JSS Exams And Assessment In Ghanaian Schools

Fri, 30 Oct 2009 Source: Ashie, John

Ghana’s educational structure can be traced thru the inception of the castle schools by colonial masters and mission schools by missionaries. Today Ghanaian schools are mostly public (government assisted) or private. There are also a few mission schools administrated by the Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican. Ghana education has yielded good results in the past and has produced lots of great men to the world, Ghana in particular. One notable person is Kofi Annang, a former UN Secretary General. As reported by the West African Council on BECE (Basic Education Exams), in recent times Ghana’s education system is on a decline. Politicians and policy makers have failed to find a solution to this huge failure rate which was revealed to be 50% of the students fail. What is assessment?

1. Types of assessment in Ghanaian schools

2. Validity of assessment in Ghana

3. Assessment and curriculum change in Ghana

What is educational assessment?

Educational assessment can be defined as means of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information to tell how well a student is doing on a particular subject such as reading. Assessment entails everything from informal observations of a students work, to the use of commercial tests such as BECE exams.

Types of assessment in Ghanaian Schools.

A close look at assessment in Ghanaian schools shows to be quite clear that we use only two forms of assessments; INTERNAL ASSESSMENT AND EXTERNAL ASSESSMENT. Internal assessment in Ghanaian schools can be described as the mid term examination, the quizzes, and final term exams which can be described as ongoing assessment which in Ghana we call continuous assessment. While working as a teacher at St Paul Anglican JSS in the early nineties, when the JSS policy was still finding its feet, we were asked to record this data on a computer generated paper. However, the school or district had no computer office to analyze the coded data. I believe till today the ministry of education in Ghana doesn’t have a unit that is able to analyze the data generated to allow them to compare assessment scores from one district to the other or from one school to the other. This is the biggest problem in Ghana’s education system because without data we cannot hold anyone responsible. We cannot blame the teacher, administrator or student. If we do have the data or record we can assess and figure out why students in Accra district are doing better than students in Amasaman. We would be able to determine if teachers are teaching the syllabus or not. We can determine if child absences on farm market days can be the reason of their poor performance. We would be able to determine that 50% of the children are not ready for the JSS exams before they take it therefore fail. However, after these internal assessments in Ghanaian school teachers do record students quiz grades and midterm grades on Test Cards and then send them home. These results don’t even get to the district or regional office let alone the Headquarters of Ghana Education Service.

External assessment is very sad to even write about. A student enrolled in a Ghanaian school between 1976-1988 was assessed externally only once at the elementary level six/seventh grade (Common entrance examination) then at the twelve grades (GCE O levels exams and the few who get to take the GCE Advance level which leads to the university. So in actuality there were only three forms of external assessment for this student during this timeline. In the present Ghana educational structure the first external assessment is the BECE exams then SSE examination, which leads an individual into the university. We should pause at this time and ask ourselves, if two external assessment in a spun of twelve years is enough for our children and educators. Do these two exams give a valid measurement of what a child have learned? How is the validity of these exams? Do the results reveal enough data for policy makers and curriculum developers to make enough changes for a quality educational system? In most developed countries various forms of assessment is used during the school year. Diagnostic assessment is used to identify more precisely a student’s need. Screening assessment before instruction begins to help teachers determine which students will need more support. Monitoring assessment is used to see if a child’s instruction is on the right track and finally, the outcome based assessment or standard based assessment. Standard based assessment is what we lack in Ghana. Even though we have a curriculum and a guided syllabus there is no set up standardized test at each grade level. A years teaching by Teacher opoku in Asuansi JSS one should be reflected in each Regional standards, Mission Standards (Anglican Schools etc) and National Standards. With a Standardized test in place we will be able to analyze why schools in the central region are performing better than schools in Ashanti. I would bet we do that each year for our sports teams but not academic work. If you ask a Ghanaian which region has the best field Hockey team, you will get a precise answer; Ashanti region or Greater Accra. But ask which region is best in Math or English and you will not find an answer. There are no standards in Ghana that determine or test the skills in literacy, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension at any grade level. How as Ghanaians can we compare children’s performance with that of large numbers of other students? How do we tell that Adjei in 3rd grade at St Barnabas Anglican Primary is reading at 3rd grade level?

Validity of assessment

“Teaching without assessment is unthinkable” was a question I once answered as a student in Winneba. But assessment without validity is useless, the BECE exams and most exams in Ghana is plagued with flaws, examination leakages and so on. Also, the use of particular lecturer and teachers from notable schools by the exams council (WAEC) put a lot of children, especially in village schools, at a disadvantage because the teachers who submit questions to the council, leak or teach their students to those questions giving the children in some schools an edge over others such as Presec Achimota. With the introduction of a Standard based assessment we would be able to assess each students standard as set by the Region or country, students may be promoted or held back based on their performance and schools can be sanctioned if adequate progress is not being done and finally teachers can be made accountable to what they teach. A school can be labeled as Achieving or Underachieving.

Assessment and Curriculum Change

Assessment has a correlation with curriculum as such it is the most important part of the educational system. Through assessment we are able to monitor the success or failure of educational approaches and if the need to make changes in the curriculum. Assessment gives us feedback if desired educational goals are being achieved or not.

To conclude I will say that in retrospect, Ghanaians have excelled everywhere around the globe. However, the writer feels that if the above points are looked at we could see a change in the decline of the BECE/SSS results and therefore we will produce a high quality graduate, who will be more functional to society.

John Ashie

Cert A Post Sec Ada Training College B.Ed University College Of Education M.Sc State University Of New York

Columnist: Ashie, John