A growing population, expanding job opportunities in a dynamic economy, and funding and support from a range of sources are driving the expansion of Ghana’s education sector. The system is a mix of public and private provisions, and in the past decades has established a solid base of schooling for the vast majority of Ghanaians. In some areas, at top universities for example, the system rivals the best on the continent.
Enrolment at private schools has been growing at a fairly rapid rate – in the double digits in some segments – and the number of private institutions is expanding to meet this demand.
However, there are deficiencies, and the government is strongly committed to tackling them. Several key areas of focus include improving inclusivity for those with special needs, and strengthening technical education with a view to meeting the demands of an increasingly sophisticated economy.
In the 2014/15 academic year, the last period for which statistics were available, there were 6218 nurseries and crèches in Ghana according to figures from the Ministry of Education (MoE), up 8.3% from the previous year. The rate indicates the impressive growth of the sector as more and more Ghanaian parents recognise the importance of preschool education in building a solid foundation for their children’s schooling. The segment is dominated by the private sector, with 5375 nurseries and crèches, compared to just 319 in the public sector, in which the number of institutions actually declined during the 2014/15 academic year.
There were a total of 334,399 pupils in nurseries and crèches in 2014/15, with 14,182 in the public system and 320,217 in the private sector. The gross enrolment ratio (GER) – defined as the number of children attending these institutions as a proportion of their age group (in this case, the 0-3 year old cohort) – rose to 10.9% in 2014/15 from 10.7% the previous year, suggesting substantial potential for growth in the segment, particularly as Ghana’s upwardly-mobile middle class expands.
There were a total of 20,960 kindergartens in Ghana in 2014/15, up 4.3% on the previous year. Of these, the vast majority – 13,828, were in the public sector – up 2.5% on 2013/14, and 7132 run by the private sector, showing growth of 7.9%.
Total enrolment at kindergartens was 1.77m pupils, up 7.4% on the previous year, with 1.29m in the public sphere and 481,236 in the private system. A substantial growth in kindergarten enrolment has taken the GER to 128.8%, indicating that there are substantially more children enrolled in kindergartens than there are aged 4-5 years. This is probably due to some children entering kindergarten at an earlier age, and some staying at kindergarten when old enough for primary school. Pupil-to-teacher ratios in the segment are relatively high, at 34:1-35:1 in the public system and 33:1 in the private sector, down from a lower ratio in 2013/14, suggesting that recruitment has failed to keep pace with the growth of the studentry. Furthermore, only 45.5% of kindergarten teachers have formal training – and just 5.1% in the private sector – though the proportion of trained staff has been increasing, a sign that Ghana’s teacher education efforts are paying off.
Ghana had a total of 21,309 primary schools in 2014/15, up 3.9% on the previous academic year, with 14,405 in the public and 6904 in the private sector. Enrolment totalled 4.34m, up 5.5% on the previous year, with 3.24m in the public and 1.1m in the private system. Public primary enrolment grew 2.7%, while private enrolment rose 14.8%.
The net enrolment rate (NER) for the 6-11 year age group has increased, rising from 89.3% in 2013/14 to 91% in 2014/15. The NER, which measures the proportion of an age group that is in education, is seen as a better measure of the education system’s coverage and efficiency. Ghana’s primary NER shows room for continued improvement, but is respectable for a developing country which until recently was in the low-income bracket and which includes large swathes of remote rural areas with limited access.
In primary schools, the pupil-to-teacher ratio has stayed steady despite the rise in pupil enrolment, and stood at 31:1 in 2014/15, with 34:1 in the public sector and 26:1 in the private sector. Overall, 54.7% of teachers were formally trained, up slightly on 52.4% the previous year, but there remains a wide discrepancy between the public and private sector, with 75% and just 8.1%, respectively.
Ghana had 13,840 junior high schools (JHSs) in 2014/15, up 5.8% from 2013/14. Some 9445 were public and 4395 private, the latter having grown 9.7% on the previous year. Enrolment totalled 1.59m, up 8% on 2013/14, with 1.24m in public schools (up 5.3%) and 350,863 in the private sector, up 18.7%. However, many of these pupils were outside the 12-14 age range for junior high schools. The NER for the 12-14 cohort was just 49%, though substantially higher at the upper end of the age range with a competition rate – the ratio of JHS third-year enrolment against the population aged 14 – of 73.5%, up from 69% the previous year. There is also a disparity between genders, with the male completion rate representing 76.4% and the female rate 70.6%, both an improvement on 2013/14.
The pupil-to-teacher ratio in the public JHS system was 16:1, with 87.8% of teachers trained. In the private system, the ratio was 13:1, with 16.5% trained, meaning that across JHSs, nearly 70% were trained.
Ghana’s senior high schools (SHSs) numbered 863 in 2014/15, with 562 in the public and 301 in the private sector. Enrolment totalled 804,974, up 7.4% in 2013/14, with 741,052 in public schools and 63,922 in private schools – the former rising 8.3% and the latter declining 3.6%, an example of the private sector not only growing more slowly than the public sector, but actually shrinking in overall pupil numbers.
The GER for the 15-17 year-old SHS age group was 45.8%, up from 43.9% the previous year. SHSs as a whole had a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 20.3, with 21.1 in public schools and 14.5 in the private system, with the proportion of trained teachers 88.5% and 51.8%, respectively – both proportions rising on 2014/15.
