Steadily increasing numbers of students will require a better strategy to prioritise development in technical education and infrastructure

As Ghana’s youthful population becomes increasingly urbanised and more eager for employment, an adequate education framework that prepares students for the workforce, particularly for careers in a modern ICT environment, has become increasingly necessary. The Ministry of Education (MoE), which is responsible for policy development, has invested significantly in new reforms targeting the sector.

Although universal access to basic education remains the core ministry priority, a number of new policies and multi-year development plans illustrate a renewed focus on post-secondary education. Capacity building and knowledge transfer through new training programmes, private universities and public-private partnerships are also a top priority.

Indicators

While challenges remain with regards to attendance and over-spending, access to education and gross enrolment ratio (GER) across the system has increased noticeably. According to the MoE’s 2013 Education Sector Performance Report, the kindergarten GER increased from 99.4% during the 2011/12 academic year to 113.8% for the 2012/13 year; primary school GER increased from 96.5% to 105% ( indicating 44,000 new children enrolled in the system), and junior high school GER increased from 80.6% to 82.2%. At the senior high school level, while overall enrolment increased from 758,468 students to 842,587, the GER dipped slightly from 37.1% to 36.8%, according to the latest MoE report. Retention rates, however, have decreased for both primary and junior high school demographics. Primary school retention fell to 81% for the 2012/13 year from 91.8% during the 2008/09 year, while junior high school retention fell from 90.8% to 78.5% over the same period.

Latest statistics regarding tertiary education show that total enrolment increased from 217,543 in 2010/11 to 261,962 for 2011/2012. This was driven by significant increases in the number of students enrolled in private sector institutions, which increased from 32,275 in 2010/11 to 59,899 the following year. Meanwhile, total enrolment at public facilities – including universities, polytechnics and other institutions – increased from 185,268 to 202,063 over the same period. Despite this overall growth, however, public universities saw a drop in enrolment, going from 115,452 students in 2010/11 to 109,278 in 2011/12.

Educational policy has been formulated, implemented and monitored with the help of statistics provided through the Education Management Information System (EMIS). The adoption of this platform has enabled Ghana to track key indicators for more than a decade, as it was initially used to generate annual school census data for 1997, according to the World Bank. The ongoing use of the EMIS design has ensured that educational policy can be developed and put into practice through the use of accurate information.

Structure

The MoE is responsible for determining policy with regards to education while the Ghana Education Service (GES) carries out this policy through its network of district education offices. Additionally, three subsidiary bodies were developed under the Education Act 2008 to assist in rolling out the decentralised management of pre-tertiary policy.

The National Inspectorate Board (NIB) handles the external monitoring and evaluation of school quality and performance, according to the MoE. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment acts as the advisory council to the minister pertaining to curriculum oversight, and the National Teaching Council oversees all activities related to human resources, such as registration and licensing.

At the tertiary level, meanwhile, the National Council for Tertiary Education and the National Accreditation Board are in charge of policy and quality assurance, respectively. Moreover, the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) oversees non-formal education.

Policies

The MoE has currently been operating under its fifth Education Strategic Plan (ESP) 2010-20 as the basis of its policymaking. Much like its predecessors, the objective of the current ESP is to create a more equitable education environment across the country by promoting greater accessibility, quality and skills development pertaining to science and technical skills. The ESP is carried out through a devolved management structure, where district-level capacity building is a priority. Ghana’s transition from an agrarian economy toward a knowledge- and service-based one has required fundamental education reforms in order to develop a capable workforce. The ESP’s focus on science and technical capacity building is therefore a high priority for the government, and the ICT in Education Strategic Implementation Plan 2011-15 was consequently enacted to fulfil this goal. According to the policy document, the plan aims to integrate ICT into the education culture; develop updated education management support structures; enhance monitoring and evaluation procedures; and build greater all-around capacity for ICT development.

To fast track Ghana’s achievement of the second Millennium Development Goal, universal access to primary education, the government has adopted the Complementary Basic Education (CBE) programme with support from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). From 2012 through 2015, CBE aims to target out-of-school children – approximately 120,000 in Ghana as of 2012 – and to enrol them in educational programmes. While primary enrolment levels are above 90%, the remaining percentage of pupils, typically located in poor and remote rural areas, remain underserved, according to a joint statement from the MoE and DFID upon the inauguration of the programme.

Budget

The 2014 MoE budget was approved at GHS5.82bn ($2.2bn), rising from the GHS4.41bn ($1.68bn) allocation in 2013. Due to a significant rise in public servant salaries under the new Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), the largest portion of the budget is spent on wages. According to Bright Appiah, the executive council chairman of the Ghana National Education Coalition, over 90% of government money in the education sector is spent on covering the cost of salaries and personnel. Furthermore, budgetary mismanagement has led to “leakages in the distribution and utilisation of education resources in the sector,” according to Appiah. The SSSS is intended to promote public sector work and increase teacher retention rates; however, even so, tensions have grown, arising from issues of overspending, increasing arrears and delayed salary payments, as well as disputes over which compensation levels to assign new staff.

