Opinions Mon, 11 Sep 2017

Free SHS is here but...!!!

TODAY IS FREE SHS DAY, a very historic day in the annals of this nation. That for the first time, a Government is attempting to offer free secondary education to ALL its young people including feeding them, despite concerns about quality and equity issues. A bold attempt to reduce poverty and stimulate increased economic development. The goals of equitable economic growth, poverty reduction, coupled with strong social demand for democratization for Ghana depend on equitable access to high quality education and secondary education plays an important role in this regard.

Whilst we celebrate this momentous occasion, I would want to make one quick and very final comment on the benchmark for selecting free SHS beneficiaries. I start by reechoing three important facts about the BECE assessment (which have stated many times):

#1. BECE assessment compares an individual child's performance to that of his or her classmates or some other larger group.

#2. BECE assessment tells how one child compares to similar children on a given set of skills and knowledge, but DOES NOT provide information about what the child does and does not know.

#3. As a norm-referenced test, BECE scores indicate the student's ranking relative to that year group and that a score (say 45%) for Grade 9 in BECE 2017 could become the score for Grade 7 in BECE 2018 due to the variations in performance between the two year groups.

Therefore, to deny any child or over 36,000 children access to SHS/TVET on the basis of a score of 9 in Math or English, as we’ve done, is purely a political decision....it has nothing to do with the conceptual interpretation of the BECE assessment, within the context of measurement and evaluation. Note that, in each year, 4% of the BECE candidates will obtain Grade 9 in Maths or English by default ( the stanine system), even if they re-sit as they've been told to do. Effectively, some people will NEVER get access to free SHS/TVET under the current arrangement, contrary to the Government's rhetoric of No Child is Left Behind.

BECE has always been a political tool to control access to secondary education since inception in the early 1990s, and I thought we've got a great opportunity to break this decades of social injustice and rewrite the narrative. I want you to take off your party lenses for once and reflect on this:

Where should the affected young people go (many of them are likely to come from low income backgrounds and attended poor quality public JHS, the very group the policy is meant for)? Will Government enroll them on some apprenticeship programme to prepare them for the world of work? What’s their faith, in this era of massification of secondary education?

Wear your voice and ask Government to reconsider its decision…If we managed to convince Government not to limit free SHS to ONLY 2017 BECE as it originally intended, then it’s not too late…stand up to be counted..let's do this together.

NB: I’m not the only person who knows this fact, but for those who know and have kept quiet, it’s up to them...be on the side of history. #Share

#forGodandCountry #freeSHS #AdvocacyWorks
Columnist: Dr Prince Armah
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