The Senior High School in Ghana duration debate - 3 or 4 years?

I am a very proud Odadee. My alma mater, Presec and its current and old students, have given me reason to. When I was in Ghana earlier in this year, I visited Presec to see what was new. A lot has changed since I left Presec more than 8 years ago. My favorite teacher, Mrs. Akyeampong has retired, there's been a new headmaster, the bursar who refused to give us funds to publish the school magazine embezzled money and got sacked, the buildings have been painted, we've won 4 National Science and Maths quizzes and the name has been changed from Presby Boys' Secondary School to Presby Boys' Senior High School. Presecans were going to stay in 'blue magic' for 4 years. But in the 'politics democrazy' country that is Ghana, anything can happen. Senior High School is now 3 years again and as a result, senior secondary or senior high school students will not write the WASSCE this year. Crazy eh? There's been a big debate about the number of years senior high school should be. Let's study some of the arguments for and against, debate style.

I debated for Presec while I was there and I loved doing so. I learnt a few good tactics and tricks from Mrs. Akyeampong, Mr. Fercundity and my childhood friend, who was debating for Opoku Ware Secondary School from day one. I used to be the main speaker for the senior high school duration debate. I was very disappointed when I heard Mr. Sexy Eyes aka Travelling John aka Gentle Giant's government was going to increase the duration of SSS from 3 to 4 years. Asomdwoe Mills came into power and has since changed it back to 3 years. I agreed with Obenfo Atta Mills but let's take the arguments one by one; debate style ;-)

The chief gong-gong beater from Kufuor's government would offer the following.
Mr. Chairman, our kids are not adequately prepared for university life/education with those three years in senior high school. In fact, if you did the core math, you'll realise they'll stay in Presec only 2.5 years. Presec won't get enough of out the students and the students wouldn't get enough out of Presec. If Presec mpo ni, then what about Odododiodo Senior High (OSH)? Students at OSH will be weaker academically than those at Presec and if you make students from both schools train for 2.5 years to take a major national exam that will define their destinies, that is very unfair. By giving all students an extra year, OSH students could catch up a little more.

I am stuck defending Mr. Ecomini's Team B government here
Mr. Chairman, we the opposition oppose and debunk this assertion by the proposition. 10 years ago, I remember how difficult paying school fees was for many students, and now parents were going to be burdened with another year? Cost of living in Ghana has only gotten worse. Four batches of Presec students would stretch the inadequate facilities that existed at Presec. Presec's grass was so stubborn, adding another 'labour force' would not solve the weed problem. Not wee, I said weed, as in weeds. Funny lines like those often won debates. What we need is more efficient teaching, student discipline and adequate resources to make those 2.5 years worth every pesewa spent.

Nanaa shock with his British accent takes the poduim
You see, this is where the opposition doesn't get it. Cost of living may be worse, but the standard is higher. The minimum wage is higher and Ghanaians can afford more today. Especially in Accra, sales are up. Let the parents who can pay pay, and let those who can't, receive support. Besides, after the kids fail the SSCE, they spend almost that 2.5 year SHS budget on extra or remedial classes. The remedial school business is one of the most profitable businesses in Ghana today. The state is beginning to bear more education cost. Let it stay this way and let's take our time with our students. Some students are really smart and can excel no matter what. We need to give the 'slower' students more time to be trained/educated so they can be better placed to contribute to Ghana's development or seek higher education when they graduate.

So I come in again
Madam Chairperson, if it is a matter of time, the opposition will suggest we start early. Catch them young and they shall be yours forever. Why not move some of the SHS curriculum to JHS curriculum? Most of what we studied in JSS is similar to what we were taught in primary school. Start introducing concepts earlier, by the time the kids get to SHS, they know a lot and even if they don't continue, know a good amount to do the things the proposition just mentioned. The remedial classes business is not anymore profitable than the extra classes business. Let them dedicate their efforts to conduct more extra classes for the kids who can afford them and let's save the extra year they'll spend remedying the mistakes they could have prevented.

Proposition comes in to offer their knockout blow.
All work and no play makes Asumasi a 'dolu' boy. We can't afford to have our children studying 12 hours a day. We must be patient with them. Preparing them more in JHS/JSS won't solve the problem. When they get to SHS/SSS, those students who had decided to do Science and are struggling will continue to struggle. It's better for the senior high schools to take the students, test them for a year and judge where the student's strengths are. If they are strong in Physics, they are encouraged to do Science. If they show more interest in the Arts, they are enrolled into that program. This one year will solve a lot of problems. And then, they'll have 3 years of preparation, before they have to face the monster that is the WASSCE. They'll also be equipped with a solid ICT training. With 3 solid years of training, they may not even need extra classes. University lecturers complain every day that their students are inadequately prepared. Increasing SHS to 4 years will ensure adequate preparation of tomorrow's leaders.

