This happens to be the first in the series of articles that I set to produce on education for this year. And on that score, I salute the Manhyia South MP, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, on his appointment as the new Education Minister of our Republic.
It is appropriate for us as teachers, education workers, parents, students, citizens and stakeholders to always remind ourselves of pertinent education acts, policies and programmes, such as the 2008 Education Act 778, and to work hard for their growth.
Society is dynamic, hence, the need for our nation’s education system to be as malleable as ever so as to contain useful modifications on its structure, content and management for it to keep up with the changing trends.
The evolving nature of society as against our philosophy on education as a nation, this write-up believes, is what might have triggered the birth of policy reviews, such as the 1973 Dzobo Education Report (which recommended the JSS Concept), the Education Review of 1987, the 1988 University Rationalisation Committee Report and the 1996 Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme. And not forgetting the 2000 Education Act 581 (which established the GET Fund), the Anamuah-Mensah Education Review of 2007 and the Education Strategic Plan (2010-2020)!
The fact is that several attempts have been made and shall continue to be made to adopt an education system which is relevant to the total attainment of our needs and aspirations and which can help improve the living conditions of all citizens.
We have had, as a country, major education acts, such as the Accelerated Development Plan for Education (1951), the Education Act 87 (1961) and the Education Act 778, which is the most recent Act that this write-up seeks to briefly dilate on with readers.
Objective of Education Act 778
The GES School Management Committee Resource Handbook (2010) says the objective of the Education Act 778, which is still in operation, is to provide for the establishment of an educational system intended to produce well-balanced individuals with the requisite knowledge, skills, values, aptitudes and attitudes to become functional and productive citizens for the total development and democratic advancement of the nation.
Levels of education in Education Act 778
The Education Act 778, a legal product of the National Education Reform (2007), has put our nation’s education system into three progressive levels, namely; basic education, which consists of two years of kindergarten education, six years of primary education and three years of junior high school education.
The Act 778 makes second-cycle education four years for senior high school education (but which was reverted to three years in 2009), technical, vocational, business and agricultural education, or appropriate apprenticeship training of not less than one year; as well as tertiary education at the university, polytechnic or college of education as established by an Act of Parliament or accredited by the National Accreditation Board.
Under the Act, provisions have been made for non-formal and life-long education as the Ministry of Education and District Assemblies (DAs) establish open colleges in the country’s districts. The open colleges and life-long educational establishments are expected to provide avenues for formal education and skill training as determined by the Minister of Education through a legislative instrument.
The content of Education Act 778
The Education Act 778 seems to have presented some lofty packages for the nation, including the right for every child of, at least, four years to access basic school education as recognised for that purpose by the Minister of Education.
The Act, through FCUBE, allows for free and compulsory access to basic education with DAs providing the needed infrastructure and other facilities in educating the child. And to ensure that every child enjoys quality basic education, the Act creates the room for parents, who deny their children education, to appear before the social welfare committees of DAs for appropriate action(s) to be taken.
The Act, therefore, believes and pleads for help at ensuring that education is made for “All” regardless of one’s sex, physical disability, tribe, geographic location, economic status or political affiliation. To this end, any parent, who fails to obey the recommendation(s) of any social welfare committee, shall be deemed to have committed an offence and which may be liable for prosecution at the law courts.
Meanwhile, parents, who truly lack the financial wherewithal, may be helped by DAs to send their children to school. And with the recent announcement by President Akufo-Addo that from September, this year, there will be a wholly free access to senior high, technical and vocational education, parents are expected to record some great measure of financial relief and then be motivated to send their children to school.
The Act also gives the Education Minister the incentive to initiate measures for implementing an effective decentralisation programme, where DAs shall have the executive duty to provide and manage basic and second-cycle schools in the country.
One good thing about education acts and reforms is that they do not just emerge from anywhere and anyhow. They are usually an upgrade of what is already in existence or has existed before following proper assessment and evaluation of an existing system.
A careful analysis of the content of the Education Strategic Plan (2010-2020), for example, which gives prominence to policies, such as Inclusive Education, ICT in Education, technical and vocational education, non-formal education, HIV/AIDS education, among others, tells us that nothing comes from the skies. They are simply an add-on to the already existing educational Acts and Plans, including the Act 778.
No educational act, plan, policy, programme or project, no matter how attractive it may appear, can succeed without the support of stakeholders, including teachers, parents and organisations. So let’s all continue to strive for our nation’s education to develop!
By Anthony Kwaku Amoah
The writer is an educationist and a public relations officer of Ghana Education Service