Dr Prince Hamid Armah: 2022 Budget Analysis: Key Education Policy Issues and Why They Will Improve Learning Outcomes


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Ahead of the presentation of the 2022 budget and economic policy statement on Wednesday, key players in the education sector and many others who have been following the evolving issues in the sector were divided on how the government would approach. the problems, in particular the impact of Covid-19 on education and to propose relief policies to improve the mandate of the sector.

To be more precise, concerns about the quality of learning in schools, the process of licensing and recruiting teachers, reports of financial challenges that hamper the implementation of the Free SHS policy were some of the issues that have fueled people’s expectations of the budget. Not so long ago, the issue of abandoned school construction projects was also at the center of public policy debates on several media platforms.

Many people seemed interested in understanding how these and many other issues will be presented in the government’s plan for the coming year. Now that the budget has been read and published, this article attempts to locate and review the key policy commitments made in the budget aimed at addressing current challenges in education and improving learning outcomes in this country. But before proceeding further, it is important to amplify the pervasive influence of education on the development of human capital and socio-economic growth of a country. The evidence for the significant correlation between improved human capital and GDP cannot be overstated.

Health and safety issues

Regarding substantive issues, the first issue addressed in the budget is the prioritization of health and safety issues in our schools, especially in the age of Covid-19. Since the emergence of Covid-19, our students have benefited from online and in-person learning and teaching regimes, particularly in early 2021.
Fumigation, disinfection, provision of nasal masks, logistics and related materials have led to public health strategies to control the spread of the virus in schools. The finance minister’s assurance of stepping up the “back to school campaign” in school districts across the country is as good as the support that all stakeholders can give to its implementation.

Improving literacy through library service

Second, improving student learning, especially in literacy, is one of the main highlights of the budget. The appetite of the government through the Ministry of Education to improve reading for young and old is booming and evidence of this can be seen from the plethora of policy interventions and achievements. government education. Eight new libraries were completed in 2021 to bring the total number of libraries in the country to 103, and the number of existing books was reorganized by a total of 88,697 new books, with the new book stock amounting to
1,167,388.

The Minister of Finance also indicated that two new libraries will be built in 2022 and five others renovated and that the “Ghana Library Authority (GhLA) continues to work on expanding the content of digital platforms and static libraries”. [para 936]. In addition, outreach activities by mobile library vans will be undertaken in approximately 100 base schools across the country, while kiosks housing over 40,000 reading books will be provided by the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC) to 70 basic schools as part of efforts to promote reading and writing.

Helping our children develop successful reading skills is one of the best gifts we can give them. There is a huge increase in information activity and people need literacy skills to be able to find, select, interpret, analyze and produce information. Empirical research evidence on the effects of reading on general academic achievement and well-being indicates many benefits, including improved brain activities, improved vocabulary, increased ability to understand others and the development of critical thinking.

For example, in a 2013 study, Kidd and Castano claimed that reading literary fiction improves theory of mind or the ability to understand others. In this context, if the government succeeds in improving the reading culture among children and even adults, the alarming statistics of low literacy in Ghana could be drastically changed and lead to the construction of a knowledge society.

Monitoring and follow-up of student performance

Monitoring and maintaining a portfolio of learning students is important to improving overall learning, and the fact that the government continues to demonstrate a commitment to this ubiquitous principle of education is highly commendable. It is heartwarming to learn that the budget will fund the conduct of the first edition of the National Standards Assessment Test (NSAT) for all elementary 4 students in basic public schools to assess their reading and reading skills. calculation in December 2021, and that of Primary 2 and 6 in 2022.

The NSAT will enable the ministry to diagnose student learning to inform the provision of the learning interventions required for students who are below proficiency levels. As one of the pioneers in the development of such an important learner assessment policy regime, I believe the importance of NSAT in enhancing formative learning cannot be overstated.

The NSAT and SchoolBased Assessment (SBA) are part of a comprehensive assessment architecture, the National Pre-Tertiary Learning Assessment Framework (NPLAF), to support the link between curriculum and pedagogy. The NPLAF provides general guidelines on the policy, practice and conduct of learning assessments to improve their validity, reliability and fairness while invoking accountability and public trust in learning and systems. related.

ICT in education

The deployment of a two-year pilot project to develop and integrate ICT in early childhood education, as indicated by the Minister of Finance, is relevant to the government’s concerted efforts to ensure better learning. The ICT program will provide IT solutions to deepen learning and also train teachers to effectively integrate ICT pedagogies.

License and quality of teachers

The issue of teacher licenses, in which the National Council of Education (NTC) is heavily involved, remains an important objective to streamline the professional and career progression of all teachers in pre-higher education within the framework of appropriate skills. The licensing regime aims to ensure that every child has a good teacher. The Minister’s announcement that a total of 128,789 licenses have been issued to teachers bodes well for the professionalization, development and growth of teachers, even though the licensing process has been followed
some criticism.

It has been common practice to use rigorous and in-depth training, as well as licensure assessments to ensure that professionals meet legal requirements and expectations. Administering the licensure regime in this way places the teaching profession on the same pedestal as its counterparts in medicine, law, nursing, accounting, among others, to enhance the quality and dignity of the teaching profession. profession.

Free BECE, SHS and STEM

As an indication of the budget, the government’s commitment to free parents from draconian school fees and to improve investments in the quality of education remains intact. At the basic level, the government has absorbed the exam registration fees of 438,204 candidates enrolled in public secondary schools for the 2021 Basic Education Certificate (BECE) exams. In 2022, the government will again absorb exam registration fees from an expected number of 411,922 candidates.

The free SHS is still ongoing, benefiting a total of 1,261,495 students nationwide. The government has increased the program spending allocation for 2022 to an amount of GH ¢ 2,300,000,000 from GH ¢ 1,974,021,960 in 2021 (an increase of 16.7 percentage points). The investment in infrastructure and interventions such as the construction of schools and classrooms, dormitories, libraries and administrative blocks as part of the free intervention for SHS infrastructure is commendable.

For example, the Minister of Finance indicates that a total of 657 projects out of 1,119 estimated have been
were completed to fill infrastructure gaps in schools and phase out the dual track system as planned. The government allocating an amount of GH ¢ 175,000,000 to existing interventions in the field of education, the projects described as
abandoned schools such as Block E schools can receive timely attention in due course.

The focus on overhauling STEM education is increasingly sharp and compelling. An amount of 63,000,000 is set aside to continue construction of 20 STEM centers across the country, while around 924 math and science teachers are said to have received training in creative STEM pedagogies.

Budget allocation

Overall, this year’s education budget allocation is the highest we have ever seen and its analysis shows an increase of 13.8 percentage points over the previous year, from 15,631 637,855 GH ¢ in 2021 to 17,786,819,000 GH ¢ in Compared to the 2020 allocation, the 2022 allocation has increased by 53.4
percentage point increase (from GH ¢ 11,594,302,405 in 2020 to GH ¢ 17,786,819,000 in 2022).

Conclusion

It is clear that the government is committed to building a highly literate society in the not too distant future and has gone beyond mere political rhetoric to mobilize resources and implement realistic policies. It has been a very good start so far, but there are still a lot of issues in the industry that need to be addressed.

Budget 2022, without a doubt, attempts to tackle the important issues needed to improve learning outcomes in our educational institutions.

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The author is a member of parliament for Kwesimintsim and vice-chairman of the special parliamentary committee on education. Previously, he was Director General of the National Council for Programs and Evaluation (NaCCA) and education consultant for projects of the World Bank, UKAID, USAID and the United Nations Commission on Education. in Ghana.

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Norma A. Roth