Last week, the West African Examination Council (WAEC), the examining body responsible for the provision of qualitative and reliable educational assessment in the West African region, released the 2018 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) results.
Out of 521,710 registered candidates, 490,514 candidates qualified to be placed for this academic year, with 67,382 candidates failing to meet the requirement for selection into any of the four schools they chose.
Expectant students and their parents eager to know their results and the schools they made it to flooded the website of WAEC with submissions to confirm the results.
The results were greeted with mix reactions from both parents and candidates. While some were satisfied with the results and subsequent placement of their wards into various senior high schools (SHS) across the country, those with concerns have been at the Ghana Education Service (GES) in the past few days for clarification.
The envisaged concerns can be attributed to the not-too-recent changes in the educational system of the country, first from the manual placement to the computerised school selection and placement and then the new semester system.
For the past few years, the Ghana Education Service introduced the Computerized School Selection & Placement System (CSSPS) where successful BECE candidates were automatically placed in one of their selected four schools.
As part of the preparations, parents and guardians of the BECE candidates have the opportunity to confirm their four choices of schools and programmes made prior to the selection and placement exercise.
This was to improve the selection process and, thereby, address some of the challenges that previously characterised placement into secondary schools and not meant to create further challenge for anxious parents, guardians and wards.
Selections And Qualification In Placement Process
For a candidate to qualify for selection and placement, the grades obtained in any of four core subjects must not exceed grade five. The candidate’s minimum grade in any best two subjects should not exceed grade six. The candidate’s best two subjects should not be more than aggregate 30 if the two are added to the four core subjects.
A candidate is disqualified in the selection and placement if any of his/her core subjects exceeds six or any core subjects are cancelled by WAEC due to examination malpractices or other reason.
Since a greater number of junior high school (JHS) students sit for the BECE and could all qualify for their first choice schools, the CSSPS uses raw scores of candidates for the selection process.
Also, qualified BECE candidates who were unable to obtain admission or deferred admission to SHS or technical institutions within the immediate past three years are also eligible for selection and placement process alongside the current year candidates.
Non-Ghanaian candidates, Ghanaian candidates domiciled in foreign countries and seeking admission to Ghanaian schools and children of Ghanaian citizens on foreign missions seeking admission to senior school or technical/vocational institutes in Ghana are also qualified for the selection process.
According to the statement signed by Cassandra Twum Ampofo, Head of Public Relations Unit, GES, unplaced candidates are to do a self-placement to get themselves into senior high schools with vacancies.
The introduction of the Free Senior High School (FSHS) policy by the Akufo-led government during last year academic year saw in influx of students to the SHS, raising new challenges in the educational sector in terms of infrastructure.
Despite providing 96,403 mono desks, 33,171 pieces of dining hall furniture, 3,033 tables and chairs for teachers, 12,953 bunk beds, 4,335 student mattresses and 5,135 computer laboratory chairs by the government to address the infrastructural deficit over the year, it has not been enough to address all issues of infrastructure in SHSs.
The 2018/19 academic year is expected to witness a 31 per cent increase in the population of new students, with about 472,000 entering SHSs, and which has resulted in a deficit of some 183,000.
Double Track System
It is in addressing the growing number of students benefitting from the Free SHS policy that President Akufo-Addo reaffirmed his decision on the introduction of the double track SHS system which will accommodate the increase in enrolment in the senior high school.
The president indicated that it will further reduce the class sizes of students and also increase contact hours between teachers and students.
“The objectives of the double track system are to create room to accommodate the increase in enrolment. Furthermore, it will reduce class sizes, it will increase the contact hours between teachers and students, and increase the number of holidays. All this, ladies and gentlemen, is going to be achieved with the existing infrastructure,” he said.
The president stated that the double track system has become necessary because in the 2018/2019 academic year, the Free SHS will admit about 472, 0000 new students and it will be absorbed by the double track system.
President Akufo-Addo assured that the double track system of Free SHS would, however, increase in quality of the senior high school and asked all and sundry to embrace the system and work very hard to make sure that it succeeds.
“I am confident that the end result of the system would lead to an increase in the quality of our SHS structure. I am inviting everybody – parents, teachers, administrators, students, the parent teacher associations, the regional and district directors of education – to embrace this system, and work to make sure that it succeeds,” he reiterated
The Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, said the double track school calendar is a temporary intervention until the needed infrastructure is in place, not all senior high schools will be on the double track school calendar.
He explained that new school calendar is an intervention that allows schools to accommodate more students within the same facility and is often motivated by its potential to reduce overcrowding, as well as save costs relative to new school construction in the short term.
The sector minister revealed that under the new system, candidates are placed in two categories – Green Track and Gold Track– signaling the commencement of the double track system.
“Those placed on the Green Track will resume school on September 11, 2018 while those on the Gold Track will resume on November 8, 2018,” he said.
The new system is expected to cost GH¢323 million to fully implement. The cost comprises GH¢267.2 million as teaching cost and GH¢55.8 million for academic interventions.
There have been mixed reactions to the proposed double intake system. While some individuals and groups have expressed support for it, others are very apprehensive of the initiative, saying it will affect the quality of education.
A National Service person, Ms Adiza Mohammed, said the double intake of students in SHS is a laudable initiative because it would increase enrolment in the schools.
An entrepreneur, Ms Alexina Asmah, was of the view that the double intake would not be appropriate.
He said the government should rather stick to the normal intake and focus on building more schools.
A teacher, Ms Cornelia Amoah, said there would be pressure on teachers because they would have to work extra hard to ensure that the syllabus is completed before the close of the academic year activities.
Far from the double track system being a new intervention that is being experimented in Ghana, the president stated that it has been implemented elsewhere, and found to be successful in countries as diverse as the United States of America, Australia, Kenya and Japan.
Prof. Eric Nyarko Sampson, board chairman of the National Teaching Council (NTC), has stated that political apprehensions and cacophony on the double track education system have created psychological uncertainty among students and parents.
He said the increasing political colourisation, spinning, justifications and lack of coherent communication and understanding of the system have created anxiety and confusion in the minds of students.
According to him, many students and parents are confused about the system and, therefore, they must be motivated, consulted and educated on the modus operandi of the system to enable them to buy into it.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri