The Akufo-Addo government is obviously playing political games – “Chaha” – with the county’s education by changing names of universities, the composition of university governing councils with a review of existing law, a new primary school curriculum and also new uniforms for Junior High School [JHS] pupils.
These few days have witnessed a lot of politically expedient policies coming from the Ministry of Education led by Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and Prof KwesiYankah, to the surprise and annoyance of many Ghanaians, including academia.
Interestingly, most significant is the change of primary school curriculum without any inquiry and experts’ input as to the shortfalls of the current system and the prospects of the incoming reforms which according to President Akufo-Addo, will focus on making the “Ghanaian child confident, innovative, creative-thinking, digitally-literate, well-rounded, patriotic citizens.”
In the case of the new uniforms, the Director General of the Ghana Education Service (GES),Prof. Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, who addressed the media yesterday, strangely announced that the introduction of the school uniform to JHS pupils, is a psychological strategy to make the pupils see themselves as part of the Senior High School (SHS) education system, rather than the JHS.
“When you go to other countries and you finish primary school, you exit straight into secondary school; Junior secondary or senior secondary is part of the entire secondary education.
“In our case, our structure is such that JHS students are part of the primary school. So they tend to see themselves as primary school students [pupils] but the idea of the introduction of these uniforms is to let them see themselves as secondary school students,” he told the press.
Speaking in glowing terms of the new curriculum for primary schools, Mr Opoku-Amankwa, said the reform was in line with international best practice, which requires a review every five years.
“A key feature of the new curriculum is the introduction of a national assessment examination at classes two, four and six,” he said
This will replace the status quo where students are assessed nationally during the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE}.
The existing curriculum, has been faulted for its great emphasis on preparing learners just to pass examinations, rather than to actually acquire knowledge.
“Other challenges in the existing curriculum include content overload and an inability of the assessment system, without sufficient data, to help fashion out improvement in teaching and learning. Indeed the current landscape in terms of learning outcomes is not encouraging,” Mr Opoku Amankwa told the press.
Key features of the new curriculum are that in kindergarten, the number of learning areas is to be reduced from seven (7) to four (4) which are integrated into themes, but at the Lower and Upper Primary, the number of subjects will remain the same. However, there will be fewer concepts and more in-depth treatment of concept in each subject. Further, there is greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy.
There will be an introduction of standards-based curriculum. This means that at every stage in school, a student is expected to demonstrate an understanding and mastery of knowledge and skills that they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.
The History of Ghana, will be compulsory for each child from Primary one to Primary six.
The Plan for Nationwide Implementation of these reforms, include training a core of 150 master trainers nationwide on the new curriculum.The master trainers will, in turn, train 3,900 district and regional trainers.
About 152,000 KG and primary school teachers, will be trained across the country by the master, regional and district trainers.
There will be continuous professional development through the setting up of learning communities for teachers to enable them to share ideas and experiences.
It said, there will be community engagement (School Management Committees (SMCs), School Performance Appraisal Meetings (SPAM), Parents Teachers Association (PTA), supply of curriculum documents to schools, supply of textbooks, relevant teaching-learning resources, monitoring and evaluation.
President Akufo-Addo, is said to have hinted of the reforms in his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) to Parliament February 2019, saying Mathematics, Science, Reading, Writing and Creativity, will be at the heart of the new curriculum.
The President, said poverty should not be an excuse for any child not to reach their full potential.
“It, therefore, warms my heart that we are now able to say that education in the public sector is free from Kindergarten to Senior High School, and, that this year, legislation would be passed to redefine basic education to include Senior High School,” he said
Already, the Free SHS is facing many problems, including lack of classrooms, dormitories, dining halls among others. The situation, has forced the government to create a three shift systems for SHS students calling it, Double Track, Green Track and Gold Track systems.
While, primary school students, who were recently seen writing their end of term exams from the chalkboard, have been given some assurance with claims by the GES that, all district education offices in the country, are to be equipped with printing machines to be used in the production of examination papers for basic schools.
The move comes after photographs of teachers in some basic schools in the Ashanti region writing examination questions on the chalkboard, went viral last week, as pupils sat for their end of second term examinations.
A directive by the GES for heads to cease the collection of printing fees from pupils, meant that until the government released funds for such purposes, authorities had to devise a way of conducting examinations.
They believed writing the examination questions on the chalkboard, was the best option – albeit tedious – leaving the GES unimpressed.
According to the Service, the directive to halt the collection of the printing fees was to avoid extortion and discrimination.
“We didn’t tell teachers to write on the chalkboard, we made teachers stop collecting printing fees, because there was abuse from schools charging huge money for printing fee.
“We decided that teachers should stop collecting the printing fee and the printing fee should not hinder someone from writing the exams or prevent students from coming to school,” PRO of the GES said.
Addressing the press on this issue yesterday, the Director General of the GES, said the teachers’ decision to write the examination questions on the chalkboards was an unnecessary dramatisation of the situation.
According to Kwasi Opoku Amankwa, the Service had been in talks with the stakeholders, including the head teachers and their directors to address the issue but could not arrive at a decision before the schools were due to write examinations.
He said, proposals were made for the provision “of printing equipment at all district education offices throughout the country to do the printing of examination questions and other printing needs of the schools and offices, without any direct financial commitment to any pupil or parent.”
Another proposal that was made at that consultative meeting was for part of the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) grant to be used in the printing of the examination papers, but the provision of the machines seems more plausible.
He said, the printing machines would be available by the beginning of next term and will be put to use.
Mr Amankwa, stated that the Service would not revert to the old ways of things and that the directive for pupils not to be billed for examination papers, would stand.
He stressed: “The Constitution of the Republic of Ghana provides for free compulsory basic education. The indication to us is that no child should be denied access to academic work by reason of a person’s inability to pay.
“Payment of any levies, fees which has the potential of denying any child access to academic work is therefore unacceptable,” Kwasi Opoku Amankwa told journalists.
He reiterated the Services’ commitment to implement the FCUBE and therefore “one’s inability to pay should not be the basis for which any child will be denied access to education.”