Education is a shared responsibility between us all – governments, schools, teachers, parents and private actors.
Accountability for these responsibilities defines the way teachers teach, students learn, and governments act.
It must be designed with care and with the principles of equity, inclusion and quality in mind.
The justification for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s decision, determination and commitment to implement its flagship Free Senior High School (SHS) policy in September this year was to address inequality and ensure equal opportunities for all students through the removal of cost barriers, enable students who otherwise would have terminated at the JHS level to acquire functional and employable skills through the acquisition of secondary education, and enhance the human capital base of the country by making secondary education the minimum academic qualification in Ghana.
The rest include improve quality of secondary education through reforms by ensuring systems improvement, accountability for performance and leadership, improve competitiveness of Ghanaian students to match the best in the world, as well as reverse the trend of poor learning outcomes and massive failure.
The Free SHS package
The Free SHS programme is a package comprising removal of cost barriers, physical expansion of school infrastructure, improvement in the quality of secondary education, equity and acquisition of skills for employment
To be eligible to benefit from the Free SHS policy, one must be a Ghanaian student and is qualified to access Free SHS if he/she writes that year’s Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and is placed by the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) into a publicly-funded second-cycle institution.
This means no foreign national would be allowed access to the policy. Beneficiaries of this government scholarship will enjoy it for three years.
To ensure equitable access to the Free SHS policy, government has decided that 30 per cent of places in the 82 elite schools will be reserved for entrants from public junior high schools.
It is significant to note that the fees that have been absorbed by government covers examination, entertainment, library, SRC, sports, culture, co-curricular activities and ICT.
Under the Free SHS, all fees approved by the Ghana Education Service (GES) Council for first year students, other than Parent Teacher Association (PTA) dues, will be absorbed by government.
The quality of citizens of any country depends largely upon the quality of education it offers.
The education system must, therefore, provide adequate resources to ensure quality education at all levels.
The fact that second-cycle education has now become free does not mean that quality of education would be compromised.
In the light of that, government is determined to rationalise teacher development and training, provide teaching and learning materials, make up for inadequate instructional time, equip school administrators with instructional leadership and management skills through training and establish robust school inspection and accountability systems
To allow for free access to secondary education, the government has also put in place interventions.
These include the continuation of ongoing SHS projects, upgrading of 42 SHSs into model schools, and construction of new SHSs, technical and vocational schools where necessary.
Under the Free SHS policy, one would envisage the addition of Nationalism and Citizenship in the school curriculum to make the individual an all-round personality.
The education system must inculcate citizenship, sense of nationalist pride and identity, individual rights and responsibilities to provide national integration and unity, as well as democratic values.
It should also foster a sense of commitment to national development.
Education should also take the global interdependence into account and make children understand this concept, coupled with respect for other nations’ values and culture as a means of forestalling international conflicts and promoting global peace.
Students’ horizon should be widened beyond national boundaries so as to embrace the concept of globalisation and regionalism, such as the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS, whilst fostering international peace and understanding.
Indeed, with free secondary education, we should go a step further to ensure that the education system in Ghana is the creation of well-balanced (intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically) individuals with the requisite knowledge, skills values and aptitudes for self-actualization and for the socio-economic and political transformation of the country.