GHANA NEEDS FREE, COMPULSORY AND QUALITY SHS SYSTEM
After months of competitive policy-based political debate on the proposed Free and Quality Senior High School Education, The Centre for National Affairs brings to the fore country-capability specific analysis and the imperatives of this policy.
The centre wishes to applaud the contribution and interventions made by civil society groups such as IMANI-GHANA and The Ghana National Education Coalition. Indeed, our collective efforts have deepened our understanding on the various dimension of the policy.
It is gratifying to state that, the series of interactions and discussions we have had as stakeholders in the education sector has brought clarity and further reshaped the focus of the policy.
Imperatives of free SHS
Our biggest worry as stakeholders has had to do with the rate of transition from Junior High School to Senior High School. Indeed, we are troubled by the development that between 2009 to2011, over five hundred and seventy thousand (574688 students-GES & WAEC) Ghanaian Junior High School students were not allowed entry into any of the Senior High Schools in Ghana on grounds that they could not pass the JHS exams. More disturbing is the fact that, this number keeps rising on an annual basis with a forecast of over two hundred thousand (200,000 students) drop-outs in successive years.
The above development coupled with the fact that JHS graduates generally are minors who do not have requisite skills and competences to engage in reasonable economic ventures on their own, it is really necessary at this stage that government refocuses it Education Policy to address this challenge. The Centre is convinced that FREE and QUALITY SHS policy as proposed by a number of political parties will once it is implemented properly resolve this disturbing development. Allowing for smooth transition for all students from JHS to SHS will effectively, offer the often minor JHS graduates some reasonable years to acquire usable skills and also mature at the SHS level. Interestingly, whilst the more matured tertiary students and SHS students are allowed to re-sit for a failed exams paper, their minor counterparts in JHS do not have a second chance. So once, a student fails the JHS WAEC exams, they automatically become school drop-outs. This development surely cannot be ignored.
Cost Implication and Feasibility
Once, government prioritizes this policy, it will come under the list of government priority items in its annual budgets. An action we strongly recommend. Ghana is presently below the UNESCO threshold of 6% of GDP allocation to Education. In 2011, Education to GDP ratio was 5.3 percent of rebased GDP. There is some fiscal space to meet the UNESCO recommended levels of at least 6%. Absorbing the additional cost of about fifty million (USD 50 Million) in the first year of implementing the policy will most certainly be containable within the national budget.
In the medium term, given that there would be required capital to develop infrastructure to meet the anticipated growth in enrolment and a fund to improve the condition of service of teachers and non-teaching staff, we anticipate a total amount of a little over two hundred and fifty million USD (USD 250 Million). This figure is based on trend analysis of government expenditure on infrastructure development and condition of service within the Education sector.
Again, just like Uganda and Kenya, government of Ghana may seek external assistance for its Free and Quality SHS policy from its development partners through the MTEF budget support framework. The option of redirecting a percentage of the proceeds from the Oil and Gas sector is highly recommended. These are reliable sources of revenue stream to consider.
We have no doubts that any government, willing and determined to implement this policy can do so successfully in collaboration with all stakeholders.
Eric Yeboah Nartey
Head of Policy Research
In order to clarify and substantiate the figures quoted in this statement, we attach our previous Press Statement on This Same Policy which enjoyed wider coverage in most national newspapers. Please find Attached:
Our Position on Free SHS
Following from the raging debate on the feasibility or otherwise of the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) proposition on Senior High School education, we at the Centre for National Affairs (CNA) consider it pertinent to state our position to further shape the evolving debate. Based on our analysis we conclude that, while some critical details are lacking from the NPP, the programme is worth exploring and containable in public expenditure in the medium term.
We proceed by basing the calculation on the ACTUAL total enrolment in JHS (all three years) and current Primary six (6) (one year). This is because these people are by default the expected beneficiaries of the policy in the medium term period of four years. CNA assumes that as with all major public policies in Ghana, it will commence with focus on Public SHS while efforts are made to include Private SHS in due course.
