The decision by the Akufo-Addo-led government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to reconstructively establish a Double-Tracked Senior High School System has provoked the anger of some think-tank and civil society leaders, as well as some leaders of the country’s main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The new system which aims to stagger school attendance in order to more economically maximize the use of physical plant facilities or school buildings, aims to ease up congestion created by the otherwise progressive fee-free Senior High School System. The new system which is known to be widely in use in countries like Australia, Costa Rica and Japan, as well as marginally in the United States, will run the two-semesters per year system that is currently in use at Ghanaian colleges and universities.
One prominent think-tanker, Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, Founder and President of the IMANI-Africa policy institute, is vehemently opposed to the new Double-Tracked System because unlike the present system, which is due to be scrapped come September, and in which students are in attendance 9 months of the year, the Double-Tracked System has students in active attendance during only 8 months of the year (See “Akufo-Addo Messing Our Children’s Future – Franklin Cudjoe” Kasapafmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 7/25/18). There are two problems here that the IMANI-Africa President appears to have seriously either deliberately overlooked or grossly underestimated. The first problem is the fact that the present system, which deprives perhaps 25-30 percent of qualified SHS students access to intellectual and cultural development, as well as a better chance for economic survival in Ghanaian society and abroad, actually regresses the general academic quality and standard and the human-power capacity and resources of the country.
In other words, the present system criminally infringes on the inalienable constitutional and human rights of every able-bodied Ghanaian child to be able to more fully, equally and effectively participate in our perpetually ongoing nation-building process and the incentives and moral and material well-being that come with being reasonably well educated and academically and professionally competent and highly competitive. Obviously, by his vow not to have any of his teenage children access/attend the Double-Tracked or Semester System, Mr. Cudjoe well appears to have put himself in the same thinking mode as the hardnosed Social Darwinian and pathologically elitist leaders of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) whose abject neglect of our public-school system, over at least the past three decades directly and squarely contributed to the Stygian mess that Mr. Cudjoe, paradoxically, seems to be decrying.
The second problem that the elitist likes of Mr. Cudjoe – and I use the term “elitist” strictly in the context of this debate or argument, is the fact that attending school 8 months of the year instead of the present 9 months, does not automatically translate into an unconscionable “dumbing down” of the quality of the curriculum of Ghana’s public education system. What we need to be looking at is the curricular content or what is actually being taught and learned in our basic and secondary schools. I vividly recall spending most of my time in the school garden when I was in the 5th and 6th grades at the Akyem-Asiakwa Presbyterian Primary A. Back then, the school ran a Two-Shift System, with Primary B alternating weekly or biweekly, I forget which, with regard to which “stream” ran in the morning or the afternoon depending on the school calendar. The morning shift began at about 8 am and ended at 12:30 pm, while the afternoon shift began at 12:30 pm, often 12:45 (more like 1 pm) and ended at 5 pm. The calendrical alternation was, of course, to ensure a temporal balance of school attendance.
Well, what happened over the long course of time, relatively speaking, was that both Primary A and Primary B teachers who taught the afternoon shift resorted to the morally and professionally regressive habit of dumping their pupils in the school garden instead of instructing them in the classroom. In short, the afternoon shift came to be envisaged as a virtual in-house vacation for the teachers, unless an Inspector of Schools or one of the military Commissioners of Education was expected to be touring the school. Contrary to what Mr. Franklin Cudjoe would have the rest of believe, Nana Akufo-Addo could not “mess up” the current Trimester System any more than the 8-year tenure of the Mills-Mahama regime did. For instance, about 7 years ago, the Paris-, France, based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted a survey on the quality of basic and secondary education in some 146 countries.
Mr. Cudjoe is probably well aware of the fact that Ghana ranked 146 out of 146 countries. In other words, as New Yorkers are wont to say, “Butt-Naked Last.” You see, the new so-called Double-Tracked System actually offers a landmark opportunity for Ghanaian educators and policymakers to redesign and/or reconfigure the current public education system in order to make it even more creative, progressive and globally viable or competitive.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York