The Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) continues to serve its purpose as the precursor to secondary education in Ghana
Over the years, the BECE has remained crucial because it serves as the sole means to determine the fortunes of prospective candidates from the Junior High Schools, who could successfully make it to the Senior High Schools.
In the past, school authorities and other admission bodies of the various Senior High Schools had the prerogative to determine which students could gain admission to their schools.
The exercise of discretion was, however, done in accordance with the fact that the prospective candidates must always meet the school’s cutoff point in order to be given admission.
This practice, which existed for many years, if not decades, was cumbersome and counter-productive, as it widened the gap between the perceived well-endowed schools and the less resourced ones.
For instance, the cutoff point for some schools in the past were between aggregate six and nine, while others had up to fifteen as their cutoff point for admission.
Meanwhile, the pass mark or aggregate for admission into secondary schools, as set by some of the schools, were an affront to the criteria set by the ministry of education.
In effect, most students who had their basic education in rural areas and less endowed Junior High Schools and, therefore, struggled to make single digits grades, could not be admitted into any of the perceived well-endowed schools.
In order to address the menace and create a more favourable and level playing field for all candidates who desired to attain High School education, the Ministry of Education introduced the Computerised Schools Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) in 2004.
It was deemed to be the antidote to the bottlenecks that bedevilled the old manual selection system, which concentrated on the actual grades of JHS graduates seeking admissions. In fact, the CSSPS intended to use the raw scores obtained by candidates in the four core subjects and any other two best subjects, in order to enable the prospective SHS admission seekers to be successful.
However, after many years, the CSSPS has seemingly failed to address the concerns of many Ghanaians, regarding what has become known as the status quo, enjoyed by the well-endowed schools.
This is because these schools, which are often referred to as Grade A or Ivy league Schools, continue to enjoy the monopoly of admitting students with best grades from the JHS.
Arguably, this is one of the reasons why some well known schools in the country continue to dominate and maintain good passes yearly, as far as the WASSCE results are concerned.
It is also important to stress that these well-endowed schools are well structured and resourced with adequate infrastructure and the needed teaching and learning materials with conducive academic environment.
These factors cannot be overlooked when determining what contributes to teaching and learning, as well as students’ ability to pass their final WASSCE exams
In a sharp contrast, prospective admission seekers who perform not so well at the BECE level are mainly placed in less resourced schools with poor infrastructure and are basically handicapped.
What is more worrying is the fact that at the end of day when final WASSCE results are released, these category A schools, which only admit students with good grades, are graded with the less endowed schools, where those who perform poorly were admitted.
The minister of education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, who is seemingly worried about this development has shared an interesting perspective on this rather sad development, which is a man made one
According to the minister, the Grade A schools beat their chest when students with good grades from the BECE are sent to them and they [schools] help the students to pass the WASSCE
However, the less endowed schools, which admit students with poor BECE results, are always downgraded when their students fail to perform creditably well, at the end of their WASSCE.
We, at the Chronicle, find this situation to be highly unacceptable because it represents the perpetration of injustice and seems to denigrate teachers who teach at the less endowed schools where students struggle to pass.
It is in the light of this that we support the call by the minister of education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, that “Grade A” schools must be ready to accept students with low grades and make them top students who could easily pass the WASSCE with high flying colours.
The minister said “So when Mighty JAPASS take in aggregate 30 and 40, and the students don’t do well, and they say, look at them. They are not that good. And when we send the best BECE students to the Grade A schools and they pass, they beat their chest and say they are the best school and have the best teachers. They need to prove that with such students as well,”
In our view, the minister was spot on. In our sincerest opinion, the minister has an oversight responsibility over the system used to place the students in Senior High Schools across the country.
Therefore, if he truly desires to cause a paradigm shift and successfully change the age old status quo, where students with good grades are placed in the Grade A schools, this is the time to bite the bullet.