The Institute for Energy Research and Policies (INSTEPR) is calling on government to fix the numerous challenges affecting the basic education sector to alleviate poverty, especially in remote communities.
According to INSTEPR, observations made in its recent weeks’ engagement with teachers and stakeholders in the basic education strata of the education system revealed very disturbing findings.
Therefore, the institute finds it important to deviate from its usual reports in the energy sector and look at this all-important subject of basic education in Ghana.
Executive Director-INSTEPR, Kwadwo N. Poku, indicated that in 1995 when government introduced the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme, every Ghanaian child of school-going age was assured access to high-quality basic education – but this laudable programme has one fundamental flaw 0 ‘quality of education’.
“During the post-independence era, the quality of basic education in Ghana was very high in government schools. Children of the rich and poor all attended government primary schools. The middle-class and civil servants did not have to worry about high school fees, since education at the basic level was very affordable and of high quality.
“Today, to send your child to government primary school means you are poor or live in the rural parts of Ghana. Parents must find money to pay exorbitant fees charged by private international schools across the country. The quality of education assured by FCUBE is now a mirage,” he said.
Citing a quote from the UNICEF website under challenges in Ghana education, he said: “The school environment is usually not conducive to learning. Classes are overcrowded, water and sanitation facilities are inadequate, and trained teachers and schoolbooks are in short supply. The poor quality of education is reflected in students’ results’.’
In 2019, the Ghana Education Service (GES) introduced a standard-based curriculum at the primary schools, thus from kindergarten to primary six. After the introduction of this new curriculum, a survey report in International Journal of Education and Research volume nine, number three, March 2021, showed that teachers had two main concerns.
First is lack of information about the new curriculum: The report stated that a majority of the teachers who are users of the standard-based curriculum would like to have more information about what it entails, what it will do, and what it involves.
Second is Resources: Resources are essential for successful implementation of the standard-based curriculum.
Interestingly, three years after the introduction of this new curriculum, most primary school across the country have not received text books. The teachers are supposed to teach ICT without books and computers. Some children in rural Ghana are learning about ICT without ever seeing a computer – something that an average family in the city takes for granted.
“My question is very simple: is government serious about basic education? Surely the politicians, civil servants and technocrats in the education sector have seen the UNICEF data sheet on Ghana through the MISC-Education Analysis for Global Learning and Equity initiative.
“The 2021 data sheet is very disturbing: For Grade three (8-9 years), Reading Skills is seven percent and Numeracy skills 8 percent for children attending government schools. Simple English, only seven percent of all children between age eight and nine attending government school in Ghana can read. This reduces to four percent for Grade two,” he bemoaned.
Mr. Poku added that in recent months government has introduced a new initiative called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, and new STEM schools are to be built.
Therefore, INSTEPR will advise government to put this STEM project on hold and address the fundamental problems with existing basic schools in the country, and provide text books for all pupils.
“Instead of STEM, government should put more resources into developing early childhood education. Research in multiple countries has shown that 95 percent of children in early education – three to four-year olds – progress as expected for their age in learning and areas of physical and social emotional development.
“Donor agencies like USAID hves been helping government produce reading materials for early education, because the USA has seen the benefit of early childhood education,” he emphasised.
INSTEPR believes that as a country we cannot continue ignoring basic education, and most importantly neglecting basic school infrastructure at the rural level. Free education is a wonderful policy and we Ghanaians are blessed to have it, but what is the quality of the education that is free? Students are struggling to comprehend secondary school education, especially now that it is less than three years duration. There is a vast disadvantage for government school students because their private school counterparts have a very good basic education.
It is obvious that that government has limited resources, but that does not excuse anyone for not making a systematic effort to bring back quality education to government schools. We must invest in the infrastructure, teachers as well as supervision. Parents from all walks of life should be able to take their kids to government primary school to reduce the financial burden on these parents.
The current situation is unacceptable, and INSTEPR is calling on government to act now.