Proponents of youth empowerment maintain, strongly, that the cause of youth empowerment is closely linked with quality education or better still, quality education is at the centre of youth empowerment efforts. This position is amply acknowledged by the 2010 National Youth Policy of Ghana which states, among other things, “that education and skills training are critical to the development of a young person's productive and responsible life”
It also states that” the main goal of the National youth policy is to ensure the development of knowledgeable, self-reliant, skilled, disciplined, and a healthy population with the capacity to drive and sustain the socio-economic development of the nation”. It goes without saying therefore, that in order to enable the youth to contribute constructively to society it is imperative to improve the quality of the educational system to ensure that the products of our educational institutions become critical thinkers, problem solvers and accomplished leaders.
It is in respect of the issues raised in the above that the recent fifty percent failures recorded by candidates in the 2011 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) should be a matter of concern to all Ghanaians. It is significant to say that the case of continuous decline in the quality of education at the Basic level is more of a problem of policy decisions, than the usual problem of lack of resources. Successive governments, since independence have compromised quality education by focusing educational policies and programmes on access to basic education. A cursory look at educational policies and programmes of Ghana attest to this.
One can mention the free and compulsory educational policy of the first republic, and in recent times, programmes such as the school feeding , capitation grant, free school uniforms and exercise books and removal of schools under trees. Although the Free Compulsory, Universal, Basic Education (FCUBE) programme, which was introduced as follow up to the 1980 educational reforms has, improving quality of education by making it more effective to socio-economic conditions as one of its objectives, this objective has been relegated to the background. What has captured the attention of implementers of the policy is the first objective of the reforms, that is, increasing access to basic education
Clearly therefore, the matter of enhancing the capacity of our educational system to produce good results on sustainable basis has been placed second to access to basic education by policy makers. Sadly, the few measures put in place to ensure delivery of quality education at the basic level have not been attended to with the desired seriousness.
It has been established by educational researchers that many basic schools in the country are for example, without School management committees (SMCS). What this means is that the general management of these schools and the identification of priority areas for their development are shouldered entirely by the head teachers. The important question is how can head teachers carry out the huge responsibility of managing a school alone and be expected to deliver good results. The case is the same with other measures such as the schools performance appraisal meetings, a mechanism which makes it possible, for parents in each community to be provided with information by circuit supervisors on the performance of their school on each of the assessment.
There is also the School Performance Improvement Plan (SPIP) which is also a requirement for accessing the capitation grant. The SPIP is a measure which is intended to ensure quality education by outlining, annually, the actions a school has put in place to improve school management, the school environment and effective teaching and learning practices. Unfortunately this laudable mechanism has also suffered so much neglect.
Undoubtedly, it is good for policy makers to work toward realization of the right of the Ghanaian Child to education as enshrined in the fourth Republican constitution and also to fulfill the requirement of Millennium Development Goal No. 2. The crucial question however is whether, empowerment can be mentioned as a purpose of education, in a situation where it is readily available to the Ghanaian child but upon completion of Basic School, he or she is unable to achieve good results.
The youth of today find themselves in a knowledge based world, which is also characterized by rapid changes and the complexities of globalization. It is a world which has presented more challenges than any moment in the history of the human race. If these are the realities of the world today, then one can imagine the challenges that await the youth in the not too distant future. It is for this reason that our policy makers must, as a matter of urgency address the problem of mass failure in the Basic Schools Education certificate Examination by enhancing the capacity of Basic Schools so that they can achieve better learning outcomes.
It is only when this is done that the nation can be assured of young people who are prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow and make Ghana stronger.