Double-track system: The pros and cons

BY: Salome Donkor
Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education
Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education

The academic year for first-year senior high school (SHS) students starts on September 11, with the commencement of a new educational system. This is the double-track system of education introduced by the government.

Unlike the single-track system, the new system is expected to divide the entire student body and staff into two different tracks.

This means that while one track is in school, the other is on vacation.

To begin the process, the Ghana Education Service (GES) on Tuesday, September 5, released the placements of 423,134 students who have successfully made it under the 2018 Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS).

This  number is out of a total of 521,710 registered candidates, meaning that 67,382 are yet to be placed under the system.

Divergent views

The announcement of the operation of a double-track system at the SHS level earlier this year generated divergent views on the issue.

The proponents of the programme have maintained that it will create room to absorb more students to enter SHSs, thus increasing enrolment, reducing class sizes, increasing contact hours and the duration of holidays, by making use of the existing infrastructure.

Additionally, it seeks to establish a commitment to raise the quality of education at the pre-tertiary level and lay emphasis on the acquisition of reading, writing, arithmetic and creativity as foundational skills.

On the other hand, major stakeholders in the education sector have called on the government to consult and collaborate with them on the newly introduced system.

According to them, holding such consultations would help deepen their understanding of the policy, particularly when their children and wards were the direct beneficiaries of the new system.

They have maintained that the seeming confusion and misunderstanding over the new education policies were mainly because many people, particularly parents, did not have a clear understanding of the policies, hence the need for  the government to engage them on the issue.

Educational dialogue

The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), in collaboration with the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), with support from STAR-Ghana, has held a series of educational dialogue on the double track system to deepen the understanding of stakeholders on the new education policy and to deliberate on ways to mitigate the potential challenges that might arise during its implementation.

Various issues relating to the implementation of the system were discussed at the programmes organised in the regions, as well as during other discussions at other levels.

Expressing his view at a forum held in the Northern Regional capital, Tamale, on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, the Regional Chairman of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Mr Mohammed Alhassan Saani, stated that the new policy was not a panacea to quality education but rather the provision of adequate infrastructure and logistics was.

He said instead of the government expanding boarding schools to accommodate more students under the double-track system, it must focus on posting the students to various private SHSs.

Others have also maintained that the new policy was not a panacea to quality education and, therefore, the government should concentrate on the provision of adequate infrastructure and logistics.

NAGRAT

At another Daily Graphic National Dialogue on Education Policy in Cape Coast in the Central Region, the Regional Chairman of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Mr Augustine Kofi Pennin, emphasised that the Ministry of Education (MoE) had not respected the views of teachers in rolling out the double-track system.

He said teachers had first-hand information on how access to quality education in the country could be improved, therefore, it was necessary to respect their views, stressing that, “though the decision to carry on with the system has already been taken, there is the need for the government to dialogue effectively with teachers.”

TEWU

The Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU), in a statement, also added its voice to the ongoing arguments and called for an urgent recruitment of non-teaching staff with the implementation of the double-track SHS system in the country.

That, it said, was vital for the smooth implementation of the system, stressing that, “TEWU is very much informed that with the free SHS, the student numbers have increased significantly and with this double-track system, the number is going to further balloon, and this is going to affect the workload of various workers on the campuses of the SHS.”

As the arguments on the pros and cons of the system continue, the government has maintained its commitment to make the system work. It expresses its determination to work tirelessly with all stakeholders to address the challenges that may arise as a result of the double-track intake.

Government’s commitment

Addressing the chiefs and people of Ada at the 80th Asafotufiami Festival on August 4, 2018, at a durbar to climax the celebration of this year’s Asafotufiami, celebrated by the chiefs and people of Ada (Ada East and West districts), President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said the introduction of the double-track system for SHSs in the 2018-2019 academic year would not destroy or disrupt the country's education system.

It is important to acknowledge the relevance of the assurances coming from the government, as well as the concerns by parents, civil society organisations and other stakeholders on the system.

Progressive government

As rightly stated by Professor Sitsofe Enyonam Anku, the founder of Meagasa Mathematics Academy at the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) Colloquium meeting at Koforidua on August 20, it was the responsibility of any progressive government anywhere to provide and promote sound educational policies.

It is also necessary to provide infrastructure that will help its people to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them to develop their potential, granted that education is one of the most important tools for national development.

 The advice from Prof Anku, other individuals, stakeholder groups and organisations, must be factored into the discussions and consultations to deepen the understanding of the policy, for the country to come out with comprehensive reforms of the pre-tertiary curriculum as part of the Ministry of Education’s ongoing reforms to transform the education sector.

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