Ready to learn: Ghana, a frontrunner for universal pre-primary education

This blog is part of a series on GPE’s initiative on early childhood education: BELDS (Better Early Learning and Development at Scale). The blog explains how the BELDS approach works through the experience in Ghana, one of four pilot countries.

January 06, 2020 by Anthony Boateng, Ghana Education Service
5 minutes read
Morning lessons at Pong Tamale Experimental Primary School. Ghana
Credit: GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer

Ghana is one of the few countries with a two-year education policy for kindergarten 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.

Recognizing the benefits of early childhood education (ECE) and investing in this area over the past two decades, the Ministry of Education (MoE)/Ghana Education Service (GES) has increased national efforts and equitably expanded kindergarten services, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Since 2000, MoE/GES has actively worked towards achieving universal access to pre-primary education and boasts of gross enrollment over 100% (1.7 million children in kindergarten, regardless of their age) with an achievement of gender parity (Ghana EMIS 2018-2019).

However, about a third of children sitting in kindergarten classrooms are either over or under aged, and three of every 10 preschool children are not in school.  This represents about 400,000 preschool children who still do not have the opportunity to attend kindergarten (Ghana EMIS 2016-2017). 

KG children in Anfoega Wadamaxe R/C Primary-North Dayi School
KG children in Anfoega Wadamaxe R/C Primary-North Dayi School

Kindergarten helps children be ready to learn in primary and beyond

As the Deputy Director-General of the GES and implementers of the MoE’s policies, my and the entire leadership’s vision is to respond to the needs of Ghanaian children to ensure that they all have a fair chance to be “ready for learning” in primary school.

While kindergarten is integrated in the Education Sector Plan (ESP 2018-2030) and the Education Sector Medium-Term Development Plan (ESMTDP 2018-2021), there was a concern that the uniqueness and distinctiveness of kindergarten might be overshadowed and overlooked in the broader basic education space. 

In order to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of pre-primary education in Ghana, the key question to tackle was, how do we ensure that the early education systems’ particular features and challenges are articulated and highlighted so that they are systematically and substantially addressed?

Little did I know that the answer was to be found right at my doorstep through a new, innovative diagnostic and planning process that is developing into a comprehensive “Kindergarten Policy Framework” consisting of (1) a kindergarten-specific policy directive; (2) a detailed costed kindergarten operational plan; and (3) an accompanying monitoring and evaluation framework.

Diagnostic and planning workshop: identifying and overcoming challenges to universal quality pre-primary

The process began with a collaborative diagnostic workshop in June 2018, engaging the MoE/GES and key partners to assess the pre-primary landscape in Ghana. The workshop also helped to identify priority challenges and associated strategies across the subsector to improve the provision of equitable and quality ECE. Findings from the diagnostic workshop revealed, for example, weak coordination mechanisms among key ECE stakeholders that are essential for collective impact; inadequate family and community engagement; and limited data from the sub-national level to better inform policy decisions.

A key result from this exercise was the establishment of a “core technical working group” of ECE stakeholders tasked to take forward the findings from the workshop and craft the “Kindergarten Policy Framework” aligned with ESP 2018-2030 and ESMTDP 2018-2021. The framework aimed at reducing inefficiences and maximizing results of children’s school readiness. This core team consists of GES planning officers, staticians and ECE and M&E experts, research and program officers from key NGOs and donor agencies, and serve as technical experts and champions for ECE.

Bright Dey, a participating GES Planning Officer and member of the core team, says he benefited from the work because it, “gave me a lof of exposure on most of the critical child development issues, which we often overlook in our educational planning processes. I’m now better off to deliver improved planning for quality ECE.”

 Launch of the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) Initiative in Ghana

BELDS launch re-energizes stakeholders’ commitment for early learning and strengthens engagement

Following the diagnostic workshop, the timely launch of the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) Initiative in Ghana re-energized the ECE agenda and strengthened the capacity of the core technical group to shape and deliver the “Kindergarten Policy Framework”.

