Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch), an education think-tank, has stated that the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Ghana Education Service’s (GES) intended plan to change the current trimester system at the basic and secondary school level to a semester system is needless.
According to Kofi Asare, the think-tank’s Executive Director, for such an initiative or policy decision to take place there must be ample evidence of unsurmountable flaws with the current trimester system – a situation that he said has not arrived yet.
Eduwatch believes that the semester system emerged with the ‘Double Track’ and not on the back of any proven, unsurmountable challenges with the three-term system.
“What we are saying is that there is no need to change the trimester system to semester; and what should even necessitate the discussion must be based on identified flaws which have not been able to be surmounted within the trimester system. However, there aren’t any – so there is no need to change the system.
“Though we appreciate the need to harmonise the pre-tertiary calendar, the semester system cannot be used as a yardstick for harmonisation, since it is only an ad hoc measure that emerged out of a ‘Double Track’ challenge government has been working to fix through various SHS infrastructural expansion interventions,” he said.
The need for Parliamentary consultation
He further indicated that even in the unlikely event that they need to change the system like they are seeking to do, Parliamentary consultation is needed.
“Critical system decisions like permanently changing a three-term academic calendar system that predates independence should not be left for a GES/MoE Committee alone. In this unlikely event that they are seeking to change the system, they must consult the Parliamentary Committee on Education, which has members from both sides of the political divide,” he said.
He further urged the two regulatory institutions to take a cue from the three-year vs four-year Senior High School (SHS) duration tango which affected the education system during the Kufuor-Mills era – indicating that this must remind the ministry of the relevance of building broad stakeholder consensus on such key systemic decisions.
Teacher Unions Concern
The teacher unions in education – including Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Teacher Workers Union (TEWU) and Coalition of Concern Teachers, Ghana (CCT-Gh) – have also expressed concern about changing the trimester system to semester, saying that they have not been consulted in the planning process.
“Such a major policy change should have attracted a wide consultation, and we therefore find both the pronouncement and document offensive and take exception to them. We state emphatically that at no point in time were the unions in education consulted on such a major policy decision,” they stated.
The unions emphasised that the GES’s decision to unilaterally change the school calendar is arbitrary and an imposition by GES on major stakeholders. They therefore call on the GES to immediately withdraw the policy, pending full consultations with the unions in education and other major stakeholders.
GES Responds to Teacher Unions
The GES, in a statement signed by its Head of Public Relations – Cassandra Twum Ampofo, denied the claim by teacher unions that they were not consulted, but promised further consultation. “Indeed, the Ministerial Committee on Schools Calendar engaged representatives of the teacher unions and school heads. However, we will continue to engage the unions and other stakeholders if they have noted additional concerns since the calendar’s release,” she stated.