Free Education for
all Secondary Schools
December 05, 2017
secondary school education for all is ultimately a
good idea. It is now the policy in Ghana, as announced in
September of 2017.
But the problem with this
policy is its practicality. Is it free education or good
education we want?
Or for plain response, should one ask
if this “free education” is based on a faulty compassion, a
derivative of political correctness that seeks equity; or one
born of a
need defined as practical, meaning affordability in the
context of today's economy?
Shall we focus first on the
In the real world, free education (a good one)
starts with the country's ability to bear the cost and not its
capacity for compassion.
Hard considerations must first
be on the cost to give a kid in Ghana a good education for that
kid to compete well eventually in a global economy. And also on
the country's ability to afford the total cost, plus that of
others that may come in through our porous borders, as the
magnet of free education kicks in.
Are we then ready to do this
costly enterprise all at once, even though there is the risk of
a nasty consequence of diluting the little good we have
left in the current secondary school system?
there will be the usual response: Ghana is rich in resources. We
can afford it.
Well, yes we can. But how well have we
been able to support current reoccurring education budgets so
without first resorting to help from overseas?
Be mindful that free compulsory education at the
primary and junior high school levels, as required by the
constitution, have been in place since 1995. So how well are the
schools doing under this scheme?
Quality free universal
education cannot be obtained overnight and not by rhetoric.
This is not an
attempt to sound cruel. On the contrary, it's a need to offer
help. We need an approach that doesn't sink the little good we
have left in the current system.
We need to pull
ourselves up the stairs of free education, step by step.
I have heard it said
that free education was an old idea that started with Nkrumah.
Going back to the Nkrumah's era, it can be reasoned that
the policy was viable, given the size of our economy as compared
with the population base. Plus, there was an urgent need to
Politically, there was a genuine
desire on all sides to speed things up after independence.
There was need for
informed and skilled labor. Good basic schools were available to
And soon more were added in all the regions for the purpose
of achieving a literate and productive society.
difficulty now is we have a population base that is three times larger. Our
wealth is gone. The public schools that are around now, the few
good ones among them especially, are starving for resource.
And work is not
available on the job market for many who manage to graduate from
our schools. No need to wonder about competency of the
applicants at this stage, since the economy is producing fewer
jobs than graduates.
It seems the above scenario must call for
Again, this is not an attempt to kill
the idea of free education. It is an effort to help nudge the
process along, a few steps at time, with the ultimate goal of
offering free good education for all.
We want the reality
and benefits of free good education, not just the rhetoric.
Good education is an elitist goal in itself, a kind of
elitism that is based on merit. The point of any sensible effort at education, at
this stage of our development, must be to promote excellence with
the free education policy. Give me a school that does not seek to excel and I shall
name you a school that I cannot afford to send my ward to.
Anything less is a waste of time and resource for the entire
goal, for our society with its limited resources, cannot be
approached by a wave of the democratic, universal wand.
For those of us that were educated in the late
50s and early 60s, we can remember that there were good schools
spread over all the regions.
scholarship programs that allowed aspiring students to access
good schools. That was then. A new approach is needed now.
Start this project with a
policy that allows a few good, sufficiently resourced model,
pilot schools in all the regions; the attendance at which will
be based on the free education concept.
schools will be few at start, it will at once spark competition
that hard working ambitious kids and their supporting parents can
gravitate to so as to earn the right for free education.
fair intake, provisions for preparatory examination centers
should be resourced primarily in poor neighborhoods.
the project moves along, the
number of these new schools will be expanded, depending on
affordability within the current economy. This number will not
to be enlarged at whim to bankrupt or dilute the quality left in
the entire system; but only to grow as the years progress and
the economy expands to accommodate the cost.
more schools should be free.
How to start? Take two or more top schools in each region,
depending on population size of the region and, mostly, on the
standing of these schools in the final secondary schools
examination rankings to make these school tuition free.
There should, however, be keys to the benefits to expect from the new system.
The key factors should be evident and in place from the start.
One factor is the
pride of the ranking.
ranking will make teachers, the student body and supporting
parents alike committed to the project. Teachers will be
pressured to do their best since they know that they are
required to maintain their standings within a range at the top
of the examination rankings.
should also create competitiveness and fairness for intake or
admissions of students to these model schools.
Regardless, there should be critical need to police corruption
in the selection and acceptance processes in these schools. The
policing must be rigorously transparent. The low
number of schools to start with can help in this regard.
A successful hold on corruption in a merit based
system, hopefully, will engender its own lesson. A mindset will
students attending these model schools that merit pays.
Of course, free
tuition will not mean automatic success for the program.
It must be seen as creating a demand for success in the interest
chain - students, parents and school must all work hard together
to achieve success.
In time, a culture of
merit and a discipline for hard work will work its way through to benefit
the entire society in many ways.
Hopefully the economy
will then expand, which situation will engender more of these novel
schools, purposefully insisting on excellence and merit.
process, we can count on a stream of graduating body of students
who will impact positively on and contribute highly to our developmental
But first, we need to
nudge the process along, few model schools at a time.
E. Ablorh-Odjidja,Publisher www.ghanadot.com,
Washington, DC, December 05, 2017.
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