Mr Speaker, let me thank the Hon Member who made the Statement and to make a contribution to the Statement.
Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that one of the major challenges of our country today is access to and the quality of basic education.
Indeed, the quality of basic education, to a large extent, defines the quality of the entire educational system of a country. Countries that have made significant progress have established direct correlation between access and quality at the basic level and the accelerated economic development of those countries. That is why what happens at the basic level, is so important to the progress of any nation. It is for this reason that Governments, all over, make significant investment in basic education.
We can debate the issues of the role of religion in the provision of basic education, but we cannot fail to appreciate the fact that in this country, religious organisations and groups have played fundamental roles in extending access at the basic level to hitherto unreached communities.
Even now, in our metropolis, they have been involved in providing access to basic education in most cities. Throughout history, many of us have had the opportunity to attend basic schools that were either established by the Catholic Church, Pentecostal or any other religious groups, and I believe, in this House, many can attest to the quality of the foundation that we all had, attending those schools.
But now, we have a situation where Government is actually partnering with religious groups in providing access to basic education. A Mission can on its own establish a fully-operated, run and financed basic education school once it is certified by the Ghana Education Service (GES).
However, the situation that we have is that, many of them, given the number of schools that they have, are unable on their own to fully finance these schools and that is where Government has partnered with them, so that the teachers and the cost of running the schools are absorbed by Government.
For this reason, GES regulates the posting of teachers, the transfer of teachers and collaborates closely with the Missions on the appointment of the heads of those schools, so that there can be some relationship in terms of the doctrine of the Mission and the importance of maintaining a curriculum that reflects broader social and national interests.
The Missions themselves have education units that work closely with GES to achieve that and I think the present framework works well.
Mr Speaker, I have no doubt that the private sector is beginning to play, indeed, a major role in providing access to basic education. It is indeed, true, that if you look at the records of those who are able to make it to senior high school (SHS), you would see that most of the people who pass the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) and get into SHS have a foundation in private basic schools.
Even in rural and poor communities, parents are beginning to prefer to send their children to private basic schools. As the maker of the Statement said, it is important for us to begin to have a national debate on the role of private provisioning of basic education in this country.
When I was also at the Ministry of Education as a Deputy Minister, I insisted on the Ministry having a whole outfit that pays attention to the increasing rate of establishment of private basic schools and the extent to which the State can collaborate with them in a way that we are collaborating with the Missions to be able to provide support to people who are making investments in private basic schools, and parents are increasingly expressing interest in assessing those services.
I believe, Mr Speaker, that it would address fundamentally the challenges that we have today in relation to the size of the State. I did not want to use the word “Government” because people tend to misconstrue -- When you talk about Government, they look at the political appointees. But when we speak of Government broadly, we are looking at Government, its agencies, its departments and so on.
If you look at Government, you would find out that the largest is the Ministry of Education. The reason is that, it is the largest number of teachers that Government appoints and pays from the public purse and that is affecting public expenditure.
I think that as we move towards a full middle income economy, and as we fight and win the battle against poverty and many more people are out of poverty, the State should begin to rethink about the relationship between it and the citizen in terms of access to certain basic services.
The shared responsibility would give the private sector the impetus to be able to play a significant role, so that Government would concentrate on providing the poor, the vulnerable and those who on their own cannot have access to these basic services.
Mr Speaker, there are modules in the world of how the State and the private sector can collaborate in terms of providing services such as education. There are countries where what they do is that, Government sets up the institutions and the State contracts the management of those institutions to either religious groups, or private sector groups and then Government concentrates on monitoring the performance and the output of those institutions.
That way, we combine the efficiency and effectiveness of private sector management in the provision of public services. I think that when this debate begins, as it is being called for, all these options would be considered as we try to module a system for the management of basic education that addresses funda- mentally the challenge of quality.
I think it is important for us to have this debate, not necessarily on the issue of the moral training that one undergoes in Mission schools, but most importantly, to address what is more fundamental to us in this country, which is the quality of the management of pubic basic schools.
I cannot understand why in a rural community, one would find a private public school operating usually in a ramshackle building and a public new school operating with teachers posted there under the GES and yet, at the end of the year, when you look at the results, you would see that more of the children who attend the private ramshackle basic school produce far better results than many of our public basic schools. The key issue here is the management and the leadership in those schools.
While we would work to address the quality of leadership of the heads of our various basic schools, I think a debate like this that provides opportunity for