It's always nice to have the last word.
Madam Chairperson, the new government wanted to be remembered so they organized another education referendum. Take the pulse of Ghanaians today, and you will see that many did not like this change. We've shouted ICT from Afadjato for a long time now but where are the computers to implement this ICT education? If we are going to take on something, we must do proper planning. We increased SHS duration on impulse. We increased the costs of education. Even Obama's country has 12 years of education before university. Why add Item 13? We can change this 4 year thing. Yes, we can.

I argued for the opposition to SHS being 4 years but after talking with my parents who are university lecturers, Mrs. Akyeampong, the present Presec headmaster (Africanus), I propose that we go back to SHS being 4 years. I know the NDC changed it to 3, but they should do us a favour and switch it back. It's not too late. Sometimes, we Ghanaians point to politics whenever there is a change. But some changes are good. This was one change that I didn't understand before but now I do. The judges called it for the proposition. I lost the debate. I wouldn't go away quietly, how about if we made JSS/JHS 2 years just like middle school in the US? Most people go to the same primary and junior secondary school anyway. But seriously, what are your own thoughts on this debate? Are you for the 3 years or the 4 years duration of Senior High School in Ghana?


Unknown said…
I want your opinion on the 1 year (gap year) between secondary school and university.

For me, I think there are many ways of solving this problem. One way would be to keep the SSS at 4 years and scrap that one year stay-at-home.

Another would be curriculum revision to take out those courses and subjects which are not relevant to every person. For example, a course like Pre-Technical Skills should be optional for only those intending to pursue that area of specialisation. Catering and sewing should be taught in our homes.

These revisions would put less pressure on students and help them focus on the essential subjects so that they may be able to complete the block system in a shorter duration.
MIghTy African said…
s for that one gap year, I think it's indirectly related to the WASSCE. It takes too long to mark it (for whatever reason). If the exam is changed a lil n the marking is done quicker, the gap year could be removed.

I don't think the one-year is terrible if the students could find some job, or something to keep them busy. Remember, that year used to be a 'national service' year.

I believe they put in vocational and technical skills for students to have some kind of skill in case they could continue schooling after JSS. I think it's okay.

The bigger issue is having students pursue what they are stronger in rather than bowing to peer pressure where everyone wants their kid to do science. Once, they figure this, then they can be trained adequately. If u make pre-tech optional, how many people will opt for that?
Eche Sica said…
Super post Ato! I had to read this more than enjoyable! You know, we're just to inflexible in Ghana. Why not have it both ways? Keep it officially at 4 years but allow those who can to graduate at the 3rd year. Like the common entrance exams.

You have always been a great debater Ato and you certainly turned the style on with this piece. Good job bro!
E A Gamor said…
Interesting read. I was almost distracted by the pop references that kept each side's assertions interesting ["Catch them young and they shall be yours forever." - Pusha Things we do for Love] I heard about the 3-4-3 change recently and didn't get the point. Like the Health care reform in the States, there are definitely comprehensive changes that need to made at all levels. Curriculum, funding and course selection, and examination grading notwithstanding.
Your debating skills are too tough, hehehe. Reminds me of Odadeɛ days too. [Chaa-Nana] My regards to our Presec mother, Mrs. Acheampong.
MIghTy African said…
@Eche, thanks o!

It seems people like the idea of pegging it at 4 years but allowing students to write the exam at the end of the third year. I like this idea.

I still feel the curriculum needs a change to introduce concepts earlier and of course, there should be a general increase in quality of education.

It's completely enjoyable that this kind of funny, witty debating style works. It's almost like you are 'dissing' the other guy in a nice way.
I'd always felt it was mad cool to fight with words, say witty, smart things to make your opponent feel horrible. Through debating, you get to do it ;-)
Kwabena said…
I have been following this debate closely from 2000 when the NPP promised a 4-year SSS if voted into power through the NDC promising a 3-year SHS in 2008. I am for a 3-years SHS. I went through the SHS in 2 1/2 years. 2001-2003. I think we're missing the key arguements here. It's not about cost or how much you will spend in the SHS. You'll still be foolish after 10 years if the curricula is not the best and teachers are not paid well. How do you expect students to learn without textbooks?
The changing to 4 years was political. It was in fufilment of a campaign promise in 2000 and it wasn't the recommendation of the Anamoah Committee. Likewise, the reversal was political. Let's take politics out of the arguement and consider it from an apolitical view.
If we want to ensure good standards and have the best of students coming out of the SHS, we need to tackle the curricula first, provide study materials and pay teachers well.
I taught at St. James Seminary & Senior High for my national service and I can say that the school as at now isn't ready for a 4 year SHS. How many schools have structures to support 3 years let alone 4 years? 4 years, we're talking about dinning hall expansion, domitory expansion, additional classrooms and more teachers.
WE DON"T NEED OUR STUDENTS TO SPEND FOUR YEARS IN SCHOOL. All they need is the right conditions.
MIghTy African said…
well said, Kwabena.

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