The 1987 educational reforms compressed the four-year middle school and the traditional secondary system into the three-year Junior Secondary School (JSS) and four-year Senior Secondary School (SSS). The average age of JSS admissions is twelve. Formerly, student admissions to the secondary schools were based on results of the standardized Common Entrance Examination, which was taken during the middle school years. Successful candidates completed a five-year secondary school program and then wrote the WAEC-conducted examination for the General Certificate of Education at the Ordinary Levels (GCE O-level) in specialized subjects of study. From here, the most successful students gained admission to the few Upper Secondary Schools (Sixth Form) for two more years. Sixth form graduates wrote another standardized examination at the Advanced Levels (GCE A-level) in specialized courses. Admission to the various departments of the national universities then followed, but the majority of students from the old system, who did not continue to the universities, either joined the general workforce or sought admission to postsecondary teacher colleges.
Unlike the former middle schools, the objective for the creation of the JSS included the need to train students in skill development, with a special emphasis on vocational education, science, technology, and creativity. Furthermore, the JSS ensured that girls received greater access to postprimary education. The program called for the inculcation of a healthy appreciation of cultural heritage (history and geography) and the development of sound moral attitudes. The curriculum developed for the achievement of the set goals included courses in mathematics, social studies, cultural studies, Ghanaian languages and English, technical and vocational skills, agriculture, and physical education. The standardized examination conducted by the WAEC evaluates students' achievements at this level and makes it possible for admission into the senior secondary schools, technical institutes, or vocational schools (sometimes referred to as colleges).
For most students, graduation from the JSS marked the end of the formal education process. Students admitted to the post-JSS institutions enter either the academically oriented SSS or opt for entrance to the vocational and technical institutes. Statistical information on secondary education in Ghana in the past 30 years has shown steady increases. In 1970-1971, of the 92,821 students registered in secondary and vocational schools, 28 percent were female; of the 551,439 students at the same level of education in 1980-1981, about 24 percent were female. Student numbers greatly increased to 768,603 (39 percent female) in 1990-1991 and 864,300 (38 percent female) in 1991-1992.
Even though the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook (2000) still showed 1992 figures as the most current official numbers for secondary schools, there is no reason to suspect that there has been a decrease in student admissions. Also, it is important to mention that while a small number of Peace Corp teachers still volunteer to teach in Ghana, the schools are almost 100 percent staffed by Ghanaian teachers. Students completing the SSS level are evaluated by the WAEC-conducted Senior Secondary School exams in the core courses of English, mathematics, science, and social studies. The very successful candidates are evaluated for admission to the various departments of the national universities. Others can seek admission to the three-year post SSS teacher training colleges.
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