Ghana: Making quality education available to more children

A multi-pronged approach in Ghana is helping more children access quality education.

September 13, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
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4 minutes read
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A laptop computer held by a student ar the Gbimsi Junior High School, in Savelugu, Northern Region of Ghana. May 2016. Credit: GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer
A laptop computer held by a student ar the Gbimsi Junior High School, in Savelugu, Northern Region of Ghana. May 2016.
GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer

A GPE partner since 2004, Ghana has made impressive progress in growing its economy, reducing poverty and improving education. It has enrolled all children in at least two years of preschool and sends as many girls as boys to school at all levels.

The government has also made senior high school free for all students, one of the many education reforms undertaken by President Akufo-Addo’s administration. Now there are regular student evaluations, a greater focus on critical thinking and comprehension, and expanded early childhood education and teacher training.

Education’s share of the government’s domestic financing was more than 27% in 2018, exceeding the GPE recommended benchmark of 20%.

Still, challenges abound. The quality of education is low: a child who completes nearly 12 years of school will have learned the equivalent of slightly less than 6 years.

But Ghana is one of the few countries with a two-year preschool policy as part of its commitment to Free and Compulsory Basic Education, which places it ahead of the curve compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Morning Class in Kwame, Savelugu in the Northern Region of Ghana. May 2016. Credit: GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer
Morning Class in Kwame, Savelugu in the Northern Region of Ghana. May 2016.
GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer

Leading the way on early childhood education

Pre-primary education is a game-changer.

Children who attend preschool are more likely to go to primary school on time, less likely to drop out or repeat grades, and more likely to complete primary and secondary school. Despite these proven benefits, 175 million young children worldwide don’t have the chance to attend pre-primary school.

Since Ghana joined GPE, enrollment in kindergarten classrooms rose from 63% in 2005 to 115% in 2017 (enrollment over 100% means that there are children younger than age 4 or older than age 5 in kindergarten). Still, Ghana has yet to fully implement its preschool education policy, with overcrowded classrooms and 3 of 10 children ages 3 to 5 not attending school.

GPE support has boosted early childhood education efforts such as recruiting preschool teachers, which lowered the teacher-student ratio from 1 to 93 to 1 to 46 over a 10-year period and building kindergarten classrooms.

The launch of an early childhood education pilot program, supported by GPE’s Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS), is helping the government close the gap.

Funded by GPE and several partners, BELDS aims to elevate early childhood education as an essential part of sector planning through such activities as capacity-building and cross-country knowledge exchange.

“Going forward, we will sustain all efforts under BELDS and strengthen institutional mechanisms so that all Ghanaian children -- especially the most disadvantaged -- can attend quality kindergarten and are ready to learn in primary school and beyond,” says Anthony Boateng, deputy director general of the Ghana Education Service.

Advancing equity for the most vulnerable children

GPE has a strong focus on equity for all children, and it is paying dividends in Ghana.

Girls in particular can face daunting obstacles to go to and stay in school, including harmful gender norms, long distances to the nearest school and poverty.

The GPE program has given bicycles to girls who travel from distant cocoa farms where they live and installed separate toilets at schools. GPE’s efforts, along with girls’ scholarships from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has helped close the gender gap in primary school completion rates.

“In terms of girls’ enrollment, the figures shot up very drastically in the region. That is what has actually impressed me in terms of the GPE program.”

Alhaji Mohammed Haroon, regional director of education, in Ghana’s northern region
Girls with bicycles provided by GPE Grant funds in Kwame, Savelugu in the Northern Region of Ghana. May 2016. Credit: GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer
Girls with bicycles provided by GPE Grant funds in Kwame, Savelugu in the Northern Region of Ghana. May 2016.
GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer

While elementary and middle schools have been free and compulsory, as many as 100,000 students each year couldn’t transition to secondary school because their families could not afford the fees. But in 2017, Ghana struck another blow to inequity by instituting tuition-free senior high school.

As elsewhere, Ghanaian children still can experience unequal education, from gender gaps in school completion rates in upper grades to poorer outcomes in rural areas to income and ethnic disparities.

To address these inequities, GPE, the World Bank and FCDO helped create a program in 2020 to improve education quality in low-performing basic education schools and strengthen equity and accountability throughout the school system.

GPE’s US$24.4 million grant is supporting efforts by the Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Program (GALOP) to revamp the curriculum, establish an innovative performance dashboard, and use technology to monitor student progress in 10,000 schools - half of all primary schools. Ghana is also trying to close the equity gap by eliminating fees for academic support for students who are struggling.

Reimagining teacher training

Getting all children into classrooms is only the first step. Its teaching force is the key to getting children to actually learn.

In Ghana, many teachers are unqualified to teach, with 41% of male and 28% of female teachers lacking formal qualifications or teaching with sub-standard qualifications in 2016. That year, the government launched the GPE-financed Teaching Service Commission to recruit, develop and manage the country’s teachers.

GPE also supported the development of the innovative Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education program. Nearly 8,000 young teachers from disadvantaged districts are trained during holidays and over three summers, allowing them to keep teaching during the school year.

Moreover, to raise teaching standards, the government has mandated that all teachers have a four-year bachelor’s degree and be licensed by the Ministry of Education. It is also upgrading its colleges of education.

With GPE’s support, which includes bringing on new financing partners to contribute to Ghana’s education system, and a government committed to scaling up reforms, lasting change can be achieved.

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Early learning, Learning
Sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana

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