Will the decision by government, through the West Africa Examination Council (WEAC), to push the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) to May/June not affect tertiary institution admissions for the 2018/19 academic year?
Since 2011, when WEAC began conducting the examinations in February/March, WASSCE candidates have had the opportunity to apply for tertiary education the same year they complete Senior High School (SHS).
The decision to bring the exams to February/March was to give WEAC enough time to work on the results and release them before August, when the next academic year would begin at tertiary institutions in the country.
However, the Minister of Education, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, said in December that WASSCE candidates, beginning from 2019, would write the examination in May/June – starting with oral and practical examinations, while the theories would commence in June so that teachers could cover the syllabus within nine terms.
He noted that the SHS syllabus is for nine terms, but because of delays in placement of students into SHS only six terms are covered; therefore, making it difficult for both teachers and students to complete the entire syllabus.
But it can also be said that when the syllabus was for nine terms, students were not allowed to apply to tertiary institutions the same year they completed Senior High School. This means students who write WASSCE/SSCE would have to wait an additional year before they can apply for any tertiary institution.
When the SSCE/WASSCE was written in May/June, WAEC had enough time to work on the results, since students were not allowed to apply to any tertiary institution the same year they finished SHS.
However, concerns are that if WASSCE will be pushed to May/June, then in order not to delay tertiary admissions – which always begin in August – reverting to the one-year waiting period before students apply to tertiary schools would also be prudent, so that WEAC can have enough time to mark the examination answers.
Although the idea of moving WASSCE to May/ June is very commendable – as it will make sure the nine terms are covered and improve learning outcomes, and result in good overall performance – it can also affect tertiary admissions, thereby affecting the academic calendar for years to come.
The original calendar for beginning the academic year of tertiary institutions is August/September, which is meant to ensure that the schools are able to cover one semester comprising four months.
So, if WASSCE begins in May/June it obviously going to affect the academic calendar, since WEAC cannot release the results in one month by August.