The appreciable performance of the Free Senior High School (SHS) students who sat for the 2021 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) has caused President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo toexpresssatisfactionwith the Free SHSpolicy introduced by his administration in September 2017.
The provisional WASSCE results released by the West African Examination Council last week indicate that the performance of the second batch of the Free SHS candidates is an improvement over those of previous years, including that of their predecessors, who also showed a better performance than earlier SHS candidates.
For instance, in praising the first batch of the Free SHS WASSCE candidates while addressing New Patriotic Party members and traditional rulers at Aburion November 23, 2020, President Akufo-Addo was quoted as saying that “I am reliably informed that …Indeed, the 2020 results of the WASSCE candidates is the only year in the past six years that more than 50 percent of candidates who sat for the examination obtained A1-C6 in all the core subjects.”
The President’s excitement over this year’s performance at the WASSCE is well-placed because the analysis of the results shows that 57.48 percent of the candidates scored A1-C6 in the core subjects, namely English, Mathematics, Integrated Science and Social Studies.
This time at the 70th anniversary celebration of the Tamale SHS (TAMASCO) in Tamale, on Saturday, President Akufo-Addo said the 2020 and 2021 WASSCE results had provided evidence that the Free SHS policy had been a success so far.
The policy is one education venture that has suffered a barrage of criticisms from its announcement by then Candidate Akufo-Addo through its implementation till now.
Some critics said lack of funds would not permit its implementation, while others said its free nature was not good and that some profiling of parents ought to have taken place to sort out those who could or could not pay the fees, with others saying though it was a good policy, it was poorly being implemented.
The last group of critics thought certain changes should have been effected before its implementation.
For instance in his article titled ‘Free SHS: A Good Policy Poorly Implemented?’, which was published online on December 3, 2020, Stan Dugah, described as a freelance writer based in the Volta Region of Ghana, questions why the SHS curriculum was not revised to emphasise reading and writing.
The article further paints a picture of how the Free SHS has come to compound the decline in quality of pre-tertiary education in Ghana because of the opportunity given to junior high school (JHS) graduates who had aggregates 25 and above.
Other critics spoke about lack of infrastructure for the wholesale implementation of the policy, with some of them even questioning its freeness if parents had to buy mattresses, buckets, dresses and other things for their children.
Some of the issues raised were important whereas others smacked of partisanship and irresponsibility.
Every new programme or project would face nascent and other problems, which are addressed along the line.
The most important thing is to achieve the set objectives and this seems to be the case of the Free SHS policy – more children have access to second-cycle education and quality may have issues but it is not compromised.
Congratulations to all successful 2021 WASSCE candidates!
While constructive criticism should be the norm now, the Ghanaian Times appeals to educational policy makers and, for that matter, the government, administrators, teachers and other stakeholders to do their bit to help improve the system for the benefit of all Ghanaians.