Education Ministry must focus on the curriculum, not new set of uniforms

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How pupils of basic schools will look like in their white and blue uniforms.
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There is no doubt that branding or rebranding is a strategic initiative for marketing institutions. In this sense, the Ministry of Education’s effort towards rebranding public basic education for the purpose of image enhancement is worth commending.

Indeed, over the past years, public image of state-owned basic schools has been lower compared to that of private basic schools. Hence, despite the high fees charged by private schools, some parents go to all lengths to get their children enrolled in private Schools.

 

In pursuit of the rebranding initiative, the Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei-Adutwum, recently unveiled a new set of uniforms for basic school pupils. Describing the features of the new uniforms, the Minister proudly remarked, “You see, you don’t see brown and yellow, we are rebranding public schools. No brown and yellow, blue and white, and we are changing the uniforms too. This is President Akufo-Addo and Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia’s Ghana”.

Author: Prof. George K.T. Oduro

While school uniforms play a key role in promoting identity and creating a sense of belonging among members of a school’s community, one would wonder if prioritizing school uniforms, in the Ministry of Education’s rebranding strategy, is what public basic education in our country really need to compete well with the private education sector.

 

Is the colour or nature of uniforms worn by pupils of public basic schools the primary reason for their poor performances in literacy and numeracy compared to private schools?  Is the type of prescribed school uniform a priority consideration for parents in choosing either public or private public school for their wards? Obviously, uniforms are not the primary cause of the image deficit in public basic school education.

 

I wonder if the Ministry of Education’s decision to prioritize school uniforms in its rebranding agenda was informed by competitor analysis to determine factors that contribute to the higher performance of private basic schools against the lower performance of public basic schools in the country.

 

If the Ministry had paid attention to competitor analysis, it would not have placed primacy on school uniforms. It would have prioritized any of the stakeholder concerns relating to the over 8,000 primary schools operating under trees, late release of capitation and feeding grant, insufficient infrastructure, inadequate textbooks, inadequate teaching & learning resources (TLRs), little/ no support for children with learning difficulties, inadequate equipped ICT laboratories and many others which tend to affect the image of public schools in the country. These are the practical factors that tend to disadvantage public basic schools as they compete with private basic schools and thereby blemish the image of public basic schools in the country.

 

The colour or nature of school uniforms contributes insignificantly to the factors that adversely affect the image of public basic schools. It is also important to note that public basic education has not been prioritized in terms of budgetary allocation. Available statistics, for example, suggests that in 2023, only 4% of the education budget was committed to primary education. Addressing these issues would be more assuring for enhancing the image of public basic schools because they will have direct impact on improving the academic performance of public basic schools. If the Minister of Education is therefore genuinely committed to rebranding public basic education towards enhancing its image, then the Ministry should rethink its prioritization of new school uniforms for public basic schools.

 

The Ministry must remember that no matter how beautiful the colour of the new uniforms are or how stylish they look, if the requisite human and material resources to support quality teaching and learning are absent, the low image of public basic education will remain a policy challenge.

By Prof. George K.T. Oduro, Institute for Educational Planning & Administration (IEPA), University of Cape Coast.