A  coalition of civil society groups has urged the Ministry of Education to scrap the study leave with pay policy for teachers.

This is because the initiative drains the state purse of GH?50 million annually.

Rather, the group proposed that the policy should be replaced with a policy to refund the cost of further studies to teachers when they return to the classroom.

The proposal is captured in the 2012 Civil Society Education Manifesto which was presented in Accra.

The main objective of the manifesto is to provide a guide to civil society and the Ghanaian public to focus on challenges confronting the educational sector as the country prepares for the 2012 elections.

It sets a number of benchmarks for the educational sector capturing fairly the contents of the various manifestos of the county?s political parties, which it said Ghanaians must hold whichever party wins the 2012 elections accountable for.

The occasion attracted representatives of all the civil society groups that made up the Civil Society Education Manifesto and the leadership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Convention People?s Party (CPP) and the Peoples National Convention (PNC).

Speaking at the Political Parties Conference on Civil Society Education Manifesto, Mr Kofi Asare, a member of the coalition and Director of Action for Rural Education (ARE), said the abolition of the policy had become necessary because half of the beneficiary teachers did not return to the classroom.

Some 4,000 teachers benefit from the policy annually.

The policy, he stated, was partly the cause of the high teacher attrition rate in the public education sector.

Education has become a rallying point for the 2012 elections with the NPP, CPP, the Progressive People?s Party and the PNC  leading a campaign for free senior high school (SHS) education.

The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), however, maintains that a free SHS is not feasible as what the country needs now is an expanded educational infrastructure to increase access.

The duration of the SHS level is a cause for worry for many Ghanaians. While the NPP started a four-year programme in 2007, the NDC reversed the policy to its original three years citing inadequate infrastructure.

In that regard, the CSO manifesto decried the situation. ?Civil Society believes that the longstanding debate surrounding the duration of secondary education has been politicised and should end.?

?Indications are that, should there be a change of government, there could be a reversal of the current three-year duration of the secondary education to four years. Civil society is extremely concerned about what the erratic changes in secondary education are having on the performance, outcomes and future of secondary education in Ghana.?

It, therefore, recommended that the next government should ?maintain the current three-year duration of SHS education and also upgrade and expand secondary school infrastructure, provide the requisite teaching and learning equipment and increase teacher motivation to enhance the delivery of teaching and learning in secondary schools.?

The document also touched on declining numbers of JHS graduates entering the SHS in the past decade.

?Out of 375,000 BECE candidates in 2011, only 202,339 were able to transit into SHS. The huge dropout rate of about 47 per cent is due to economic and academic reasons and portends negative prospects for the economic and social development of Ghana,? it said.

It further noted with concern the cost of SHS education which it described as ?unaffordable to many Ghanaians families? and worsened by the absence of scholarship for students who qualified for SHS but unable to afford the fees.

To cure that, the CSO Education Manifesto said the way forward was the development and implementation of a national policy on SHS education scholarships targeting female students choosing science and mathematics courses and needy students.

Additionally, the next government must also build 212 more day schools to absorb the envisioned increase in SHS enrolment.

It explained that with an initial capacity of 300 students per year group, some 84,000 more students could access SHS education thereby increasing the current enrolment by 42 per cent from 202,339 to 286,339.

Ghana trains about 8,600 teachers each year from the 38 colleges of education. However, statistics indicate that some 10,000 teachers leave the classroom yearly. The teacher deficit which stood at 21,000 in 2009 keeps increasing due to attrition.

That, Mr Asare, stated, meant that the country was only managing teacher deficits and not necessarily adding to the numbers of trained teachers.

?At the heart of the quality issue, however, is the teacher. There still exist high numbers of untrained teachers teaching in pre-schools (74 per cent), primary schools (38 per cent) and junior high schools (22 per cent),? he stated

He, therefore, rallied the next government to recruit, train and motivate more qualified teachers to address the worsening pupil-teacher ratio.

The document also touched on pre-school and tertiary education and provided a number of policy recommendations to improve the current situation.

Mr Bright Appiah, the Executive Director of Child Rights International, noted that while the Civil Society Education Manifesto was not legally binding, it provided a basis for the electorates to hold the next government accountable for its policies, programmes and manifesto promises for the educational sector.

Source: Daily Graphic

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