NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE NEED TO SUPPORT THE DOUBLE TRACK SYSTEM AND HELP IN MAKING IT A SUCCESS
Last year, government’s flagship policy, the Free SHS was launched. Even though some people criticized the policy, others supported its implementation. But for the initial challenges like overcrowded dormitories and classrooms, the Free SHS would have by all standards been tagged as successful. Several suggestions such as building more classrooms to reduce the classroom deficit and suspending the program entirely until infrastructure is ready and scraping the boarding system to reduce pressure at least on the dormitories has been offered in dealing with the hindrance to the program. In the wake of these suggestions, government has come out with a new policy dubbed Double Track Educational System to help in solving the overpopulation challenge at the SHS level. The double track system has also received the same mixed reactions. There seems to be unending criticism as a characteristic of a new policy. The media has aided in this vain by providing platforms for politicians who may not have any information whatsoever about the policy to exhibit their propagandist competencies. This culture of criticising every new policy on the basis of political affiliation is unhealthy for our democracy and development but the norm does not appear to be leaving our public discourse anytime soon. It is without doubt that although the double track system may appear unrealistic and unsustainable in the eyes of critics, it is a step in the right direction.
The policy, which takes off this month, will see the traditional three terms Senior High School metamorphosed into a two semester period of about 40-days each. Unlike before, the double track system would see the entire student body and staff being split into two enabling one party to enjoy a 40 day holiday period while others undergo 40-day classroom experience and vice versa. Government is also due to recruit eight thousand new teachers into the SHS level to augment the existing ones to help them soak the pressure of the existing teachers working all year long. The facts available at this time are that; contact hours have been increased although there is a reduction in the number of days spent at school. Our continuous emphasis on increasing contact hours is woefully out of place. Currently, most teachers complain about the mean hours within which students have to undertake academic work. One may ask, if students are unable to currently soak the classroom pressure to 2pm what then will happen with the increment to 4 or 5pm? Research has revealed that the number of hours spent in school does not have any significant effect on the amount of knowledge acquired. But even the smallest of school hours if used in learning the right things through the deployment of the right tools would produce the desired results.
Many are those who have called for reforms in what should be taught in our schools but our commitment in that area seems to be wavering. Too much emphasis on theory based education at the expense of skill set acquisition is increasing the rate of unemployment as many are being trained for offices that do not exist or otherwise already choked. It is in this vain that it will be prudent if government will roll out a new policy to supplement the double track system which will enable students to learn and acquire vocational skills in their area of study during the 40 days’ vacation period as is done in developed countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Korea who also practice this system. This by far is what the double track system is lacking at the moment. The new eight thousand employment opportunities and an 11.5% increase in the admission of SHS students are enough positives to test the system and see what it brings. Regardless of what our political affiliations are, we should build a consensus and give a groundswell support for the Free SHS and its compatriot double track system. There is no doubt about the benefits we can derive from a fully educated and literate population. As President Akufo-Addo rightly stated, no qualified student deserves to be at home.
BY: ELORM KPEDATOR, A TEACHER, TOKUROANO D/A PRIMARY ‘A’ IN THE KRACHI EAST MUNICIPALITY