Increasing SHS admission quota good but…
Reforms in the education sector of the country which resulted in the introduction of a nationwide junior secondary school (JSS) system, now junior high school (JHS) in the 1987/88 academic year also introduced the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
The BECE was the conduit for placing successful candidates in senior secondary schools (SSS), now senior high school (SHS).
Interestingly, an admission quota was subsequently introduced.
Under the system, 30 per cent of the total number of vacancies was to be allocated to students who attended public JSS or (JHS) within a 10-kilometre radius of the public second cycle institutions they had selected to attend.
That system helped rural children to gain admission to even first-class SSS.
Along the line, the system failed and some people called for its reinstatement.
For instance, in February 2006, while delivering a speech at an event at Akwatia in the Eastern Region organised as part of the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of St Rose’s SHS, Prof. Florence Abena Dolphyne, a former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, called for its reinstatement.
In September 2011, a child rights advocacy group, Challenging Heights, rose against the government’s decision to reintroduce the 30 per cent quota system.
It accused the government of using the policy as cover-up of the weaknesses in public basic schools and challenged it to look at issues pertaining to schools monitoring, teacher motivation and attitudes, and corruption in resource utilisation, which deprive public schools of the needed quality result at the BECE level.
Today, the government is running the quota system and even reviewed it such that it is now reserved for any Ghanaian student in a public basic school who chooses an elite school and even makes an aggregate as low as 36.
Just days ago, a child-centred organisation, Child Rights International (CRI), started advocating the increase in the 30 per cent quota system to 40 per cent.
The CRI believes the 40 per cent mark would widen the access to quality education for majority of Ghanaian children, especially children attending schools in the rural areas, as that can also help to change the lifestyle of the rural child.
We think the CRI is raising important issues but the whole nation has to have that conversation and come to conclusions in the best interest of the country.
In the first place, the quota system has arisen because of challenges in public schools that must not be ignored or glossed over.
Even though we do not support the call by Challenging Heights (CH), the child rights advocacy organisation calling for the abolition of the quota system, we stand with it in its call on the government to fix such problems in the country’s education system, particularly at the basic level, some of which the CH has pointed out.
The CH was speaking in 2011, yet none of the problems it raised can be said to have been eradicated.
The government should fix the problems, particularly those relating to the school infrastructure and teacher attitudes, as well as those of parents or guardians and their communities and probably even the whole admission quota system would be needless.
We would continuously ask this question until the situation changes: How come most children who complete public JHS can neither read nor write simple sentences and as well cannot manipulate figures at their level but their counterparts from private schools can do so?