Officials from the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, development partners, and civil society organizations were all present in Accra, Ghana, in early August for the National Education Week, which serves to appraise the country’s education sector performance and plan for the future.
Chaired by the Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, the event was held under the theme: “Reforming the Education Sector for Effective Service Delivery: Embracing Innovations”. The occasion for the ministry to showcase its achievements on key government priorities to stakeholders, and collectively discuss progress made over the past year and identify gaps in effective service delivery.
A dynamic joint sector review
By convening all stakeholders, the Ministry of Education gave them the opportunity to express their views and contribute to building a more efficient education system.
Based on a collaborative approach, the review was not limited to giving the floor to decision-makers, but rather to involve all participants and for everyone to provide inputs. This made the review more practical and less theoretical.
Its format, alternating between plenary sessions, report presentations, group work and speeches from dignitaries and personalities from various sub-sectors of education, largely contributed to make this event a particularly dynamic one.
Discussing progress and identifying gaps in service delivery
Facts speak for themselves. From pre-primary to secondary (Ghana calls it pre-tertiary), progress in Ghana’s education sector in recent years are legion and include:
- Expanding physical infrastructure by building new schools and STEAM (STEM + Arts) centers across the country;
- Developing a costed National Assessment Strategy for Pre-tertiary Education;
- Introducing STEM and ICT in all basic schools as part of a broader curriculum reform; this is to ensure that young students are getting familiar with these crucial competencies at an earlier age;
- Developing a National Accountability Framework for improving learning outcomes, that includes teachers, headteachers, circuit supervisors, district and regional directors of education;
- Establishing free high schools benefiting nearly 800,000 students across the country in the past 2 academic years.
However, like in many comparable countries, challenges remain before all children in Ghana have access to quality learning:
- Too many adolescent girls still do not have access to private toilets in school;
- Funds are insufficient to implement many of the programs included in the sector plan;
- TVET interventions are not being implemented in school for children with disabilities;
- Inequalities between urban and rural students continue to increase (for example, some subjects, such as second languages, are taught only in schools located in urban areas);
- Education needs to be more relevant to the context. Children need to be taught the skills they need to help them become problem-solvers and work in the jobs of the future.
Facing these challenges, the government intends to learn from the identified shortcomings to improve the supply and better meet the requirements and needs in terms of quality and capacity. But to achieve this, it must rely on evidence.
Using evidence for better planning and service delivery
That was the main purpose of “The Evidence Summit” held on day 2 of the review. It brought together policymakers, researchers and practitioners who shared evidence about proven innovative approaches to improve learning outcomes and identified ways they can be used to improve Ghana’s education system.
Early childhood education, accountability, innovative teaching practices and financing, school management and accountability, better data for decision-making were the main themes of the diverse rigorous academic researches presented during the exchanges, alongside the ministry’s annual assessment.
Which approach is the best to improve the quality of teaching? What are innovative approaches to make education more inclusive for children with disabilities? What are innovative systems-level approaches to improve data-collection for better data-driven solutions? How to get parents more involved in improving their children’s learning? Which forms of monitoring and evaluation are good to track the effectiveness of education programs? The questions requiring answers were numerous and the best practice cases presented during the Evidence Summit brought at least some elements of response. It was a crucial moment to see what works best, how and why.
The diversity of contexts in which those practices had been implemented made it more relevant for the audience to understand the complexity of the challenge faced by the stakeholders working to improve learning outcomes at all levels.
Identifying gaps in effective service delivery and reflecting on ways to address them was the ultimate goal of all these discussions: the feedback collected during each session was used to inform recommendations to be presented to the ministry, the Ghana Education Services and development partners during the NEW closing session.
To achieve great results, education sector needs evidence-informed policy. But, since there's no one-size-fits-all approach: “We should be careful about what we borrow and try to adapt to our own context”, the Deputy Minister in charge of General Education warned.
Government and partners hand in hand for a truly sustainable education
The relationship between the Ghanaian government and its development partners is effective and candid. For example, national civil society organizations and religious bodies play a key role in accompanying the government in its efforts to achieve SDG 4.
They were all present during the week and they played their part, sometimes encouraging or criticizing the government, but still in a spirit of construction and solidarity.
Their message was simple: “We will continue our efforts in improving education to make Ghanaian students as competitive as other students around the world”.
This, of course, implies to maintain a strong collaboration between the government and its partners and, in some cases, find ways to lift that collaboration to a higher level, if the country would like to have a more robust education system. Representatives of the ministry stated that they are open to dialogue, collaboration and to hear all proposals that can contribute to the country's progress towards achieving SDG 4.
An opportunity for knowledge exchange between partner countries
GPE seized the occasion of the Ghana National Education Week to bring 8 officials from Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia to explore – through direct observation and exchanges – the characteristics of an effective and efficient joint sector review. We will discuss this in our next blog post.