education scholarship scheme sponsored by CEANA has been well received by both student beneficiaries and opinion leaders in the education sector in Ghana. It is a laudable scheme, especially for brilliant but needy students, and should be sustained. However, as CEANA members have already discovered, school infrastructure and academic facilities in Ghana have deteriorated over the years. The Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETfund) is addressing these needs, but it will take a considerable while for the GETFund to make a significant impact on physical infrastructure provision at the pre-tertiary level. In adopting schools for infrastructure improvement, I wish to make the following suggestions to CEANA:


· Select one school at the basic level (i.e. JSS/Primary)


· Select one school at the SSS level (including technical institutes)


· Selection of schools should be based not only on need but also on the potential social impact of the investment on the community, or the possible dividend for cross-border (Ghana/Togo) cooperation and understanding, or the promotion of inter-ethnic harmony and peaceful co-existence (e.g. Alavanyo/Nkonya conflict) or in support of national policies that target the education of the female or girl-child to the highest level possible.

· Selection of beneficiary schools should also take into account the availability of local complementary resources or in-kind contributions and the commitment of the school authorities to an early and satisfactory completion of the infrastructure project


· The selected project should increase the visibility of CEANA in the Volta Region and Ghana as a whole.


With these considerations in mind, and in consultation with the regional officials of the Ghana Education Service, I have identified a number of projects which I have proposed to the Council of Representatives of CEANA for appraisal.


Conclusion


School infrastructure in Ghana, especially at the primary and junior secondary school level, is generally poor or inadequate. The recently introduced school feeding programme and capitation grant or fee subsidy in primary schools, which are intended to motivate parents to send their children to school, have dramatically increased enrolment rates and placed additional strain on school infrastructure and the delivery of quality education. Increase in student numbers without a commensurate increase in teaching and learning inputs will inevitably lead to a fall in quality. As the saying goes, the way to hell is paved with good intentions. The capitation grant is designed to achieve the desirable impact of getting more children into school, but this can have unintended side effects or, as the military would say, produce collateral damage, which in this case would be lower quality of education. Improving the educational infrastructure of our schools is therefore a crucial link in the education quality enhancement chain. I therefore congratulate CEANA for its programme of support for the development of academic and physical infrastructure in Eweland. Children yet unborn will appreciate this initiative long after we have passed on.


On this philosophical note, I end my speech. I thank you for your attention.


send comments to: gafeti@yahoo.co.uk

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