The Education Ministry has come across a publication circulating on various media platforms in which Dr. Sampson Obed Appiah, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, on TV XYZ, described the double-track system under the Free Senior High School FSHS (FSHS) policy initiated by the Akufo-Addo government as the “most unfortunate policy” in the history of the country’s educational system.
He further stated that the FSHS policy has led to a reduction in contact hours, reduction in the quality of education and an increase in financial burden on parents among others.
The Education Ministry describes this publication as very unfortunate and a display of ignorance from the University of Ghana Lecturer.
It is important to note 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).
In effect, even though a student may have passed the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) exam, 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.
The Akuffo-Addo-led government, therefore, introduced the FSHS policy in 2017 to improve access to SHS for all Ghanaian students.
As a result of the opportunity offered, the number of Ghanaian students desiring to acquire education, increased.
The government, therefore, introduced the Double Track’ system as a leapfrogging measure, to ensure all students that have passed the BECE have access to quality education.
On countless occasions, the government has announced that the double-track system was a leapfrogging approach that would be faced out as soon as most of the ongoing school’s infrastructure projects are completed to absorb many students in schools across the country, in fact, the president gave an assurance of it being phased out within 5 to 7 years.
Benefits of the FSHS Policy
The introduction of the FSHS policy, has seen an increase in student enrollment. In fact, 400,000 more students have gained admission to second cycle institutions across the country. It is worth noting that now, students from poor homes could access any school of their choice anywhere in the country.
Infrastructural challenges in schools have been with this nation for a long time and it is not the introduction of FSHS nor the tracking system that brought about the infrastructural challenge as was being speculated by Dr Obed Appiah. Indeed, the FSHS and the Double Track policies were introduced due to that challenge.
Since the introduction of the Free SHS policy, 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. Although some of these projects have not been completed, every effort is being made to complete them on schedule so students can start using them. The List and pictures of all projects are available for verification.
On the issue of reduction in instructional time, it is on record that until the introduction of the FSHS programme, SHS’s in the country had a total of 1080 instructional hours per year but the introduction of the tracking system led to a review from six hours of instructional hours a day to seven hours leading to a cumulative 1134 hours for every academic year showing an increase of fifty-four more hours.
The issue of declining quality of education as described by Dr. Obed Appiah can be described as a fallacy as 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.
Again, the result showed that out of the 465 A1’s recorded by WAEC; Ghana alone recorded 411 out of the figure indicating a huge success for the nation.
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.
Until the introduction of the FSHS and the tracking systems, a parent had to pay school fees, buy school uniforms, house dresses, school cloth, various textbooks, supplementary readers in addition to the payment of house dues as well as project and Parent, Teachers Association dues. However, the government has absorbed these expenses and since the introduction of the FSHS initiative been paying intervention grants to schools to cover extra classes and other related issues to ease the burden of parents.
To conclude, the Ministry of Education would like to state that although the FSHS policy is currently faced with a few challenges, it is not as bad as is being peddled around by some ignorant people including Dr. Obed Appiah, because the government continues to work in the interest of every Ghanaian as it puts the right measures in place to improve the conditions of education at all levels in the country.SIGNED:PRESS SECRETARY,FELIX A. BAIDOO