Aside from staff salaries, funds for 2014 will flow toward infrastructure, such as the construction of 15 senior high schools and 321 toilet facilities for basic schools. This will be in addition to interactive digital portals for teachers, students and parents; distance learning programmes; science and ICT learning centres; staff training; new uniforms; textbooks; and classroom furniture, according to the ministry.

Donor contributions have also provided significant resources for the education sector. The latest data from the MoE suggests that in 2012 donors backed just over 7% of the total education budget. The majority of donor funds are focused on basic education: 87% in 2012. The largest donor injection comes from the multi-donor budget support (MDBS) fund, generated by a group of 11 development partners and the government of Ghana. Since 2003 the MDBS has provided approximately $2.8bn in support to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning for various development initiatives, with a large focus on education.

Infrastructure

While there was an increase in the number of new schools at both the basic and secondary levels, the amount falls short of proclaimed government targets and, as the number of students steadily rises, the lack of adequate infrastructure remains a major challenge for the sector leading to large classes, makeshift classrooms and high dropout rates.

The total number of kindergartens in Ghana increased to 19,277 for the 2012-13 year from 18,915 over the previous year. However, the number of public kindergartens fell by 200, according to the MoE. The number of primary schools increased marginally to a total of 19,854 from 19,833 in 2011/12, and the number of junior high schools increased from 11,567 to 12,436, with an increase in both public and private schools.

The amount of both public and private senior high schools also increased, with the total rising from 757 to 828, 20 of which are new public schools. Further to this, the government has planned for the construction of 15 new high schools under the 2014 budget. According to the MoE, the Ashanti and Central Regions have the most high schools, while the Upper East and Upper West Regions possess the least.

Private Sector

Student enrolment at basic private schools continues to increase steadily in Ghana, and the rate of first-year entrants to private schools is growing faster than public schools. For the 2012/13 year, kindergarten enrolment in private schools stood at 23.6%, up from 19.4% in 2008/09, and in the same time period primary enrolment increased to 23.1% from 18%, and junior high school rose to 20.3% from 17.2%. According to the MoE, such data illustrates that one in five children attend private school. In senior high school; however, the proportion of students attending private school dropped to 8.5% from 10% in 2008/09. Private investment in education infrastructure is in high demand, as government funding for new schools remains inadequate compared to the growing number of student entrants. To meet demand, the number of private schools has increased markedly. As of 2012/13, there were 5972 private kindergartens, up 23% from 2008/09; 5742 private primary schools, up 24%; 3618 private junior high schools, up 29%; and 293 senior high schools, up 40%.

International private schools have managed to maintain a high reputation due to their advanced accreditation, as well as small class sizes, quality teachers, international coursework and superior facilities. Some of the more reputable schools include the Ghana International School, the American International School, the British International School and the Lincoln International School. Broad economic growth and an increase in the expatriate population have increased demand for quality private schools.

Tertiary Education

Enrolment in tertiary education has increased significantly over the past decade – over 90% between 2007 and 2011 alone – according to the World Bank. The latest figures from the MoE show that total tertiary enrolment across 142 institutions reached 261,262 students in 2011/12, a 17% increase from the previous year. Public institutions account for 202,063 of these students, with the University of Ghana – the nation’s largest university – accounting for 11.4% of the total student population.

In March 2014 the World Bank announced a $16m grant to the University of Ghana to establish the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens as well as the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement. The number of students enrolled in private institutions rose from 32,275 in 2011 to 59,899 in 2012. Both Lancaster University, and Webster University opened local campuses in Accra over the course of 2013. With approximately 130 students in its first year of operations, Lancaster expects up to 800 students by 2017, according to the university’s Accra director, Raghav Lal. Demand for tertiary education is rising quickly, and current facilities are not adequate to support the number of interested students.

According to a statement from the minister of education at the 2014 Higher Education Policy Dialogue on Graduate Employability, incentives for further private investment are welcome as demand is not being met by the present higher education infrastructure. Employability for graduates of tertiary institutions is a primary concern due to a significant skills shortage and over-supply of students. The graduation rate remains much higher than the rate of economic growth, according to the ESP 2010-20. In addition to the over-supply, many students lack the necessary technical competencies to compete in a modern workforce. “There remains a large disconnect between the theoretical offerings in schools and the practical skills needed in the office,” Mathew Tsamenyi, professor at the China Europe International Business School, told OBG. “Innovative teaching styles and dynamic curriculums are still absent from the higher education segment. The textbook-centric approach has become antiquated.”

Outlook

An advanced education sector is clearly a priority, illustrated by the government’s commitment to educational development. While the budget is robust, overspending and inefficient allocations still impede optimal growth. As student populations grow each year, more resources – including proper training for teachers, ICT equipment and basic school infrastructure – will be required. Hard infrastructure remains a key challenge and greater investment from the private sector is part of the government’s strategy.

Furthermore, the future employment prospects for post-secondary students are increasingly bleak, in view of changing economic realities. Most importantly, a growing number of graduates are competing for the same number of jobs. Universities are meanwhile unable to provide practical skills to make such students ready for the workforce. As a result, the country is now working to shift its educational system towards a more integrated mode. This would help Ghanaians all the way up the education chain, and contribute to the country’s ongoing economic transformation as a whole.

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The Report: Ghana 2014

Health & Education chapter from The Report: Ghana 2014

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