What the absolute numbers tell us about the Free SHS policy so far

Two years ago, I wrote an article on the Free SHS policy titled “MOE AND GES ‘COOKING THE NUMBERS’ TO PUSH DOUBLE-TRACK SYSTEM?”

That article sought to question the numbers put out as argument for the impact the Free SHS policy was having and how much of a difference it was making to the second cycle education system.

The article, as the title suggested, also tried using the numbers to question if there was the need to subject students to the double track system especially when there was the opportunity to look at the same numbers and make innovative plans on accommodating all students instead of the piecemeal approach.

We appropriately got a rejoinder from the West African Examination Council which responded to the ‘allegation’ of cooking up of numbers. It explained the numbers put out as number of pupils that had completed JHS at the time included those who sat for the BECE re-sit.

Fast forward two years on, it will be only fair to relook at the numbers and using same to reevaluate the impact and some of the decisions around the Free SHS policy.

Who are the beneficiaries of FREE SHS?

According to the MOE projections, some 427,730 pupils would enroll out of the 521,710 candidates that sat for the 2018 BECE.

The number of students sitting for the WASSCE examination for the 2019/2020 academic year is 375,737.

A Break Down:

The numbers as projected by the ministry of education
  • The number of students sitting for this year’s WASSCE is 375,737.
  • That is some 51,993 short of the projected number of students the MOE had expected to be the first beneficiaries of FREE SHS
  • According to the Ghana National Council of Private Schools, some 34,371 students from 169 private schools are sitting for this year’s exams.
  • Thus the REAL beneficiaries of the first batch of free SHS are 341,366 (375, 737 – 34, 371)
  • This means some 86,364 of the pupils the MOE had expected to benefit from Free SHS did not for several reasons. These include but not limited to;
  1. The over 7,019 students who either did not turn up for their exams, or got their entire results cancelled
  2. The 34,371 students who opted for Private Education
  3. 44,974 who most likely terminated their education at the JHS level despite passing the BECE
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How does this compare to NON-FREE SHS era?

 Available data shows the FREE SHS policy has done little to change the trend in terms of the number that enters into senior high school.

Comparing data of students who sit for the Junior High School Examinations to those that end up sitting for the Senior High School final exams, one would say we have seen a drop in what had seem an upward trajectory over the past half a decade.

This is appalling especially since this first batch of SHS students included students who re-took the BECE; this batch were also beneficiaries that saw a change in the required pass mark to enter SHS. The marks were drastically lowered with grade 8 considered a pass mark.

These are the numbers:

In 2014, 422,946 took the BECE, 274,263 took the WASCCE. Meaning 65% of the students (presumably) who went to JHS completed SHS. A Whooping 35% of those did not (presumably with their mates).

The 2015 JHS batch had 66% completing SHS an increase of 1% (JHS=440,449). There was a 3% jump in number of pupils who progressed and sat for the WASSCE exams in the subsequent batch (461,009 to 316985).

The last batch of the non-beneficiaries of the FREE SHS policy had a significant jump; of the 468,060 graduates of the JHS system, some 74% ended up siting for the WASSCE with 26% ‘falling’ off.

Ironically however, despite the FREE SHS intervention, 72% of the people who sat for the BECE ended up sitting for the SHS final exams (521710 to 375,737).

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If one went a bit further and focused on the real number of FREE SHS beneficiaries, that percentage of JHS-to-SHS conversion rate reduces drastically (if you treated all the previous years as having experienced no significant intervention with the magnitude and investment levels as the Free SHS policy).

It therefore begs the question, is the FREE SHS policy really about the number of beneficiaries as compared to the benefit it gives parents in terms of financial relief.

It is also only fair to note, the first batch of final year students is not a good measure of the policy in its entirety on numbers but if the same projections inform decision at the subsequent levels such the double track system and perhaps monies allocated to this policy, such limited comparisons matter.

Part II soon.

By Cyril Dogbe|3news.com|Ghana

The writer is a producer and Head of morning shows at Media General. Views expressed in this article are his personal opinions and do not in any way reflect the position of 3news.com or any of its affiliates.