Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister of Education
Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister of Education

Academic calendar reset is good news

One sector that was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic globally is the educational sector.

Indeed, many countries are still struggling because of the trail of devastation left behind by the pandemic. For instance, apart from the complete closure of schools, the pandemic has seriously impacted negatively on the academic calendar.

In their attempt to sustain learning, schools resorted to online learning, which in itself, led to the widening of disparity in learning outcomes between children in the urban and rural areas.

While some countries have since recovered from the impact of the pandemic, others are still struggling to come out of it. For instance, the country continues to write Ghana Only Version of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination for School Candidates (WASSCE-SC), while the academic year is yet to be reverted to the normal May/June and September/October academic year.

This has resulted in the inability of managers of pre-tertiary schools to tell when a term or semester begins or ends.

The situation also led to instances where students were unable to write their end-of-semester examinations because the closing date was suddenly announced and the schools were unable to conduct the examinations. 

However, on September 13, 2023, the Ghana Education Service (GES) issued a memo to all regional directors of education on the decision of management to revert the academic calendar of basic schools to the pre-COVID-19 era.

The first term of the 2023-2024 academic year, therefore, will begin on October 3, 2023, according to the reset calendar. This announcement is not only pleasing to the management, teachers and students alone, but also to parents, who had to contend with unplanned expenditures and other inconveniences  because there was no stable academic calendar.

The Daily Graphic believes that the reversal will enable parents, guardians and education authorities to plan effectively unlike the post-COVID-19 era where it was difficult to do so in view of the frequent changes. Truth be told, the COVID-19 era seriously affected all actors in the sector.

We, therefore, join the rest of Ghanaians to welcome the decision by the GES to revert the academic calendar to the pre-COVID-19 era to normalise academic activites and help ensure proper planning for effective teaching and learning, and position education as the pivot of the transformational agenda of the President. 

While we welcome the reversal, we support calls for an evaluation mechanism to quantify the negative effect of the COVID-19 era and how the reversal might affect the students. This is particularly important, especially for the senior high schools, where the final-year students who would be writing the WASSCE-SC would have a relatively short time to prepare for their final examination with this reversal.

We agree with the organisation that such an evaluation would be helpful so that the GES, and for that matter, the Ministry of Education should take remedial action and where there is the need for adjustment, that is done.

In diagnosing the impact this reversal would have on the final-year students, the Daily Graphic proposes an intensive crash programme for the students so that they are not exceptionally disadvantaged at the end of the day.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that a crash programme will be organised for final-year students in the country. In the year 2020, when schools were shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, final-year students were recalled in less than four months to write both the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and WASSCE. 

Admittedly, it is a natural occurrence that for every step that is taken in life, some people will be disadvantaged and so is this reversal, but the kind of steps taken can assuage the impact.  

It is in the light of this that the role of parents in this whole enterprise is crucial as it can help the students and their respective school authorities to give their best.

As we welcome the reversal of the academic calendar, the question is, have we learnt any lessons from COVID-19?

We hope that the managers of the education sector will use the COVID-19 era as a learning curve to address future eventualities.

We must be prepared at any time.

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