He said the Government’s investment in the free SHS would deepen access and quality of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and ensure that all children acquired literacy and numeracy skills at grade 4, with opportunity for out-of-school children to access basic education.
The policy will also provide Ghanaian youth with 21st-century skills to boost their global competitiveness, increase access to tertiary education in all regions, improve learning outcomes at all levels, and increase access to teacher trainee education.
Mr Maafo was speaking at this year’s National Education Week celebration on the theme: “Re-assessing Educational Policies for Effective Service Delivery and National Transformation”.
He said the Government since January 2017, had contributed significantly to the growth and development of human capital in the country through huge investments in education.
“The government has spent on average between 4.5 per cent to 4.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product and between 17.6 per cent to 24 per cent of its national budget on education between 2019-202.
” The share of government expenditure on education increased marginally from 73.4 per cent in 2019 to 74.0 per cent in 2020,” he said.
He said free SHS education was one of the key programmes for which advocates have argued for its abolition to save the country billions of Ghana cedis that could be invested in better productive areas.
“I reject as false the argument that our economy cannot support these programmes. The challenges we are witnessing in our economy are short-term and we cannot afford to sacrifice our common vision due to short-term economic pressures.
“I must say that the debate should not be whether our public expenditure is too high or too low. The debate should be and must be whether or not these programmes contribute to the welfare of Ghanaians and are essential for our national transformation,” he said.
He stated that the free SHS had promoted access to secondary education and that enrolment at the SHS had increased from less than 900,000 students in the 2016/17 academic year to more than 1.2 million in 2020/21.
The Gross Enrolment Rate at SHS has reached 95 per cent in 2020/21 up from 50 per cent in the pre-free SHS year, 2016/17.
The transition rate from Junior High School three to SHS one has improved over the medium term from 78.2 per cent in 2017/18 to more than 85 per cent in 2020/21.
Reverend John Ntim Fordjour, the Deputy Minister of Education, said the celebration sought to review the sector’s performance over the past medium-term, review the implementation of policies and key programmes in the sector and deliberate on how the sector could use evidence-based policies and programmes to improve learning outcomes and management of education.
The Ministry, he said, would showcase some initiatives undertaken through an exhibition and give participants the opportunity to interact with officers of the Ministry and Agencies on the initiatives.
He called on the authorities to collectively work to address challenges in the educational sector to ensure holistic learning outcomes.