The Semester and Double Track System in Senior High Schools in Ghana

A General and Comprehensive Overview

Essay 2018 16 Pages

Pedagogy - School System, Educational and School Politics


Table of Content




A. Constitutional mandate

B. Approach to implementation







Education is key in the development of every nation. This is the reason why it is the major focus of many nations, if not all. This is because; it is the medium through which the citizens of a particular nation acquire generally accepted knowledge, skills and attitudes, which enable them to preserve and improve upon their culture and transmit to the next generation, develop their full faculties (physical, psychological, emotional and social) and contribute their quota to the development of themselves, their communities and the nation as a whole.

It is in the light of these that successive governments of Ghana – especially, in the fourth republic – have laid down policies and programmes to improve the education system of the nation:

Under the fourth republic, President J.J. Rawlings introduced the Senior Secondary School system in 1990 with much emphasis on vocational and technical skills. The first batch came out in 1993. However, their performance did not meet the expectation of the programme. Therefore, there was the need for improvement.

Hence, when President J.J. Kuffour took office in the year, 2001, he sought to avert the challenges faced by the SSS system under the former government. Therefore, he inaugurated a Committee on Review of Educational Reforms in Ghana on 17th January 2002. Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, then Vice Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba, chaired the 29-member committee. The committee proposed the Senior High School (SHS) system, a change from the SSS system.

Consequently, the 2007 Educational Reforms sought to implement the New Educational Structure as proposed by the Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah Committee. As a result, an act of parliament was enacted on December, 2008 and assented by the president on 6th January 2009.

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Article 1 (3) of that act – Act 778 of 2008 states that:

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The change was not just by name, but a complete structural change with emphasis on the duration of the SHS – from three (3) years to four (4) years and content of instruction – focusing on ICT and skill development.

The outcome of the first batch was very remarkable. CHASS, PTA of various SHS, the candidates and the general populace were overwhelmed by the incredible performance in the Wassce results.

However, the policy was cut short when the NDC government, led by Late President J. E. A. Mills took office with the excuse that, the current infrastructure of the various SHS was inadequate to support the programme. The deficit in the infrastructure necessitated the programme to be reverted to three (3) years.

The former President John Darmani Mahama took office in 2013. He sought to roll out the Free SHS programme progressively, in line with the 1992 constitution – Article 25 (1) (b). Under the new Free SHS policy, the government abolished fees of day SHS students, subsidized boarding fees, gave scholarship schemes to some of the students, recruited more teachers and the built Community Day Schools to absolve more students into the SHS. Regardless, full tuition at the SHS was not absolutely catered by the government.

President Akuffo- Addo in his campaign, prior to the 2016 general elections promised to implement the Fee Free SHS fully. Per his promise, the Comprehensive Free SHS policy began in the 2017/2018 academic year, and GH C 486 million was earmarked for the programme. Tuition fees of all SHS 1 students were fully absolved by the government.

The enrolment at the SHS level increased because of the Fee Free SHS. Enrolment increased from 308,799 (2016) to 361,771(2017). The difference is 52972(14.6%).

The current Minister of Education – Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh – has based on the previous enrolment to project:

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The implementation of the double track system is to allow government to cater for the excess enrolment, in order to ensure that, the Free SHS is available and accessible to all eligible students.

I have carefully provided a summary of past educational reforms in the Senior High Schools in Ghana under the fourth republic to enable the reader to understand and appreciate the political and legal framework of education at the SHS level throughout the fourth republic.

The focus of this essay is to provide a comprehensive assessment of the double track and semester programmes at the SHS level under the following themes:

1. Constitutional matters
2. Population matters
3. Resource matters
4. Conclusion: The way forward


As a teacher and a member of the educational sector, the matter I have tabled above is a matter that is so much dear to my heart. I know for a fact, that every passing government educational intervention is meant to better the educational system in Ghana.

From the colonial regime, passing through the era of Nkrumah to the current government of the fourth republic, our dear country has undergone a myriad of educational interventions. However, the introduction of the Free Education at the SHS level, otherwise known as the “ Fee Free SHS” and the birth of the Semester and the Double Track System in the SHS seem paramount.

This is the reason I wish to express my take and explore my unbiased view on the programme. I will do this under the following themes:

5. Constitutional matters
6. Population matters
7. Resource matters
8. Conclusion: The way forward


A. Constitutional mandate

A constitution is a set of rules, which is meant to guide the general administration and governance of a country. According to the Ghana Constitution of 1992, Article 25 (1) (a) (b) state that:


(1) All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to achieving the full realisation of that right -

(a) basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all;

(b) secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education;

This indicates that the current government has not flouted, in any way, the constitution that gives it the authority and power to rule the people of Ghana. The constitution has clearly stipulated that, all persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities. Moreover, secondary education shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means…

The government has the mandate to ensure that every right as enshrined in the constitution is enjoyed fully by every citizen of the state. Therefore, it has to ensure that all barriers or impediments that may obstruct any of the citizens from enjoying such rights are fully and carefully curtailed.

Owing to this fact, the current government, in the implementation of the Fee Free SHS and the Double Track System, is only ensuring that every appropriate means is instituted to ensure that secondary education is generally available and accessible to all eligible or qualified BECE candidates duly placed by the CSSPS.

Check the statistics:


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By Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh Hon. Minister for Education.

Per the table above, it is disturbing to note that several students (i.e. 90, 604 (2013), 113,260 (2014), 115,363 (2015), 111,336 (2016) and 62, 453 (2017) although eligible and placed by the CSSPS, could not be enrolled.

B. Approach to implementation

Another constitutional matter worthy of mention is that, the constitution gave a guideline for the implementation of the Fee Free SHS.

Article 25(1)(b):

(b) secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education;

The guideline is that, the introduction shall be progressive.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word ‘ progressive’ as “Developing or happening gradually.”

The Oxford Dictionary also defines the word ‘ progressive’ as “Happening or developing gradually or in stages”

Therefore, many citizens and critics expected the government to churn out this credible policy gradually and in stages. They candidly think that the implementation of both policies were in haste and so, missed the gradual and careful development of the concepts.

The gap in the constitution (I stand to be corrected) is that no timelines and deadlines were set for the full implementation of Fee Free SHS. This gap has laid the Fee Free SHS wide open and at the mercy of political powers in the country, particularly, the NDC and NPP.

Maybe, the reason for such haste is to score political points in the eyes of eligible voters during election eras. Moreover, since the four-year term is too short to fulfil all their political campaign promises, they sometimes run through governmental policies carelessly. This usually cripples well-thought out policies clearly spelt out in laws and ends up ruining it entirely.

For example: Article 25(1)(a) states that:



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Title: The Semester and Double Track System in Senior High Schools in Ghana