Ghana’s Common Core Curriculum/JHS Penumbra: What We Must Know and Do!
- Junior High School (JHS) teachers are in a limbo on which curriculum to use after completing 8 weeks of catch up learning using the old curriculum, as recommended by the Ghana Education Service (GES). Basic schools were originally scheduled to commence teaching in the Common Core Curriculum (CCC) in JHS from the third week of March. However, this is yet to materialize even as we commence April. Worringly, teachers do not even know why or the way forward, as they remain in a fix, awaiting instructions from their employer who is equally in a state of confusion.
- The Common Core concept is popular in federal states where there usually exist different curricula across states, thereby ensuring a standard Common Core Competency every child must attain throughout the country, by making some subjects compulsory. While one is yet to appreciate why it was recommended in Ghana since we already have one national curriculum, its contents are a great and relevant upgrade to the existing core subjects, and assures of a wider horizon for our future human capital in this fast globalizing and technology driven 21st Century.
- That is why we at Education Watch see the CCC as an equitable intervention to ensure every child who enrolls in kindergarten acquires the Common Core Competencies in a Republic where there is a Constitutional guarantee and policy of a Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (fCUBE). However, the are equity issues with its design within the current legal context of Ghana’s education system, which has a tendency of excluding 15% of basic school leaners from attaining the Common Core Competencies.
- First, within the new Curriculum Reform’s revised nomenclature, primary school is now BS 1-6, JHS is BS 7-9, and Senior High School (SHS) 1 is BS 10. The CCC is designed to start from BS 7 to BS 10. To complete the CCC therefore, one must complete BS 10. This was premised on government’s envisioned amendment of the Education Act 778 by redefining basic education to include SHS through the new Pre-Tertiary Education Act. If that was successful, there would have been a seamless progression from BS 9 to BS 10 without any BECE or selection qualification.
- Unfortunately, this could not materialize in November 2020 as it turned out to be unconstitutional. Presently, basic education which is free, universal and ‘compulsory’ ends at BS 9 while the CCC is designed to end at BS 10.
- Given the statusquo where 15% of students who complete BS 9 are not able to enter BS 10, and therefore cannot attain the full Common Core Competencies required of every Ghanaian child, the concept in its present form has lost relevance on universality grounds as it excludes ‘poor’ students. On uniformity grounds, since Ghana has only one public school curriculum across all regions, one wonders its structural applicability as we are not federal. There is nothing to standardize curriculum-wise across regions.
- In August 2020, when it became apparent that parliament was not likely to approve the proposed redefinition of basic education to include SHS, we raised these issues, only to hear of Cabinet’s approval in the news. Unlike the primary school curriculum which we were invited to make inputs in a stakeholder forum, for which we did, we did not have a similar opportunity with the CCC, probably due to the COVID-19 disruptions to stakeholder and public engagement, even though there existed virtual options of seeking inputs from the citizenry.
- Later in the year, after parliament’s failure to approve the redefinition, the options were three:
A. Redesign the structure of the CCC from 4 to 3 years and complete same at JHS (BS 7-9).
B. Maintain the current 4-year structure of the CCC and increase JHS to four (4 ) years; reduce SHS to two (2 ) years, with only four (4 ) subjects-one core and three (3) electives. Just like A’Level.
C. Maintain the current 4-year structure of the CCC; increase JHS to 4 years; and maintain SHS at three (3) years with same subject composition.
- Either way, it was obvious we required and indeed, do require a way to finish the CCC at the basic level to achieve equity in quality. Our indecision on the above issues is the reason we find ourselves in a limbo today. The GES and MoE are torn among others, between continuing to implement a CCC that only those who enter SHS could complete; or implement a CCC which shall be accessible to every Ghanaian child of school going age.
- Again, another source of the current confusion is a certain proposed High School Diploma which has even already been announced by His Excellency Nana Addo. According to government, a High School Diploma will be awarded after a successful assessment and completion of the CCC in SHS 1. Students would then chose between an academic or a career programme the next two years after obtaining the High School Diploma Certificate.
- We don’t know what will happen to those who do not pass that assessment. What we know is, this is another practice in other Western and Francophone countries whose relevance is another penumbra, as not all schools for instance may have TVET opportunities for those who may chose TVET Careers after the High School Diploma. Don’t forget that contrary to what exists in countries implementing this concept, not all schools in Ghana have TVET capacity for instance. So what happens when a TVET career is chosen by a student in a non-TVET school after the High School Diploma, bearing in mind school placement occurs only once before SHS?
- Also, in these countries where the High School Diploma concept works, there is no BECE. In our case, since all our assessments is test based, our children will likely write two major exam within two years-BECE and High School Diploma Exam, which is not only tedious but a diversion from the gradual global diversion from test based assessments.
- Given the status-quo, eventhough we are not Professors of Education; neither do we profess to be knowledgeable like or than governments Education Policy and Curriculum Advisors, we wish to propose to the MoE the following actions on the basis of equity, relevance and expediency:
A. Abridge the 4-Year CCC into 3 years and run it form JHS 1 to 3.
B. Forget about the High School Diploma and maintain our SHS curriculum structure where subject specialization starts from form 1. Any improvements in SHS curriculum must not affect structure; only content.
C. As a country, never again should we rush through a curriculum reform process, especially when it involves structural changes. We should always give at least two years moratorium for adequate simulation, and implementation planning to prevent today’s avoidable, yet extremely uncomfortable situation. In addition, we must be careful about what we import into our education system, especially when it is obvious they are not applicable.
- Time is of serious essence in this COVID-19 stricken academic calendar. In this regard, MoE and GES should not only fix this urgently, but must be seen to be fixing it.
- While we are confident in the capacity and ability of the current leadership of the MoE to resolve this quagmire, it would be much appreciated if there is some official communication on the processes. Keeping teachers, parents, students and the general public in the dark on such a critical matter is not part of the solution, as this is not just an employer-employee issue between GES and their teachers; It is a Public Interest matter.