The renewal of licences for established schools will now be done every three years, the Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, has directed.
The schools are, however, supposed to pay their licence (subscription) fees yearly.
Explaining the rationale for the decision, the minister said the yearly licensing “puts the schools on edge that this year, they are licensed, next year they may not be licensed and so, what we have directed as a ministry is that the licensing regime should be three years.
“In that way, we are separating licensing from the mere payment of fees that are due to National Schools Inspectorate Authority (NaSIA),” Dr Adutwum explained.
He said what NaSIA sought to do with the publication of the list of schools that had not paid their licences for the 2021/2022 was meant to indicate that those schools were “delinquent” and not that they were not licensed.
“All that NaSIA sought to do was to indicate that their fees have delayed. They were no way saying that those schools that were published have no authority to operate in the country,” he further clarified.
Dr Adutwum gave the explanation in an interview to throw light on the standoff between high schools that run international programmes in the country and the National Schools Inspectorate Authority (NaSIA) over their delay in regularising their licences to operate in the country.
NaSIA, in a press statement, listed 74 schools running the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) curriculum in the country out of which it said only 16 had been licensed for the 2021/2022 academic year.
Again, out of the 10 schools that claimed to have been accredited to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum in the country, the authority said only five had been licensed for the 2021/2022 academic year.
But the Association of International Certification Schools (ASICS) Ghana, representing 42 international curriculum schools, expressed "great disappointment" with the move by NaSIA, insisting that, “ASICS would like to state categorically that all our schools are duly accredited with the respective international regulatory bodies."
The association said its member schools had always been open to inspection and monitoring since that promoted best practice, and added that it was the desire of the association to work with local agencies in transparency and integrity.
Section 98 (2&3) of the Education Regulatory Bodies Act 2020 (Act 1023) requires all schools in the country to be licensed by NaSIA before they can operate.
Decouple fee payment from licensing
However, Dr Adutwum explained further that in extending the licensing period for three years, “that will then decouple fee payment and licensing”.
“In the education space, you cannot use year-to-year fee payment as licence. Licensing goes beyond fees and that then decouples the fee payment from licensure,” the minister stated.
He added that a school that had not paid the mandatory fees should not be equated to not being licensed.
Dr Adutwum said if the school was in good standing, the teachers were standard and the facilities had no challenges, “why should such a school be described as not licensed just because it has not fulfilled one out of the 20 things needed to do to be in good standing”?
He explained that the yearly licensing regime was not the best, especially for expatriates, who might be looking for a school in the country, stressing that if the licensing period was one year, “he must be worried because the following year, the school may not be licensed.”
Impact of COVID-19
Dr Adutwum, therefore, asked the Inspector-General of Schools, Dr Haggar Hilda Ampadu, to work closely with the private schools to resolve some of the concerns the schools were raising.
He acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had seriously affected those schools, resulting in most of them losing heavily.
“Schools are struggling. Some of them lost everything and so, now that they are back, it is incumbent on NaSIA to work with them in a cooperative way to ensure that they can come back on track,” Dr Adutwum explained.
He gave an assurance that the government understood their plight and was sympathetic to private schools, saying it was the reason for which when the government was distributing the COVID-19 personal protective equipment, the private schools were included.
The Education Minister described the licensure issue of schools as “sensitive” and should be navigated well because “Cambridge literally can tell Ghana International School (GIS) to shut down because if you are not locally recognised, an international organisation does not want to give you their accreditation.
“Their accreditation should go hand in hand with the local government’s requirements,” Dr Adutwum explained.