Should the BECE in Ghana be abolished?

Fri, 6 May 2016 Source: Eyiah, Joseph Kingsley

Examinations are part of the tools used to assess students' progress at schools. We have individual school examinations; provincial examinations like the EQAO in the Province of Ontario-Canada for Elementary and High School Students at certain grades; and national examinations like the BECE in Ghana for Junior Secondary School (JSS) students in their final year among others.

Are these examinations the best means of assessing student academic achievement and the best way to promote students to the next level of the academic ladder (as in the case of Ghana as well as other African countries? What are the benefits of such standardized national examinations to the countries which administer them? Are these standardized provincial or national examinations fair to students?

Well, as an educator (with experience from both Ghana and Canada) and as a social commentator who leads in discourses on socio-educational issues that affect our children I have been prompted by a statement made recently in Ghana by one of the political parties contesting elections this year in the country regarding the abolition of one of such examinations in Ghana.

It is reported from Ghana that, the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) would abolish the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) written by Junior High Schools in the country if the party is voted into office this year. National Chairman of the party, Nii Brew-Hammond, disclosed this at a ceremony to acclaim the party’s Wa Central constituency in the Upper West Region of Ghana. How welcoming is this pronouncement to students and teachers in Ghana? Is there any wisdom in it? Should this proposed abolition of BECE in Ghana remain as a political party policy which will go down into the grave should the party promising it to Ghanaians fail to win the elections? Or should it be carefully and prudentially considered by all as viable national educational policy? Whatever be your answers to the foregoing questions, let's briefly look at the nature of this examination in Ghana.

THE BASIC EDUCATION CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION is both for certification and selection to Senior High Schools and Technical Institutions. Candidates in the third year of Junior High Schools approved by the Ghana Education Service are eligible to take part in this examination.

The examination is conducted nationwide in June each year and the following are the subjects which the students write:

- English Language

- Ghanaian Language and Culture

- Social Studies

- Integrated Science

- Mathematics

- Basic Design and Technology

- Information and Communication Technology

- French (optional)

- Religious and Moral Education

Candidates are graded based on performance in the external examination (objective and written) and Continuous (Internal) Assessment marks provided by the schools. A nine-point scale is used in grading the candidates with Grade 1 denoting the highest performance and Grade 9 the lowest.

What are some of the reasons advanced by the PPP for its plan to abolish the BECE in Ghana?

Before that I will like to remark here that Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) are against the provincial standardized examination-the EQAO-administered by Ministry of Education to Grade 3, 6 and 9/10 students. The teachers claim that all schools in the province do not enjoy the same academic resource! 'The EQAO is therefore not fair to students in the province', they argue! ETT advise the Government of Ontario to channel funds spend on that provincial standardized test (examination) into procuring more learning and teaching materials for classrooms throughout the province! Note here that EQAO in no way determine the elementary/middle school student's access to high school in Ontario as the BECE does in Ghana!

The PPP contends that the BECE debars some young students (ages 13-15 years) access to High School in Ghana before they reach 18 years! That, basic education must be free to all children. In Ontario as I know, all Grade 8 students are promoted to High School in their areas of abode. Students whose academic achievement at the end of Grade 8 is below standard are transferred to High School and given support to succeed.

Can we say that basic education in Ghana which must see the student to high school is being undermined by BECE? Should the BECE be abolished?

Columnist: Eyiah, Joseph Kingsley