Duration of Senior High School: 3 or 4 years?
A Position Paper by Meagasa Mathematics Academy

Meagasa Mathematics Academy (MMA) is an off-shoot of MathNED, a non-governmental organization advocating the revamping of mathematics education in Ghana. What MathNED advocates, MMA implements to provide evidence that what is being advocated can be done. For example, MathNED advocates nurturing of talents in mathematics, providing opportunities for students to study mathematics through activities (practical mathematics), relating mathematics to real life, and emphasizing conceptual understanding of mathematics. Our position on the issue under consideration is informed by our experiences in the teaching and learning of mathematics. So, any evidence to support our position will be from mathematics.

Since the Anamoah Report on reforming Ghana’s education was published, there have been various views expressed, especially regarding the duration of the senior high schools. Should it be 3 years or 4 years?

The main issue for us is not and should not be the duration of the program, but rather the quality of the products of the program. What skills and competencies should those who experience and graduate from the programme exhibit? Having carefully identified the desirable skills and competencies, then the question of how long it would take for the skills and competencies to be acquired becomes relevant.

There are many things that impinge on the quality of education experienced by students. These include the curriculum, adequate and appropriate infrastructure, access to books and library, equipments for teacher and student use, teacher motivation and knowledge, and the school culture, among others.

The report indicates that although general interviews of a cross-section of people suggest a 4- year duration of the SHS program, the technical committee recommends a 3-year duration of the program. It was explained that certain inadequacies plaguing the program, if corrected, would not warrant the extension of the program from the current 3 years to 4 years. MMA agrees with this position.

How will one year extension guarantee quality when issues of incoherent curriculum, inadequate and inappropriate infrastructure, lack of textbooks and equipments for teaching and learning, low morale of teachers, ill-prepared teachers, and the like are not corrected? How come that some schools are doing well within the same 3 years? Why are the other schools not doing well? Obviously, it not the number of years spent experiencing the program. The answers might be somewhere else, but definitely not with the 3 years spent at the SHS level.

A better organized and implemented mathematics curriculum, for example, can provide quality in students’ understanding and use of the principles and methods of mathematics and this can be achieved in 3 years, even 2 years. Visit MMA for evidence. Topics like ratio, fractions, proportions, decimals, percentages, and rates have same or similar concepts (only different representations) and can be taught together but they are so spread as to make the load look heavy. There is about two years’ separation between sets and logic when the two should be taught together. There are many of such redundancies and incoherence in the mathematics curriculum, and if corrected, can remove the illusion of achieving quality with increase in the duration of the SHS program. Time gained by addressing these systemic problems can be used to engage the students in projects that will challenge them to better understand mathematics and see the power and beauty of the subject.

A 4-year SHS program might only extend the inconveniences of students, parents, and teachers. We better focus on the real issues to provide quality education to the future leaders of Ghana.

-Prof. S.E. Anku
President, Ghana Mathematics Society

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