President Akufo-Addo has called on critics to cease their arguments on the Free SHS policy and rather focus on providing ways to improve it.

According to him, not only has the implementation of the policy been successful, but it remains a transformative programme which has unearthed talents who may have ended their formal education at the BECE level.

Addressing the nation on Tuesday, President Akufo-Addo said “Mr Speaker, Free SHS might be labelled by its detractors as a mere political slogan that must be demonised, but it is, in fact, a transformative programme that has broken myths and liberated minds. I am proud that the NPP government, under my leadership, has been able to bring this transformative policy into our education system.”

“Mr Speaker, I believe the success of the Free SHS has answered its critics and the arguments about it should cease, and we should simply concentrate on finding ways to improve it,” he stated.

The President said that aside from implementing the policy, he is thankful that people’s fears that Free SHS would lower standards in schools have been allayed following the release of the 2023 WASSCE results.

“I know we will get more engineers, doctors, architects, scientists, writers and poets out of the increased numbers of those attending Senior High School, who will go on to further their education,” he indicated.

President Akufo-Addo added that even for students who unfortunately after SHS are unbale to continue schooling, they remain educated with increased self-confidence and are a value for the workforce. “That, alone, makes Free SHS worthwhile,” he noted.

Since its implementation in 2017, Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch) reports that the flagship programme has benefited over 5.7 million Ghanaian students.

According to the education think tank, the significant increase in enrollment in secondary schools from 813,448 in the 2016/17 academic year to 1.3 million in the 2022/23 academic year can be attributed to the introduction of the Free SHS policy.

Read More: Over 5.7 million students have benefited from Free SHS programme to date – Africa Education Watch

However, the policy has also been riddled with issues that many civil society organisations and institutions in the education sector have called out.

While the policy has led to massive enrolment increases since its full rollout, the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) and other analysts note there are both fiscal and quality challenges in its current form requiring fresh consideration.

In November 2023, ISSER emphasised that reviewing certain aspects of FREE SHS is critical.

Areas cited for review include the sustainability of full absorption of students' entire tuition and costs by the government amid constrained budgets.

Also, the increasing teacher-student ratios in many public SHS schools stretch resources and impact learning.

The World Bank also called for means-testing and cost-sharing arrangements by parents to ensure optimal benefits and affordability of the program.

In February 2024, the Executive Director of the Institute for Education Services (IFEST), Dr Peter Anti said that until the government recognises the problem with the funding of the free SHS programme, no progress can be made in addressing the issue.

Dr Peter Anti was speaking on the back of Accra Academy's power disconnection over a GHS480,000 debt owed to the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) since July 2023.

Speaking on JoyNews he stated that, the government should have anticipated an increase in enrollment when the free SHS program was introduced.

"While we were doing double track, we should have made a conscious effort to improve the infrastructure in our schools. Now we don’t know what is happening, we decided to go and do other kinds of projects within the same education sector,” he said on Tuesday.

Dr. Anti believes that the leaders of Ghana's educational system need to take responsibility for the challenges facing the system and work to find solutions.

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