Ghana’s education sector and stakeholders have a responsibility to equip school-going-age children with requisite attitudes, skills and aptitudes for social integration and economic transformation. They are to ensure that children are provided with the necessary structures and resources for a smooth transition through education.
By the end of basic education, pupils would have sat for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), which is conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). This examination allows candidates to transit to the second cycle of education, where they spend three years to qualify for the West Africa Senior High School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE).
Prior to the introduction of the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS), placement of graduates in senior high schools (SHSs) was done manually.
Heads of SHSs would gather at regional conferences to go through the records of individual candidates, as presented by WAEC and their basic schools, and hand pick student-performance cards and communicate feedback to parents usually through school notice boards.
The manual system had its own stories to tell. A parent, for instance, whose child chose Adisadel College in Cape Coast, Ghana Secondary School in Koforidua and Kumasi Academy in that order of preference would have to travel all the way to these schools just to find out which of them had selected the child. Of course, it was much of a drudgery and costly!
Manual selection of students’ performance cards was, in fact, a herculean task for heads of schools, parents and students.
It was observed to have some weaknesses, including school heads taking too long a time to select pupils by performance, difficulty of school heads giving equal attention to all candidates at the same time, rising cases of favouritism on the grounds of old “boyism” and “girlism”, among others rather than on performance merit.
The CSSPS, a computer programme designed for placing candidates in SHSs, was introduced in 2005 after two years of piloting to replace the manual system.
The overall objective of this computerised system has been to fully automate school placement process in order to reduce human errors and to promote efficiency and fairness in the selection and placement of students in SHSs in the country.
The CSSPS process
The CSSPS has established a procedure for candidates to follow in selecting their schools. WAEC marks the scripts of candidates and grades them by subjects after which candidates’ results are off loaded to the CSSPS. The CSSPS then reviews all results of pupils using its inherent procedures for quality assurance.
The process of quality checks of CSSPS, includes ensuring that pupils are identified by their index numbers and gender, and to ensure that schools match with the categories or options selected by pupils for placement.
The CSSPS uses raw scores of candidates for the selection process. Generally, for any BECE candidate to qualify for placement, the candidate will have to satisfy the total raw score of not less than 200.
Pattern of Placement
Every year, the CSSPS Secretariat under the Secondary Education Division of Ghana Education Service (GES), processes the results of candidates after they have been classified. The 2015 pattern of placement had qualified candidates in the 2015 BECE, re-entry candidates from 2012-2014 BECE, foreign students and private BECE candidates.
Challenges of CSSPS
Inequity in the distribution of school resources is a challenge. Analysis of the SHSs, as captured by the appraisal document of the Secondary Education Improvement Project, shows that schools do not have the same endowment in educational resources.
If all schools had the same resources, the system would have been highly appreciated by all stakeholders. This implies that efforts to address the inequity in school resources will, to a large extent, make things much more effective than they are now.
It has been observed that the issue of inequity often makes parents and students choose schools described as Category “A” schools to the neglect of other ones. These ‘A’ schools are generally perceived to be well endowed and popular and for which reason most parents would like their wards to attend.
A review of the choice pattern of some Category “A” and “C” schools has shown that high information asymmetry on schools and/or preference for well-endowed SHSs at the expense of the so-called less-endowed ones.
Inadequate publication of school information to the public has been identified to have posed some challenges to the selection and placement exercise. Due to the poise of most people to have their children in Category “A” schools, there have been series of direct request for admission from major stakeholders, including religious organisations, traditional rulers and old student groups.
Inadequate and inaccurate data provided by candidates during registration for BECE have also been posing challenges. Sample cases have shown that male students whose forms bear “females” usually end up being placed in girls’ schools and vice versa.
Other problems include choice of schools without reference to their residential status and programmes on offer, lack of participation of parents in the registration of their wards resulting in rejection of placements by some parents and choice of schools without reference to the level of financial preparedness on the part of parents.
Bridging equity gap in schools
The Ministry of Education (MoE) and GES, since the inception of CSSPS, have been implementing programmes that enhance equity in the distribution of resources and facilities to SHSs across the country.
Government, from 2006 to 2008, introduced the Model Schools Upgrade programme that witnessed an improvement in the facilities of 56 less-endowed schools, such as Odorgonno SHS, West Africa SHS, Kadjebi SHS, Adidome SHSs, Bolgatanga SHS and Bawku SHS in order to increase their enrollments.
In 2013, Government, through the MoE, approved the proposal for constructing 200 new Community Day SHSs of which 14 have, so far, been completed with about 109 of them at various stages of completion.
Additionally, 125 low-performing SHSs selected for quality improvement upgrade have been provided with training in mathematics and science as well as in leadership and management in order to help them admit more students.
Fifty low-performing SHSs, out of the 125 identified needy schools, have also been selected and given facility upgrade to help them attract more students and to ease the demand and pressure on the perceived well-endowed schools.
Implementation of the Progressively Free SHS programme of Government and the provision of scholarship to brilliant-but-needy students are also being pursued vigorously.
The MoE, in collaboration with GES, has designed and now operating a website dubbed, “Ghanaschoolsinfo.org” to increase access to information on our SHSs and to aid parents, students and the general public in making informed decisions on school selection.
WAEC and GES are in talks to make effective the offloading of BECE results and to promote timeliness in the process of school selection and placement.
The number of BECE candidates that qualified increased from 177,000 in 2005 to 439,000 in 2015 with the number placed also increasing from 151,000 to 439,000 within same period.
If all schools had similar distribution of resources regarding infrastructure, staff and instructional resources, CSSPS would have been appreciated better than it is now. We, therefore, urge stakeholders to get on board for us to see how best we could review and modify the system for the betterment of the child and our nation.
By Ernest Wesley-Otoo & Kwasi Anokye