The Executive Director of the Institute for Education Studies, formerly VIAM Africa Dr Prince Armah has welcomed government’s decision to extend basic education to the senior high school level.
He said the policy to truncate basic education at the JHS level was a violation of many international conventions including the International Labour Organisation.
By truncating the basic education at the JHS level, Dr Prince Armah argued the country was indirectly saying that school pupils, mostly at age 12-14 were ready for the world of work which should not have been the case.
“ILO laws and International labour and UN Conventions on Child Rights do not permit that people at the age of 15 be allowed to work. So when you finish BECE and you are given certificate, the idea was that it becomes entry point for Senior High School or a termination point for the world of work. Who will employ anybody at the age of 15?” he asked.
Dr Prince Armah was giving his broad assessment of the government’s policy intention on education as captured not only in the budget but in the president’s state of the nation address.
The Finance Minister reiterated the government’s intention to implement the free Senior High School which has been the biggest campaign promise of the NPP since 2008.
Prior to that, the president in his state of the nation address announced plans by government to redefine the use of the BECE and to reduce the number of subjects taught at the basic education level.
Rather than certifying students after basic education, the president said the BECE will only be a competitive vehicle through which the students will select which secondary schools they will attend. The BECE will no longer be the termination point for basic education, the president suggested.
Speaking to Myjoyonline.com, Dr Armah, who has been a firm advocate for the scrapping of the BECE could not hide his joy when he heard about the policy description by government.
He had since 2014 to 2016 championed this cause and had several discussions with key stakeholders in the educational sector including representatives from the NPP and NDC.
“It is very welcoming to hear government indicate its policy intention to remove the BECE because once you expand basic education to include Senior High School you will have only two strata for education, Basic education and tertiary.
Even though he was happy with the commitment by government to implement the Free SHS policy, he would rather the government targeted beneficiary students rather than a wholesale implementation of the policy to all students at the SHS level.
He said the government has budgeted an amount of Ȼ400,000 million for the implementation of the free SHS, 218 million of which will be taken from the Annual budget funding and Ȼ188 million from other government funding sources.
Whilst he applauded government for increasing the entire budget for education from some 6 billion cedis in 2016 to 8 billion cedis in 2017, he regretted that most of the amount is going to salaries and not into capital expenditure.
He also regretted government’s decision to continue the implementation of the teacher trainee allowance which he reiterated was counter-productive.
He however applauded government’s decision to reduce the number of subjects at the basic level for the pupils.
He argued that going for depth (few subjects, thorough interrogation of the subjects) of the curriculum rather than breadth (many subjects, shallow discussion of the subjects) was a good move by the government.
He did not understand why the pupils at a young age will be bombarded with many subjects.
On a whole, Dr Armah is largely hopeful the 2017 budget statement will address the many challenges in Education.