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The Ministry of Education has come down heavily on the University of Ghana (UG) lecturer, Dr. Sampson Obed Appiah, for allegedly trying to run down the Free Senior High School (FSHS) policy.
The lecturer in a television interview had described the double-track system under the FSHS as the “most unfortunate policy” in the history of the country’s educational system.
According to Dr. Appiah, the double-track system has reduced contact hours of teaching, quality of education, besides increasing the financial burden of parents.
But the ministry said the lecturer’s comments amounted to the “display of ignorance” since they were not borne out of facts.
Reacting to the lecturer’s comment, Felix Baidoo, Press Secretary of the Minister of Education, said in a statement that the FSHS has improved access and quality of education, intimating that “until the introduction of the FSHS policy in 2017, thousands of students had to stay home because they could not meet the cutoff point of aggregate 30, the required grade of entry into SHS set by the Ghana Education Service (GES).”
He said what that meant was “a student may have passed the BECE, but he/she could not gain entry to any SHS due to the set entry grade of 30. The set grade was primarily due to limited space in our schools.”
According to him, it is on account of this that the Akufo-Addo-led government introduced the FSHS policy in 2017 to improve access to SHS for all Ghanaian students.
He said the introduction of FSHS brought about the double-track system as “a leapfrogging measure,” owing to increase in enrolment, to ensure that all students who pass the BECE get access to secondary education.
“On countless occasions, the government has announced that the double-track system was a leapfrogging approach that would be phased out as soon as most of the ongoing school infrastructure projects are completed,” the statement noted.
It added that the double-track system would be phased out within five to seven years of its introduction as once stated by President Akufo-Addo.
The statement said the FSHS policy introduction had given 400,000 more students admission to second cycle institutions across the country, and pointed out that among the beneficiaries are students from poor homes.
The Education Ministry acknowledged the infrastructural challenges in schools, but quickly added that this phenomenon had been with the nation since time immemorial and that the introduction of FSHS or the double-track system did not bring it as suggested by Dr. Obed Appiah, saying “indeed, the FSHS and the Double Track policies were introduced due to that challenge.”
“The Ministry of Education has constructed over 962 facilities, including dormitories, assembly halls, dining halls and classroom blocks across the country to help create an enabling environment for effective teaching and learning in Senior High Schools,” it said, adding “although some of these projects have not been completed, every effort is being made to complete them on schedule so that students can start using them.”
On the issue of reduction in instructional time, the ministry said it had rather increased considerably, intimating “it is on record that until the introduction of the FSHS programme, Senior High Schools in the country had a total of 1,080 instructional hours per year.”
According to the statement, the introduction of the double-track system brought about a review of instructional hours from six hours a day to seven hours, which leads to a cumulative 1,134 hours for every academic year, stating that this is an increase of 54 hours.
The statement described as fallacy Dr. Appiah’s suggestion that the quality of SHS had gone down, noting that “the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) proved otherwise.”
“The 2020 WASSCE results showed a tremendous improvement in the average record as compared to the previous year’s results,” it said, and continued that data showed that out of the 465 A1’s recorded by WAEC, Ghana alone recorded 411 out of the figure.
For the ministry, this is a “huge success for the nation,” and said “the Ministry of Education would like to state emphatically that the assertion by Dr. Obed Appiah that the FSHS programme has led to low academic performance is unfortunate and a display of his ignorance and misunderstanding of the programme.”