The double track system of SHS education – a political tool; not a policy or remedy

Napo Press Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Education Minister

Wed, 12 Sep 2018 Source: Isaac King Ofori

I know many people will come at me for writing on this topic and probably not giving it the needed backing. They will pin me down with the common phrase that I am against the free SHS policy as implemented by the current government.

I want to state without equivocation that I am not against the policy of Free SHS. I only want my readers to come to understand that many things have not been done right by policy makers, stakeholders and consultants.

It is unfortunate that something that is meant to serve the good interest of the whole country should come under severe scrutiny. There is then every indication that a gap has been left unattended to by hatchers of the policy.

In analyzing carefully what makes the double track system unique, one can only point out to two things: the introduction of the semester system and the intended reduction of congestion at the various public schools. Apart from these two things, there is something strange and unfathomable about the track system.

It has become necessary that we told politicians in the face to stop the many maneuvering that go on in their conference rooms and offices only to pull surprises on the citizenry.

If the government said teacher unions and other stakeholders were brought together to discuss the system, I want any discerning citizen not to accept that as the gospel truth. They were only converged to be told what the government intended doing and later refreshed with assorted drinks and food and perhaps ‘brown envelope’.

There is every clear indication that the track system is heading for massive setbacks and perhaps fails to meet the expectation of its drivers.

It has started with frustration of many parents as over sixty thousand pupils are yet to be placed. The truth of the matter is that the government is aiming at reducing cost with the implementation of the Free SHS policy due to the enormous cost involve. To reduce or avoid the cost of funding, the government is being smart to introduce the double track system to cut down the number of boarding students and also reduce the number of days of remaining in the classroom before final exams.

I will show briefly why the government is not being truthful about the double track system: the haste to which the government implemented the policy alone is questionable and the ignoring of the numerous calls to take a second look at other alternatives such involving private schools and grade point cut.

The for fear of being tagged, the government has taking the path of uncertainties: doing something that might eventually result in further sinks in the standard of education in the SHS. Already, the quality of first class secondary schools is under siege as the prestige about these schools is deliberately broken without consideration.

The following facts will shock you what really necessitated the haste in the double track implementation.

1. The MOE projection of 521,710 candidates that registered and sat for the BECE in 2018 is false. According to WAEC, 509,827 actually registered and sat for the examination.

2. MOE also made a projection without considering the fact that the 2018 WASSCE leavers left a gap of 316,999 spaces. Surprisingly, the so called touted 180,000 gap the government envisages would have been catered for by the gap left by the 2018 WASSCE leavers and that of the current form three students with a total enrollment of 308,799. This means that some category A and B schools needed only to top up their numbers with some few infrastructural adjustments.

3. The figures as it stands are also worrying in terms of the placement. The government said some 490,514 students qualified to be placed. Out of these figures, he has projected that some 24,880 will not enroll at all. 490,514 – 24,880 = 465,634 should enroll this year. Out of this figure 60,000 have not been placed or yet to be placed. There is a clear indication that the 180,000 gap as stipulated by the government was not true. Some 104,217 students more have been added instead.

4. It is true that the track system was not necessary at this time as government can fast track the infrastructural development of 50 schools to accommodate at least 2000 first year students making 100000 leaving the rest to be shared among the rest. With time, government could have upgraded 50 additional schools to accommodate more. The government deliberately sat down till now before telling us that the he needs double track system to check the enrolment.

5. There is also confusion about the single track students. Are they going to remain in school throughout to be taught or they will be going home like their friends in the double track? Students will remain home and expected to attend personnel classes: free? Government is to employ some 8000 teachers to be doing remedial classes and paying them. Government could have used the same money to expand existing schools to cater for the gap.

6. Some schools have introduced their own version of the track system. Different courses will begin the track follow by the others. For instance, in Wesley Girls, science and home economics students are in school. The rest will also follow afterwards. The confusion is unending. The mess is unbearable but political will is at play.

All the academic theory about the double track system is a hoist intended to promote whim and caprices of politicians. In reality the government is just playing smart with his free SHS policy implementation.

Now, the mess will soon rear its ugly ears. We will not feel the impact now but when the results of these students begin to spring up after the WASSCE then we will return to pass the final judgment. We will allow the wheat and tares to grow together but definitely the harvest time will time the chaff from the grain. If Ghana is really ready for this track system, the future will decide.

I rest my case.

Columnist: Isaac King Ofori
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