Ghana’s leading all-talk radio station, Asempa FM is set to roll out a thought leadership forum that seeks to spearhead policy discussions in the country.

The discussions, which will be held quarterly, would focus on detailed discussions of policies and other issues of national interest – and how to solve challenges with these issues to build a better Ghana.

Exactly one week from today, on November 27, the finest brains in education will gather at the Alisa Hotel in Accra to dissect the government’s Free Senior High School policy as part of the maiden edition of the forum.

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This discussion hopes to find innovative ways of sustaining the policy and rid it of its current challenges.

Deputy Education Minister Yaw Osei Adutwum is expected to be in attendance and to open the discussion with a half an hour presentation on the topic.

After, policy think tank, IMANI, teacher unions including GNAT and NAGRAT and other experts in educations will have their turn in the discussion. Host of political talk show, Ekosii S3n on Asempa FM, Philip Osei Bonsu will moderate the event.

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Synopsis of the Free SHS Policy

The free SHS education policy began in September 2017.  The policy, according to the Education Ministry, seeks to address inequality and ensure equal opportunities for all students through the removal of cost barriers in public second cycle schools.

All approved fees currently charged to students in public Senior High Schools (SHS) and Technical and Vocational Education and Training schools (TVETs) are absorbed by the government.

Implementation challenges and the double track system

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According to the Education Ministry, a Ghanaian student qualifies for Free SHS once he/she sits the BECE and is subsequently placed by Computerized School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) into a Public-funded second cycle institution.

The implementation of the policy has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students enrolled in senior high school. The number of students enrolled increased from 361,771 in 2017 to 472,730 in 2018; representing a 30.7% increase.

However, the implementation of the policy has been plagued by challenges including overcrowding of some schools, limited number of teachers and inadequate facilities, among others.

To address the challenges and deepen access, the government has introduced a double track system which divides the entire student body and staff into two different tracks. So while one track is in school, the other is on vacation.

The need for broad consultation  

Some stakeholders including National Graduate Teachers Association (NAGRAT) and the Conference of Heads of Assisted Senior High Schools (CHASS) have bemoaned the lack of broad consultation on the implementation of the double track system.

Some think tanks such as IMANI Ghana have also raised critical questions on how the programme is being financed.

This stakeholder forum seeks to ventilate the issues and challenges of the implementation of the free SHS policy and how to sustain the programme with the view of making proposals for policymakers to consider and adopt.