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Here we go again, dumping down the educational system

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Ghanadot


It has just been revealed that the government will lower Senior High School (SHS) duration to three instead of four years, based on a supposed full enquiry on the merit, but in reality on a wish to fulfill a political promise that needed to be kept.


A Ghanadot report said that “The Government of Ghana after series of consultations, debates and conferences, has decided to alter the duration of Senior High School (SHS) education from four to three years, starting from this academic year (September 2009)."


The Minister of Education, Hon. Alex Tetteh-Enyo, spearheaded the disclosure for the change in duration.  He did not, however, mention the distinct benefits this fewer years in High School brings to the social fabric.


Obviously, the overall budget cost for education will be lowered by one year’s expenditure.  But, this idea that you can save money at the expense of quality, famously called “bean counting,” is considered foolhardy n America.  In the light of the political climate today, this seems to be just the case.


Still, the question has to be asked:  Why the hurry?  Is there anything wrong with the current four years system other than the need for a political tussle? 


To place these questions in their proper context requires an appreciation of the prevailing economic circumstances:  Where, for goodness sake, are the jobs! And why the need to hurry some of these young men and women into a meaningless void of joblessness!


With mounds of indiscipline in our streets, you would think the creative thing to do will be to find use for the extra year as a period for civic education, if it is really superfluous for tuition needs; or at least as a period for instilling self-discipline as you would in a boot camp.


The reality is, as we argue about what to do with the extra school year, things are happening in our streets.


“Armed Robbers deserve “shoot to kill” response,” said the Upper West Regional Minister the other day in defense of the security agencies. 


Our response to the minister should be that there is nothing wrong with his assumption, except one must also verify and state publicly, in the investigation process of the crime, the years these armed robbers had in school.  The knowledge can serve as a lesson for our social engineers.


Illiteracy, to be precise, has its social costs that are not reflected in the budget for education.  A year less in school or no school at all has its cost and this can vastly offset any savings gained across board by the one year down grading.


The notion that kids will be better educated – in less time, same school building and facilities, same staff, and no transition period allowed for the new regime - after three years than they were under the four year phase is a myth.  However, myths are always hard to battle since they operate like ghosts at the core of our collective existence. 


It is apparent today that the notion for change is not coming form the kids.  It is coming from a political manifesto and from some within the Teachers Union who under the NPP regime were against this very change.  They are now conveniently for it.  And I suppose, three years from now, should there be a regime change, they would be against what they support today.


In effect the teachers are not operating on principle. These lazy teachers that refuse to go the extra mile to ground and educate these kids well under the four year system are now leasing them out as pawns in a game of political “one up-manship.” 


But the consequences will follow when we let the kids out too early.  Unemployment, disillusionment, and disgruntlement will grab them because we would have by the early release from school overwhelmed the job market at a faster pace than we are able to create jobs and opportunities.


Ironically, the sad part is we know for sure that there are no jobs available. And that we are exposing not only these kids but the general society also to a higher risk - the possibility that some will fail to find meaningful space and peace in our midst.  That eventuality, we know, always spells trouble.


Time was when kids spend more years at the primary, elementary, and secondary through sixth form stages – a total of 16 years on the average.  But the system had a flexibility that the merit of the individual student can engage to his advantage and to advance faster on his own; and not through some wholesale promotion.  Some could finish the process as early as 13 or 14 years.  These were the bright ones.  And the late bloomers finished later at a more leisurely pace.


As understood now the proposed school year will lower the total from primary and SHS to 12 years, for those with or without merit.


The three year system is as rigid as it is wholesale.  It is yet to answer what happens to late bloomers; whether there is tuition life for them after the third year (not remedial, please).  Sadly, it is not even waiting to see and evaluate what has happened to the 4 year system, or take cognizance of the fact that the system that produced our best brains of today was not one of 3 years of SHS, but more.


Come to think, some kids would be happy with the plan because the school years will be shorter.  And their parents, who are burdened by the cost of the extra year’s expense will feel relieved.  The party in power can then be happy because the education commission’s approach can be described in the next party manifesto as “social justice;” perhaps to gain more votes. 


However, the truth of the matter is that it will not be social justice for long  - as people without jobs vote for issues they hardly understand while more spill into the streets to demand for more jobs.  Good luck.


E. Ablorh-Odjidja,Publsiher, Washington, DC, August 5, 2009

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