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Education Ministry and the new Education Policy – Part One

By Alusine Sesay

There is huge debate and controversy over the new education policy announced by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The policy, forcefully propagated by the equally adamant minster, Dr. Minkalu Bah, insists that government will only pay for or allows pupils to write the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) unless and until they had secured a maximum aggregate 38 in the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE). Argument propounded by the Ministry of Education is that the policy is part of steps taken by government to improve the quality of education in the country. Potentially, the policy would debar thousands of pupils from writing the forthcoming May/June 2014 WASSCE examinations. Parents, pupils and heads of schools have vehemently opposed the policy on the grounds that it would create room for more school dropouts. Students from various schools have approached the ministry, lobbying for the policy to be reversed. The ministry on the other hand believes in the policy as a radical move that will definitely not suit the comfort of all, especially those that are affected, but one that will serve the future general good of society. The general good in the entire debate is that the policy would go a long way in improving the standard of education in the country. What do you think?

For many years, government has been paying both BECE and WASSCE examinations fees for all pupils who sit to the public examinations, although the monies spent by the state could not yield the required dividend as over sixty percent candidates in the latter examination fail to make it to university. This inevitably triggered huge public outcry over the poor quality of education in the country, blamed on the massive failures in public examinations, for which government via the Ministry of Education was heavily blamed.

The Professor Gbamanja Commission of Enquiry was purposively instituted to look into the issue and to proffer recommendations on the way forward. It recommended among other things that government should review the 6-3-3-4 system of education and replace it with a new system referred to as the 6-3-4-4 system, which mandates an additional one year of Senior Secondary education. This new system, according to the Commission, would allow pupils ample time to be prepared for the WASSCE exams. Also, the Commission recommended that government discontinue the payment of BECE and WASSCE examination fees for pupils, a recommendation which government did not agree with entirely, but rather opted for the discontinuation of payment of BECE and WASSCE fees for pupils attending private schools.

A reasonable move indeed! By extension, government decided to discontinue payment of WASSCE examination fees for pupils who did not pass their BECE examination. The government seems determined that this policy will not be reversed for anybody, although not everybody is in favour of it, for one reason or the other.

The policy, to me, though it would to some extent violate the rights to education, should serve as a signal or a wake-up call to parents, teachers, school administrators and even some officials in the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education should not compromise, so far as the policy is geared towards the general good of society.

To the parents, there is an adage which says that charity begins at home and it is incumbent on any responsible parents to ensure that their children be focused on their academic pursuit. Some parents, I believe, bear the greatest responsibility towards the poor performance of pupils in public examinations. It would be interesting to note that parents who are all over the place, agitating for government to reverse the policy are the ones whose children are affected by the policy because they have failed to perform their core duties as parents. There are parents who are ever ready to offer bribes to teacher just so that their children who perform poorly in exams will be given pass grades.