The actual total national enrolment in public JHS according to the Ministry of Education is 1,387,588 for 2010/2011 academic year while that of Primary Six is 457,229. CNA further assumes that half of those currently in Private JHS (117, 365) will be attracted by the policy and thus attend public SHS. We submit therefore that the total beneficiaries of the policy under review, in the medium term, will be 1,962,182 students currently in JHS 1-3 and Primary six (6). The above figure which covers all students for whom the policy is intended (in the medium term) resolves fears of extra cost that could arise with possible increases in enrolment. Again, our figure does not also anticipate drop-out during the transition.
To do the all-important arithmetic, we adopt the Ghana Living Standard Survey’s (GLSS) 5, 2008, (most current) amount paid per person attending SSS by households - USD $148. We assume that anybody, the NPP included, proposing this policy should opt to take up 84.6% (USD $118.4) of this household cost build-up. This 84.6% represent expenditure items such as school fees - 42.9%, food, boarding and lodging - 27.6%, books supplies - 9.7%, uniform and sports - 3.5% and PTA dues - 2.5% according to GLSS 5, (pg 124). Indeed, it would make less economic and implementation sense for anybody to attempt to pay for transportation to and fro school, as well as extra classes under this policy. We are less inclined to adjust the figure for inflationary pressures because we expect that, in the worst case scenario, inflation will peak from current commendable single-digit levels of 8.5% to 18.13% recorded in December, 2008 in the medium term.
In terms of additional financial outlay for the medium term, we estimate that the policy will cost USD$ 232,322,348 (118.4*1,962,182 beneficiaries). This figure takes into account expected influx of students from private JHS. Assuming the policy takes effect in 2014 in a phased manner starting with those entering SHS that particular year, this will amount to total cost of UDS$49,698,636.80 (UDS$118.4*419,752) within the first year of implementation. By which time those currently in JHS1 will be in SHS 1. However, if the NPP intends to make a grandstanding pronouncement for all students in SHS in 2014, then the additional outlay would be USD$ 232,322,348. This represents service cost to be transferred from private households unto the public purse on annual basis. We advise the adoption of the former proposition (phased manner) since that achieves the stated policy objective of ensuring smooth transition into free SHS for that generation and beyond.
We want to state that CNA is not oblivious of the concomitant infrastructural requirements such as dormitories, classroom blocks, and teacher accommodation for SHS. In fact, our estimate indicates that the transfer of 84.6% SHS household service cost (whether phased or grandstanding approach) and provision of additional infrastructure does not push Ghana’s current Education per GDP of 5% beyond the UNESCO recommended limit of 6%. We at CNA believe that, when these costs are absorbed, Ghana’s Education per GDP ratio should hover around 5.7% of the rebased economy. Again, we are told to expect GDP for 2014 (assumed commencement date) will be around USD$ 92,258,121,921 (2012 Budget Statement, pg298). Indeed, this additional 0.07% difference translates into USD$ 645,806,853.45 providing additional capacity to spend on education without crossing the UNESCO boundary. Our conviction is that, after subtracting the transferable service cost determined in paragraph 5, the rest can accommodate the infrastructural needs even on an annual basis. We take the view that the buoyant outlook of our economy suggests these new expenditure items can be absorbed by the public purse within the medium to long term.
Meanwhile, CNA is inspired by the fact that Government found GHC1,145,865,991.00 for PRIORITY INTERVENTION PROGRAMMES in 2012 (2012 Budget Statement, pg316). We believe that, if indeed FREE SHS is a PRIORITY for the NPP, finding USD$ 231,537,476 to educate 1,962,182 Ghanaians in the medium term cannot be detrimental to the foundation of the economy. Going forward, we believe that tax lodgments from GETFUND, expected revenue from the OIL and GAS SECTOR, and EFFICIENT management of PUBLIC FUNDs are key.
Additionally, the government has an option to streamline PRIORITY expenditure items such as ECOBRIGADE (GHc25M) and Sanitation Guards (GHc27m) contained in the 2012 Budget Statement (pg 316) to accommodate the phased programme in the first year. While CNA joins the call for the NPP and its Flag bearer to present and discuss the full details of their proposal to enable us state our final position, we believe that this policy, at the very least, is financially feasible and sustainable within the medium to long term.
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