Behind national figures, regional breakdowns reveal some of the geographical disparities that still affect the education system. Population growth, rapid urbanisation and scarce resources in some areas all contribute to significant differences between regions. For example, at the primary level, 65.4% of teachers in the Eastern Region are qualified, as opposed to 44.9% in the Western Region; at SHS level, 91.1% of teachers in the Central Region have formal training, compared to 75.2% in the Upper East. The pupil-to-teacher ratio for primary schools in the Upper East is 43:1, while in the Ashanti and Eastern Regions, it is 27:1. At SHS level, the Eastern Region performs well again, with a gross admission ratio – that is, the proportion of 15-yearolds at school – of 64.4%, while in Greater Accra the proportion is just 30.4%. Pupil-to-teacher ratios range from 19 in the Volta Region to 26 in Northern.
Even before independence, in 1951 the Accelerated Development Plan catalysed a rapid increase in school enrolment, brought in emergency teacher training, and expanded facilities in secondary and technical schools in particular. These measures substantially increased access to education.
Following independence, the 1961 Education Act made primary and middle schooling compulsory. The 1992 constitution guaranteed equality of educational opportunity, and instituted compulsory free education for all Ghanaians of school age, with the target of universal coverage by 2005. However, access is still not universal, and children with disabilities account for many of those not attending school.
According to the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey of 2014, approximately 737,743 Ghanaians live with disabilities, accounting for 3% of the population. Children with disabilities and special educational needs (SENs) are particularly vulnerable. There has been a perception that children with SENs are the responsibility of special-needs teachers, rather than of the education system and local communities.
These general systemic and societal issues have held back the development of universal education in Ghana. Yet in recent years, successive governments have made real progress in addressing the challenge, with a strong emphasis put on inclusive education (IE), supported by partners including UNICEF.
Pilot To Policy
The aim has been to reintegrate most SEN children into the mainstream system through an IE pilot scheme launched in 2003. By 2013, more than 16,5000 pupils with mild disabilities were enrolled in mainstream schools, and 6385 children with severe disabilities were registered at 39 special schools. However, this still left 16,288 children out of school – around 20% of those aged 6-14 with disabilities. The IE pilot project was rolled out to 529 schools in 24 districts by 2011, and by 2015 more than 6500 teachers and school administrators in 998 schools were trained for IE implementation, while 3400 parents and other stakeholders had taken part in IE workshops. The pilot programme has allowed Ghana to identify strengths and weaknesses, and has played a central role in developing the country’s new IE policy. This was launched in May 2016 and is likely to be a centrepiece of the government’s education policy over the coming years (see analysis).
Ghana has a burgeoning tertiary education sector, with nine public and 60 private universities as of the 2013/14 academic year. There were also seven specialised tertiary education institutions in the public sector, including the Ghana Institute of Journalism, the Institute of Local Government Studies and the Regional Maritime University. There were also 10 polytechnics, several of which are in the process of attaining university status.
In total there were 166,508 students at universities, 89,435 of which were at mainstream public universities, 11,636 at public special universities and 65,437 in the private sector. The vast majority of these students – 144,100 – were taking first degrees, 12,292 master’s degrees, 6637 diplomas, 511 postgraduate certificates or diplomas, and 2238 other certificates. Only 730 students were studying for PhDs. International education is currently filling the gap here. Many Ghanaians go abroad for research and further study. That the research function of universities in Ghana remains underdeveloped is one of the higher education system’s significant weaknesses.
Most of Ghana’s main universities are public institutions – the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the University of Development Studies are key institutions, each with around 20,000 students. In the private sector, the biggest university is Central University College, with 9132 students, followed by the Ghana Technology University College (formerly the Ghana Telecom University) with 6200 students. Many private universities are smallscale, with between 12 and 100 students each.
In September 2016 eight polytechnics were upgraded to university status under the Technical Universities Act 2016. The polytechnics in Accra, Ho, Koforidua, Sunyani, Kumasi, Takoradi, Cape Coast, and Tamale were awarded university status. The policy to convert all polytechnics into technical universities was initiated by former President John Dramani Mahama and outlined in his 2012 election manifesto and the 2013 State of the Nation address. The purpose is to bring technical education up to university standard, and bridge the gap between tertiary education and the needs of employers, with the long-term aim of supporting Ghana’s economic transformation. The polytechnics will remain focused on technical, skills-based education, with a stronger emphasis on a technology-driven job market. One of the goals is to tackle the perception that technical education is second-rate compared to more academic courses.
The upgrading of the polytechnics is part of a wide-ranging policy of enhancing technical education, with government, donor and international financial intuitions all participating. In March 2016 the government announced it had secured $124m from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to retool technical educational instructions under the bank’s Development of Skills for Industry Project (DSIP). The government considers Germany’s technical education system to be a prime model for the Ghanaian sector’s development.
The Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training has a budget of GHS2.2m ($567,600) for 2016, with 51% of that allocation coming from donors. The funding will be used to strengthen teacher training in particular, with an expanded “trainer of trainers” programme to support those overseeing apprentices. Efforts are also being made to ensure that secondary schools prepare pupils better for further technical education.
The DSIP was launched in 2013 and aims to meet the growing demand for technically-skilled workers, which has not been matched by the education system. The AfDB identifies particular opportunities in sectors such as oil and gas, tourism, ICT and light industries including garment manufacture. The scheme includes bursaries and stipends; funds to supply materials including ICT equipment, teaching aids and textbooks; and funds to improve school facilities and develop careers guidance.
The Ghanaian education system has evolved and grown steadily over the past decades. However, it has not always kept pace with the economy’s acceleration and diversification in recent years, while in some areas – particularly with IE – the long-term goals have still not been met. With this in mind, reform and development of the sector has become a priority, an undertaking in which both foreign and private partners are playing key roles.
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