DIAGNOSING THE ILLS OF GHANA EDUCATION SYSTEM -Part II (When Exam Becomes Scapegoat)
Reforming education goes beyond just changing names and span or scraping a particular exam.
Our problems in education have become very deep-seated and numerous. It appears as though
much thinking is not put into the formulation of our educational policies. It is as if as a people,
we are literally gearing ourselves up for a free for all life. A life of no merits and demerits, just a
confused huddle of knee jerk arrangements and decisions for the masses.
Several commentators have criticised the many subjects we have forced our wards to read since
the inception of the new reforms in education. This ‘Jack-of-all-master-of-none’ kind of
approach to our education can only be quantitative and not qualitative. There have been
suggestions that we guide our children to specialise quite early but to no avail. It is so common
to see a BECE candidate who does not have any idea about what course he/she wants to read at
the next level. The Guidance and Counselling units which used to guide our students to make the
right choices in subject combinations and similar matters are themselves caught up in the
insensitive generalisation and mainstreaming syndrome pervading in the Ghanaian educational
Even with the current practice of selecting the right school and the course to pursue has always
been problematic. Whilst some parents and guardians continue the age long practice of dictating
what course they feel their wards should study, others do not have any idea at all. Like their
wards, such ignorant group of parents fully depends on headteachers and teachers to determine
what paths their wards chart on the educational plane. So, by implication, "the square pegs in
round holes" syndrome starts right at our schools at the course selection point. The consequence
of headteachers and teachers choosing schools and courses for students is the persistent poor
showing in the BECE. Now, without the exams, how are all these intricacies of selection going
to be handled?
I intimated in Part 1 of this write-up that products of our different levels of education must be
tailored to suit particular needs. I strongly believe that if BECE were scrapped, the kind of
students passing through to the next level will be mostly undefined. It will be very difficult to
determine who goes to Grammar, Technical/ Vocational or who pursues apprenticeship at the
non-formal sector. That means that, after the JHS experience, the market place can only expect a
mass of graduates without direction, knocking their heads at every possible avenue for survival
like the proverbial millipede. Our human resource should be educated, premised on intent,
direction and purpose. It should never be an ‘anyhow does it’ affair.
Furthermore, doing away with BECE will certainly lead to massive job cuts and dwindling
incomes. The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for once, might go out of business.
The small and medium scale exam consortiums and related businesses will suffer. When BECE
is discarded, demand for teachers for private engagements will surely be lowered. Private
schools may employ fewer hands and minds. Supervisor and invigilator roles hired out to
teachers for additional income will cease.The women who sell food and other wares at the exams
centres usually for five good days are going to miss that opportunity.
Proponents of the cancellation of the BECE argue that, other forms of assessment are yielding far
better results in some places. The reason is simple. Teaching methods are child-centred, activity-
centred, practical and pragmatic. Remember that, we in Ghana are still struggling to effectively
and efficiently utilise the appropriate pedagogies. Scientific assessment of students should go
hand in hand with improved, new methods of teaching, provision of facilities and teaching
resources such as modern classrooms, well stocked libraries, functional ICT labs, science labs
and even language studios. Is it not a shame that some communities still cannot boast of a decent
classroom block? The nations we cite in our arguments in favour of scrapping the BECE, have
modern classrooms fitted with electronic teaching boards. ICT tools for teaching and learning are
used systematically and progressively. Let us stop playing the ostrich in our approach to
managing and solving our problems, especially at the education front.
Our problems in education are numerous and can not be solved by merely withdrawing or
cancelling an important assessment programme like the BECE. Real genuine efforts must be
directed towards solving and truly reforming education in Ghana.
Source: Ebenezer Fie