WASSCE 2023: UG Senior Lecturer Calls for Free SHS Policy Review

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS)-University of Ghana, Dr. Jerry Joe Harrison has questioned the emphasis on examination-centered quality measures, pointing out concerns about infrastructure, teaching contact hours, and overall educational quality. His comments follow the congratulatory message from the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Vice President, as well as criticisms from Former President John Dramani Mahama and Hon Clement Apaak regarding the performance of the 2023 WASSCE candidates.

In a social media post on Wednesday, December 20, 2023, the Ghana Education Service congratulated all 2023 WASSCE candidates for producing the best results in nine years.

Source: Ghana Education Service

Data from the GES showed passes in the core subjects: In 2015, during Mahama’s presidency, the pass rate for English Language was 45.20%, and by 2016, it moderately increased to 51.60%. Fast forward to 2023, under Akufo-Addo, the pass rate soared to 73.11%, a substantial improvement from 60.39% in 2022.

Similarly, Integrated Science showed improvement from 28.70% in 2015 (Mahama) to 48.35% in 2016. In 2023 (Akufo-Addo), the pass rate reached 66.82%, compared to 62.45% in 2022.
Mathematics results in Mahama’s era (2015) were at 32.40%, slightly increasing to 33.12% in 2016.

However, under Akufo-Addo, the pass rate in 2023 reached 62.23%, showing steady progress from 61.39% in 2022. Social Studies demonstrated stability with a marginal increase from 57.40% in 2015 (Mahama) to 54.55% in 2016. Recent years (Akufo-Addo) witnessed a noteworthy surge, with the pass rate reaching 76.76% in 2023, a substantial rise from 71.51% in 2022.

The social media post by GES, therefore, indicated “2023 result is the best in 9 years.”

During Mahama’s tenure (2015-2016), the pass rates in the core subjects exhibited moderate improvements. However, under Akufo-Addo’s leadership (2022-2023), there was a marked and substantial advancement across all those subjects, indicating a positive trend in academic performance.

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS)-University of Ghana, Dr. Jerry Joe Harrison

In an interview with MyNewsRoomGh’s Dickens Asare Ofori Adjei, Dr. Harrison underscored “the fact that the Government could procure ‘past questions’ for students as part of the Free SHS policy is a testament to the Government’s resolve to see a good examination outcome. However, this examination-centered quality measure does not adequately reflect the real imbibition of the various contents that are taught.”

“Against this backdrop and given the spate of examination malpractices recorded in recent years, I am less confident that this observed relative improvement in examination results is a true reflection of quality improvement in the implementation of the Free SHS. I must add that the scale of malpractices recorded, many of which involved school administrators, undermines the credibility of the examination results.” He added.

Although the education body noted a great jump with an average of 60% and above in the past five years’ performance in core subjects, Dr. Harrison supports Member of Parliament for Builsa South Constituency, Hon. Clement Apaak’s assertion that comparing recent WASSCE results to previous years is problematic due to the introduction of the customized Ghana-WASSCE from 2020 onwards.

“The customization of WASSCE for Ghana raised questions about the standard, whether it meets the standards set by the rest of the West African countries. It also makes it difficult to compare how our students are performing compared to our neighbors.”

“In the past, because all the students in West Africa took the same examination, it was possible to compare the performance of our students against their counterparts in other West African states. “

On December 26, 2023, John Dramani Mahama, the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) raised concerns about the authenticity of the recent results for the West Africa Senior Schools Certificate Examination (WASSCE). He alleges that some invigilators and teachers have been aiding students in cheating during the exams.

Discussing John Dramani Mahama’s proposal to review the Free SHS policy if he secures the 2024 presidential election, Dr. Harrison outlined critical areas that warrant urgent attention; merit payment system, restructuring boarding admissions, improving food quality, and addressing the teacher-to-student ratio.

“The infrastructure deficit itself is a problem for the sustenance of the policy and this needs to be addressed to ensure students can learn in comfort. In addition to classrooms, more dormitories and assembly halls need to be built as well as laboratories for science students, studios for students in other programs. These are a huge drain on the economy and that is why these have been largely ignored. However, the impact of these on the quality of education cannot be underestimated. A review must, therefore, place the students as well as the welfare of teachers at the center.”

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