Ghana operates on a 6-3-4-4 system that begins with Primary School, which lasts for six years. Upon completion, students advance to Junior Secondary/High School, which lasts another three years followed by another three years of Senior Secondary School. Senior High School entrants between 2007 and 2009 spend four years at this stage. Finally, a University level Bachelor’s Degree demands another four years. This English language system is highly regarded in the region, and graduates are, for the most part, well prepared to enter the workforce. That isn’t to say that shortcomings do not exist, however a constant regime of introspection and policy development allows the Ministry of Education (MoE) to continually work toward excellence.
Students from Ghana routinely transfer into competitive programs abroad. According to the US embassy in Ghana, 2,863 Ghanaians are enrolled in over 600 institutions in all 50 US states. Thousands more are enrolled across Africa, Europe, and elsewhere. That said, many of these outstanding students come from wealthier, more urban areas and the MoE is working to correct this. According to a spokesperson for the department, this involves improving access to the later stages of education, as well as improving quality. The ministry also takes an active role in ensuring that the moral fabric of the country is strengthened through education.
The private sector is also an important partner in this process. There are currently of 60 private universities that complement 10 public universities. Private participation is also well established at the primary levels and while still rather rare at high school levels, is growing more pronounced there as well.
According to the its website, the MoE’s vision is to build “a dynamic sector that prepares and equips all Ghanaians with relevant education and skills to promote socio-economic development.“ To this end, five broad policy objectives are in place: improving the management of the delivery of education services, advancing inclusive and equitable access to quality education for all, improving the quality learning through improved teaching, promoting STEM studies, and providing comprehensive life skills training.
The MoE manages this agenda through extensive monitoring of schools. As of late 2015, 11,594 Basic schools were subject to quarterly monitoring and unannounced visits by the MoE, National Inspectorate Board (NIB), and Ghana Education Service (GES) officers.
The national pass rate for the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) at the secondary level has been low and is being addressed, especially in Mathematics and Science for the period 2005 to 2014. In the same time period, pass rates averaged 48.1% for Mathematics and 53.9% for Science. Students fared better in English and Social Studies, where they averaged 63.2% and 81.3% respectively.
That said, the general trend is upwards, such as in Mathematics where the worst performance was in 2007, when pass rates were 24.2%. Six years later, the pass rate was up to 71%—the best year on record. In integrated science 2007 was also a poor year, with a pass rate of 24.3%, and once again this rate surged to 85% in 2013.
The development of education in the country is laid out in the Education Strategic Plan 2010— 2020. The plan promotes decentralization, which has made district education offices and heads of institutions responsible for implementing education polices in their respective localities through defined management activities that improve education delivery.
In late 2015, the MoE unveiled its ICT in Education Policy, following extensive consultation with various sector stakeholders including public, private, and civil society actors, education managers, and development partners. In the official policy paper, the plan outlined three pillars of ICT in education as follows:
The first focus was to engage ICT as learning and operating tool. In this context, software applications as well as hardware devices will be used as tool to manage educational environments. In other words, ICT efficiencies will enforce work-place policies and management and administrative functions, support institutional level technology planning, and allow educators from the MoE policymakers down to individual teachers to maximize their time and resources. Secondly, ICT is to be integrated into teaching and learning. ICT will be integrated into the national curriculum in all subjects. This will create the opportunity for both teachers and policy makers to utilize educational technology tools for teaching and expanding their expertise in all subjects. Finally, ICT provides career options and the government is trying to move future workers in this direction. The new plan provides tutoring options for talented students, providing high levels of technical competency to fill positions in the country’s growing ICT sector.
In essence, Ghana’s schools are now integrating ICT studies and computer science as a subject at all levels of education, allowing students to progress along with technological innovations. The plan lays out five strategies to accomplish this. First it introduces ICT as a core or elective subject at institutions across the country. The plan establishes a national minimum basic ICT skills sets at all levels. This ensures that students are computer literate and that they possess basic ICT skills. In addition, measurement and evaluation mechanisms are established for all ICT skills set programs.
A teaching syllabus for ICT courses at all levels is in place, and a research that evaluates digital content for teaching and learning works with teachers to constantly improve ICT education in the country. This constant training is not specific to ICT. For example, the Ministry of Education routinely holds events such as an intensive training workshop for mathematics teachers from the Central, Western and Northern regions, held in September 2015.
A closer look at the numbers for basic education shows that the country has made remarkable steps in terms of gender parity, while also highlighting areas where improvements are in order. In volume, there were 28,098 schools ranging from the crí¨che/nursery designation to junior high school in the 2014/15 school year. This number is up from the 25,972 schools reported in the 2004/05 report. Returning to the more current report, enrollment for the aforementioned levels was 5.79 million, with women/girls accounting for 48.7% and 49.9% of enrollment in public and private schools respectively. Pupil-to-teacher ratios were generally high, except for junior high school, where the rates were 16 and 13 for public and private schools respectively.
Of these classrooms, public ones were in greater disrepair, with 21% classified by the government as ‘needing major repairs’ (NMR). In private schools this number was 6%. This speaks to the push to upgrade existing schools, and a closer look at the schools, especially in the public sector, shows where upgrades are the most pressing. By percentages, only 56% of public schools had toilets, 38% water, 59% urinals, and 46% electricity. Even in private schools, these percentages were mostly in the mid-1970s.
Turning to teachers in the aforementioned levels of instruction, training levels naturally increase as students enter progressively higher levels of instruction. At the crí¨che level only 41% of teachers have formal training. By kindergarten this number is up to 61.7%, by primary it is 75%, and finally by junior high school, 87.8% of teachers were formally trained.
For the more hands-on graduates of junior high school looking for good paying jobs without the abstract requirements of college, Ghana offers vocational colleges that are a cornerstone of its economic development plans. These schools are categorized under three designations; Ghana Educational Service (GES) schools, other public institutions, and private institutions. GES schools account for the lion’s share of the enrollment with 32,230 pupils, however they also register the lowest number of female attendees—17.1% as opposed to 60% for private schools.
For those in pursuit of a more abstract education, some 70 universities are an option. Enrollment in the 2013/14 academic year reached 166,508 according to MoE data. While there is only one public for every six private universities, the former accounted for an enrollment of 89,435 whereas the latter enrolled 65,437. This means that public universities have an average enrollment of over 8,900 per institution.
Ghana’s universities are on a path to becoming a regional leader in higher education, especially as its neighbors flail in their attempts to right their own inadequacies and corruption. According to a report by All Africa published in early 2016, more than 75,000 Nigerian students were studying in higher educational institutions in Ghana. Importantly, their tuition added $1.2 billion to the coffers of local institutions, reinforcing their positions in the national economy.
To institutionalize this progress, the 2016 budget has been allocated more than $1.7 billion to education, about 15% of the total budget. A large percentage of this money will be spent on tertiary education. For example, a $217 million 617-bed Teaching Hospital at the University of Ghana is under construction to train medical students and nurses. A $37 million Distance Education information and communications technology facility is also underway, as well as a slew of other smaller-budget projects that are making studying in Ghana an increasingly attractive option, both for locals and their less fortunate neighbors.