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The Senior High School in Ghana duration debate - 3 or 4 years?

Posted by abocco on Wed, 02/03/2010 - 03:03 GhanaThink Managing Executive

Blog culled from Mighty African's blog

I am a very proud Odadee. My alma mater, Presec and its current and old students, have given me reason to. When I was in Ghana earlier in this year, I visited Presec to see what was new. A lot has changed since I left Presec more than 8 years ago. My favorite teacher, Mrs. Akyeampong has retired, there's been a new headmaster, the bursar who refused to give us funds to publish the school magazine embezzled money and got sacked, the buildings have been painted, we've won 4 National Science and Maths quizzes and the name has been changed from Presby Boys' Secondary School to Presby Boys' Senior High School. Presecans were going to stay in 'blue magic' for 4 years. But in the 'politics democrazy' country that is Ghana, anything can happen. Senior High School is now 3 years again and as a result, senior secondary or senior high school students will not write the WASSCE this year. Crazy eh? There's been a big debate about the number of years senior high school should be. Let's study some of the arguments for and against, debate style.

I debated for Presec while I was there and I loved doing so. I learnt a few good tactics and tricks from Mrs. Akyeampong, Mr. Fercundity and my childhood friend, who was debating for Opoku Ware Secondary School from day one. I used to be the main speaker for the senior high school duration debate. I was very disappointed when I heard Mr. Sexy Eyes aka Travelling John aka Gentle Giant's government was going to increase the duration of SSS from 3 to 4 years. Asomdwoe Mills came into power and has since changed it back to 3 years. I agreed with Obenfo Atta Mills but let's take the arguments one by one; debate style ;-)

The chief gong-gong beater from Kufuor's government would offer the following.
Mr. Chairman, our kids are not adequately prepared for university life/education with those three years in senior high school. In fact, if you did the core math, you'll realise they'll stay in Presec only 2.5 years. Presec won't get enough of out the students and the students wouldn't get enough out of Presec. If Presec mpo ni, then what about Odododiodo Senior High (OSH)? Students at OSH will be weaker academically than those at Presec and if you make students from both schools train for 2.5 years to take a major national exam that will define their destinies, that is very unfair. By giving all students an extra year, OSH students could catch up a little more.

I am stuck defending Mr. Ecomini's Team B government here
Mr. Chairman, we the opposition oppose and debunk this assertion by the proposition. 10 years ago, I remember how difficult paying school fees was for many students, and now parents were going to be burdened with another year? Cost of living in Ghana has only gotten worse. Four batches of Presec students would stretch the inadequate facilities that existed at Presec. Presec's grass was so stubborn, adding another 'labour force' would not solve the weed problem. Not wee, I said weed, as in weeds. Funny lines like those often won debates. What we need is more efficient teaching, student discipline and adequate resources to make those 2.5 years worth every pesewa spent.

Nanaa shock with his British accent takes the poduim
You see, this is where the opposition doesn't get it. Cost of living may be worse, but the standard is higher. The minimum wage is higher and Ghanaians can afford more today. Especially in Accra, sales are up. Let the parents who can pay pay, and let those who can't, receive support. Besides, after the kids fail the SSCE, they spend almost that 2.5 year SHS budget on extra or remedial classes. The remedial school business is one of the most profitable businesses in Ghana today. The state is beginning to bear more education cost. Let it stay this way and let's take our time with our students. Some students are really smart and can excel no matter what. We need to give the 'slower' students more time to be trained/educated so they can be better placed to contribute to Ghana's development or seek higher education when they graduate.

So I come in again
Madam Chairperson, if it is a matter of time, the opposition will suggest we start early. Catch them young and they shall be yours forever. Why not move some of the SHS curriculum to JHS curriculum? Most of what we studied in JSS is similar to what we were taught in primary school. Start introducing concepts earlier, by the time the kids get to SHS, they know a lot and even if they don't continue, know a good amount to do the things the proposition just mentioned. The remedial classes business is not anymore profitable than the extra classes business. Let them dedicate their efforts to conduct more extra classes for the kids who can afford them and let's save the extra year they'll spend remedying the mistakes they could have prevented.

Proposition comes in to offer their knockout blow.
All work and no play makes Asumasi a 'dolu' boy. We can't afford to have our children studying 12 hours a day. We must be patient with them. Preparing them more in JHS/JSS won't solve the problem. When they get to SHS/SSS, those students who had decided to do Science and are struggling will continue to struggle. It's better for the senior high schools to take the students, test them for a year and judge where the student's strengths are. If they are strong in Physics, they are encouraged to do Science. If they show more interest in the Arts, they are enrolled into that program. This one year will solve a lot of problems. And then, they'll have 3 years of preparation, before they have to face the monster that is the WASSCE. They'll also be equipped with a solid ICT training. With 3 solid years of training, they may not even need extra classes. University lecturers complain every day that their students are inadequately prepared. Increasing SHS to 4 years will ensure adequate preparation of tomorrow's leaders.

It's always nice to have the last word.
Madam Chairperson, the new government wanted to be remembered so they organized another education referendum. Take the pulse of Ghanaians today, and you will see that many did not like this change. We've shouted ICT from Afadjato for a long time now but where are the computers to implement this ICT education? If we are going to take on something, we must do proper planning. We increased SHS duration on impulse. We increased the costs of education. Even Obama's country has 12 years of education before university. Why add Item 13? We can change this 4 year thing. Yes, we can.

I argued for the opposition to SHS being 4 years but after talking with my parents who are university lecturers, Mrs. Akyeampong, the present Presec headmaster (Africanus), I propose that we go back to SHS being 4 years. I know the NDC changed it to 3, but they should do us a favour and switch it back. It's not too late. Sometimes, we Ghanaians point to politics whenever there is a change. But some changes are good. This was one change that I didn't understand before but now I do. The judges called it for the proposition. I lost the debate. I wouldn't go away quietly, how about if we made JSS/JHS 2 years just like middle school in the US? Most people go to the same primary and junior secondary school anyway. But seriously, what are your own thoughts on this debate? Are you for the 3 years or the 4 years duration of Senior High School in Ghana?


3 years

I would say 3 years and reduce the contents of the subjects. Most of the things we learn in sss will be repeated in university anyway so what's the point of increasing the number of years? The economics I learnt in sss was the same micro and macro economics i did in college! The extra one year is a waste of time and money!


Re: 3 years

Except not everyone gets a chance to go to university. I think 3years should be a minimum but the actual date of graduation should be left open. ie. if a student feels ready to write the SSSCE at the end of their third year, they should do so. if they need additional 5 years to get ready, as long as he/she can afford to do so, why prevent them? we say human resources are our greatest asset, so why are we going out of our way to deny them the required training and education? just because the USA has 12years doesn't mean that we should too. until recently (2003), ontario, canada had grade 13. the truth is our situation is very different from others: we use a second language as a language of instruction in the class room. Depending on your socio-economic background, the language of instructions may not be a problem but for the vast majority of us, we only get to learn to speak/read/write/understand the english language when we start formal schooling. the fact that we have to learn to communicate all over again sets us back and so spending extra time in school to catch up isn't a bad thing. as previously argued, it cost money and so the decision to stay/go should be left to the parent to decide.