CHAIRMAN of the Governing Council of Dominion University College, Professor Felix Nikoi Hammond, who is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy of UK, has commended the central government for implementing the free Senior High School (SHS) educational policy, urging President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to take another look at how SHS funding is disbursed
The implementation, according to him, was a major step towards tackling socio-economic inequality, improving educational attainment and widening secondary school access to the disadvantaged and underprivileged.
He added, giving every child an equal chance of going to secondary school, was no mean achievement.
He hoped, however, that “this step would be followed immediately with initiatives to radically enhance the quality of secondary education in Ghana.”
He said this in an interview with the press in Accra.
The free SHS policy was implemented in September when the 2017/2018 academic year commenced.
The programme started with first-year students in all public SHSs and technical and vocational education training (TVET) institutions across the country. The policy absorbs all approved fees that are charged in all public SHSs and TVET institutions before the 2017/2018.
But it has been fraught with challenges, some of which led to the introduction of the double track system.
According to Prof Hammond, the current approach to disbursing free SHS budget to state schools limits students’ choices, which can have a negative effect on the performance of students.
Disbursing the monies directly to state schools, he said, forces free SHS beneficiary students to choose schools that the monies will be disbursed to even if they would have preferred a private alternative.
A student’s entitlement to government support for their SHS education should be based on the grounds that they are citizens of Ghana and not because they are prepared to attend a state school, he argued.
He, therefore, proposed a disbursement model that he called Per Student Budgetary Allocation (PSBA).
He explained that under the PSBA, each beneficiary student would be entitled to a budgetary allocation for his or her SHS education.
The student is then allowed the freedom to choose where to have his or her SHS education. This could be another state school or a private school.
His or her entitlement is then transferred to the chosen school. If it turns out that the fees at a chosen private school are more than the student’s PSBA, it will then be the responsibility of the student to cover the difference.
He further explained, “so, rather than compelling students to go to a school because the free SHS funds will be sent there, as the case is currently, under the proposed PSBA, the money will follow the student to his or her chosen school. This gives students freedom of choice, a hallmark of a free society.
Besides, as he puts it, “the PSBA will ensure that a wider range of factors beyond where government would send the money will influence students’ choice of schools.”
Students will, for instance, consider quality, facilities, discipline, opportunities for co-curricular activities and so on. Schools will be forced to compete for students.
He was of the view that this will force schools to take active steps to make themselves more appealing to students in order to attract their PSBA.
Schools that are less attractive will experience falling student numbers which will force management of those schools to introduce more innovative and student-centred initiatives to make them more attractive to prospective and existing students.
Story: Freeman KORYEKPOR AWLESU
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