Regulate Private Schools

Establishment of private schools is on the increase especially in the area of basic school. Some of these schools are not running the GES curriculum but UK and US.  It is one business venture a lot of people are venturing into as it is easy to make money. The growth in this sector may be good for our education system as it affords parents alternatives to choose from. However, it appears they are not being regulated effectively enough. They have been left entirely in the hands of their owners. Some are operating without license.  

When the president, in his first state of the of the nation’s address, indicated that Free SHS policy would start in September for the 2017/18 academic year, private schools are calling for inclusion in the intended policy. In as much as I think they should be granted some incentives in the policy, they must not forget that are into business.

Their activities are not supervises effectively so they do everything and get away with it. The private schools charge so much fees - all manner of fees. These private schools must be regulated to a point where they must be graded and have their fees approved by the regulator, Ghana Education Service. For instance what a grade ‘A’ school would charge for tuition should be different from what grade ‘B’ school charges in that order. But what we currently see is that, some schools that are apparently below grade ‘A’ appears to be charging fees higher than grade ‘A’ schools. The various fees they charge from feeding, tuition to boarding, etc must be standardized to ensure sanity in the system .
The quality of the food they serve is also questionable. 

In the past, private schools sought to recruit professional teachers. So the quality of teaching and learning were undoubtedly the best.  And so their students also do very well. More so the teachers were paid very well. So we saw an exodus of trained teachers into the private sector for better pay and other conditions of service which could not be found in the public sector in those days. In the past, teachers in that sector were far better off than those in the government sector. Today, the trend has changed. With the introduction of single spine, teachers are earning good salaries as compared with those in the private sector. Private schools now rely heavily on secondary school leavers to teach in their schools. The kind of remuneration these SHS graduates and their counterpart professional teachers receive is so meagre. Those in other private employment suffer the same problem.

Most of these schools engage in unprofessional and unethical practices for one reason or the other. Children being given tasks that are way above their level – their age.

I have gathered that parents whose children are in private schools are being charged so much for the BECE. These schools are not charging anything below Ghc1000.00. they have made it compulsory for all the students in JHS 3 to become boarders at all cost. Given the fact that some of these decisions are taken at PTA meetings, I am also aware that these schools reserve the right to oppose PTA decisions. So parents are often left with the choice to keep their children in the same school or take them elsewhere for moderate fees.

The assertion that quality things are expensive is the argument some of these owners of private schools put forward. Leaving these schools in the hands of their owners is creating unnecessary competition in the system while exploiting parents at the same time. There is this strategy teachers have adopted where certain topics are not taught during regular school hours. They reserved them for extra classes so that children are compelled to pay to attend those classes. 

There are also private schools in Ghana that do not charge fees in the local currency. Everything is in dollars which is very bad. Our authorities have allowed it to continue. Where else can you see this kind of thing?

I know a lot of people would argue that sending one’s child to a private school is a choice. It is a choice that is based on affordability and quality. Yes…that may be true. Now supposing everyone who owns business in Ghana is allowed to do whatever he or she likes, imagine what would happen. These private schools charge school fees, feeding fees so parents are forbidden to cook for their children, toiletries such as soap – key soap and geisha, toilet rolls, detergents, disinfectants; classes fees for even children who are not yet in their operational stage of learning, compulsory holiday classes, parents are also prohibited from buying books outside of the school for their wards, etc. etc. everything is tied to the school. For the toiletries, the school prescribes the particular brand to buy. Sometimes the children come back from school looking very unkempt and you wonder what they use the soap for.

I remember very well a dissatisfied parent complaining during a radio program that his child was being charged to pay Ghs40.00 for excursion to the Kwame Nkrumah museum. He said the distance from the school to the museum would not cost more than Ghs10.00 by taxi.  

Some school owners claim that they pay so much in tax and other levies to the Ghana Education Service which warranted the high fees they charge.

If our public education system were working effectively, a lot of the private schools would have folded up.

Today if your child is not in private school, it means you don’t want the best for your child. In other words, it means you’re poor. This has created a class system of a sort.

But it’s surprising that all of these children from private school end up in public secondary schools. Perhaps the object of every parent is to crave to have his or her ward to have strong foundation at the basic level. They often forget the fact that, the teachers who teach at the second-cycle level are not any different from those at the first cycle. If we consider teachers at the first cycle as not being effective, what then makes those at the second-cycle effective? Is it because they are subject teachers? Certainly they are not paid higher salaries. If being a subject teacher makes the teacher effective, then can we institute the same system at the first cycle?
In fact I am looking forward to a time in our educational system where we would have subject teachers at our basic school level.

I have listened to arguments being made about the fact that we learn too many subjects at the basic and secondary school levels. But what they have failed to do is to present a proposal on the number of subjects that our curricula should allow to be taught and the specific subjects that we should focus on. We should not be quick to identify the problem but we should proffer solutions even if no one would hear it and take action.   

I am not against private schools. What I am against is their modus operandi. What I am also against is the attitude of the regulator towards enforcement of its directives. We all want the best for ourselves and our children. But that does not mean we should relegate standard and best practices to the background.


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