Whoever taught you must be put in jail!’ – Principal of GIS calls on Ghana to reimagine SHS education

Dr. Ashun
Principal of GIS, Dr. Mary Ashun

As final year students in 987 public and private Senior High Schools (SHSs) complete their SHS education in Ghana on Friday, 7th June 2019, the discourse on quality education is being championed by the principal of Ghana International School (GIS), Dr. Mary Ashun. 

There is a 9.2 percent increase in the number of students completing this phase of their education this year. The number is made up of 170,867 males and 175,231 females, higher than the 316,980 candidates who wrote it in 2018.  This number is expected to hike because of the Free Senior High School policy by the government. The business and Financial Times (B&FT) newspaper has indicated because of the policy ‘the total student population in secondary schools across the country could hit over one million, making it the highest since independence.’

The policy is focused on making SHS education accessible, equitable and quality.  As SHS education is becoming more accessible and equitable, how to improve its quality has been the focus of many Ghanaians. 

Dr. Ashun, was speaking on #reImaginingAFRICA, a series of discussions on the global radio show The Spin.  Hosted by Esther Armah, a re-knowned journalist and lecturer, Dr. Ashun said education in Ghana’s schools, and those across Africa, has to be reimagined.

‘Who ever taught you must be put in jail, because, it is a crime to churn out people, tell them that you are educated, here is your diploma now go out to the big, big world and make something of yourself because we have taught you and this person cannot even cope,’ she said.

She added that for education to be impactful, the excellent ideas in the curricula must be evident in the classroom.

‘We produce reems and reems of policy documents. When it comes to the class room then we don’t know how to turn that into engaging classrooms,’ she continued.

Other questions raised by Dr. Ashun on The Spin were: ‘What are the factors that go into learning? How do we know that the curriculum that we are teaching is going to position our children to be effective?’

As a result of the Free SHS policy the education sector has received unprecedented financial support. In the  2017/2018 academic year the government spent a little over ¢800 million according to a deputy minister of education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum on the policy.  That amount spiked as ¢600 million was spent on the first and second year groups in the first term of the 2018/2019 academic year.

But visionary educator Dr. Ashun makes it clear that: ‘The amount that government spends on education is nowhere near what it needs to be spending.’

She believes that senior high school students should  enjoy education, and myths surrounding education, such as learning must be hard to be valued, need to be debunked. This is necessary for the required impact of the teaching and learning process.

‘I can’t see anyone who did not love learning of some sort and who has been of impact’, she said.

Dr. Ashun clarified that education is not for the few, it can and should be for all of us.  ‘Everybody can learn! We all just learn differently at different paces with different stimuli’. She continued  ‘the fact that someone is really good at Maths and sciences doesn’t make them cleverer than the person who is really good in history and geography.’

This batch of students are the last not to benefit from the government’s flagship Free Senior High School policy, which began two years ago. .This year’s candidates are also the first to be biometrically verified  before being allowed to sit for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

By: Kofi Boateng

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Joe Bright Nyarko Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.