Every year, thousands of young children write the Basic Education Certificate Examination conducted by the West African Examinations Council. As the name suggests, this examination is for both certification and selection to Senior High Schools and Technical Institutions. The obvious question is what is the use of this certificate if it cannot guarantee job opportunities for such children after graduation? It is important to note that even Socrates who was credited as the most influential thinker in the fifth century questioned why things were done the way they were, while never settling for simple and mundane answers. If education is the soul of a nation, and a mind is a terrible thing to waste, then we cannot conspire to ruin the future of our children.
Why have we subjected innocent children to writing this examination for the past thirty  years with 50% failure every year? Let it not appear that due to lack of facilities, government hides under this examination to deny children Senior Secondary School education.
Furthermore, beyond the discriminatory grading system (Stanine grading system) adopted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), there are fundamental problems which make it extremely difficult for many children; especially those from deprived homes and communities to pass this external examination. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that if children have to walk long distances in search of water when they should be studying, their chances for passing the examinations will be dependent on the grace of God.
Similarly, if over 167 communities in Tatale; together with communities such Kaleo Chiana; Otwereso Praso; Kroboase; Mensahkrom; Apoli Ningo; and many others have no electricity, children from such places can only pass the BECE by magic. We should also consider the more than one in five children in Ghana who have been described by UNICEF as not getting the right nutrition to enhance their thinking ability.
Research by “Save the Children” shows that the impact of malnutrition on children’s learning is NOT simply that they are tired and unable to concentrate in class because they have not eaten enough on a given day. Malnutrition from the first 1,000 days has a devastating impact on a child’s future potential. It restricts their cognitive development; as a result, they are more likely to be sick and decrease their ability to learn.
With this in mind, how do we expect such children to pass the BECE? The decision by the government to allow only those who can pass the examinations to enjoy free SHS is objectionable. If children have no difficulty transiting from class 6 to JHS 1, then the same arrangement must be made for easy progression from JSS 3 to SSS 1.
In a world of abiding uncertainty and complexity, our leaders must avoid using a restraining hand or accusing witness in denying children the opportunity to enjoy free SHS, since this could have dire consequences for the future of our children. Howard Earl Gardner once questioned the idea that intelligence is a single entity, that it results from a single factor, and that it can be measured simply through IQ tests. He establishes that there exists a multitude of intelligences. And there is enough justification to say that no child is born unintelligent unless the state defines them as such.
Let us ensure that every child gets free continuous education from kindergarten to Senior High School without placing any impediment which is often disguised as BECE in their way. Every Ghanaian child is capable of reaching his or her full potential provided the state can guarantee continuous education for them without barriers. As indicated by Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.
The solution is for government to scrap the BECE and rather ensure that the final examination is written at the Senior Secondary School level where the children are mature enough to make a determination of their destiny.
BY PAPA KOW ACKON, COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR, PROGRESSIVE PEOPLE'S PARTY.