With financial and technical support from BELDS, the technical working group has completed the near-final draft of the policy, the costed operational plan and the accompanying monitoring and evaluation framework. As part of the development of the operational plan, the MoE/GES will explore how to increase the fiscal space through efficiency gains, and leverage targeted and catalytic financing (domestic financing and public-private partnerships) to reduce inequalities and improve quality. 

“Using the BELDS process to guide the development of an ECE Policy for the Ghana Ministry of Education has been quite insightful and a good learning experience....I have particularly found the technical working group approach as mutaully beneficial in learning from others.  Sharing my knowledge and building my professional capacity in the process. I am thankful for having been introduced to this process. I will definitely recommend using the BELDS approach to any country that seeks to provide a structures approach to documenting and delivering quality ECE services” - MoE/GES Senior Researcher Bridget Konadu-Ghuamfir

BELDS in Ghana

BELDS will help Ghana achieve universal quality pre-primary education

Ghana remains steadfast in its commitment to improve the quality of ECE service delivery and ensure universal access. 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. 

What is BELDS?

Making progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal – Target 4.2 – universal access to quality pre-primary education for all children is a bold challenge, as nearly half of the world’s preschool age children are not enrolled in an early education program. 

A critical solution is to ensure that early childhood education (ECE) is systematically integrated into national education sector planning and policy implementation cycles. To this end, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF have partnered under the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) Initiative. BELDS pilots an innovative and systematic approach to strengthen national capacity to plan and cost early childhood education programs and ensure they are a part of education sector planning and implementation processes.

With pilots in four partner countries (Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Sao Tome & Principe), BELDS aims to raise the profile of ECE to become an essential part of education sector planning through capacity building activities, cross-country peer learning and exchange, and the development of a global toolkit of resources that can inform the work across regions.

BELDS is funded by GPE with support from the Open Society Foundation, Comic Relief, Hilton Foundation and Dubai Cares. 

ECE is also one of 6 key thematic areas for GPE’s Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX).

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Thankfully, I was invited participate in a Validation Workshop on moving the draft ECE Policy Framework agenda, otherwise known as "Kindergarten Policy Framework", in Ghana forward at Accra yesterday (Monday 24 February).

I'm really delighted to have listened to Mr. Anthony Boateng of the Ghana Education Service directorate at the event. Indeed, he wholeheartedly did communicate that the draft ECE Policy Framework in Ghana must not just be a working document, but a living document as well.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate. Thank you.

Go GPE, go BELDS!!

[An alum of the 2019 IIEP-UNESCO/UNICEF/GPE MOOC on Mainstreaming ECE in Education Sector Planning]

25 February, 2020

In reply to by Emmanuel Annan

Wow...such great progress on the path of mainstreaming ECE in ESPs in not so ordinary times! I am most thrilled to hear about these two remarkable achievements: (1) Ghana's ECE Policy Framework is now ready! =>… (2) An ECE Accelerator Analysis and Planning Toolkit has been developed by the GPE and UNICEF in support of activities revolving around the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) initiative toward the attainment of ECE Policy goals of many a country, in the long run.
All told, I am happy for the opportunity of continuing to learn from the e-resource hub in the ECE Accelerator Toolkit . Thank you, gentle reader.
Warm regards,
[A 'champion' alum of the 2019 IIEP-UNESCO/UNICEF/GPE MOOC on Mainstreaming ECE into ESPs]
04 May, 2021

The opportunity to be a part of the ECE National Core Technical Working Group did not only enabled me to contribute my experiences as an educational planner but also helped me to learn and build capacity about the BELDS approach. Great initiative from the GPE and UNICEF.

As a pediatrician attached to a unique scheme at Dayalbagh India I want to share our 4 years longitudinal observational study involving hundreds of children between age 3weeks to 5years who follow the holistic routine with community. Their growth and development measured on a 6 dimensional scale shows encouraging early childhood development and education results

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