The Education System in Ghana

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Critical review

Policy initiatives for change and innovation in basic education programmes in Ghana by Stanislaus Kadingdi (

The education system in Ghana has undergone enormous changes in the last 50 years. Over this period it has gone from being highly regarded among African nations, through a period of collapse and more recently rejuvenation, supported by a donor-funded reform programme (FCUBE). Underlying these ups and downs and, more recently, the recognition of the need for change, are changes more fundamental still: different ways of knowledge and different ideas about the nature, purpose, and scope of school subjects and how to meet the needs of a diverse student population have come to the fore. These remain among the many challenges facing the education system in Ghana. The paper that follows reviews this ‘history’ and the process, and events, which shaped and informed it. It concludes by examining recent developments and what still remains to be achieved. Abstract: Using an historical perspective, the recent history of educational policy making in Ghana, as it relates to the provision of basic education, is examined. Three periods or phases are identified corresponding to the situation prior to Independence, the period between 1951 and 1986 and the reforms instituted in 1987 and the years that followed. Despite the willing cooperation of various donor agencies and the availability of resources, progress has been limited. The policy and contextual reasons for this comparative lack of progress are examined in turn. The paper concludes with what can be learnt from these attempts at reform and suggests that, whilst the issues involved are complex, greater attention needs to be focused on the training and support of teachers in their classroom role rather than focusing on the provision of resources. Helping teachers to understand the desired changes in their practice and the need to make pupils independent learners, coupled with reforms of teacher training and support, and the nature and quality of teacher continuing professional development, can all be seen as key ways in which further progress may be made.

This paper aims to trace some of the major changes which have taken place in Ghana’s education system since the country gained Independence in 1957, ie, almost 50 years. Although Ghana’s education system had previously been regarded as one of the most highly developed, and effective, in West Africa (Foster, 1965), by the 1980s it was in near collapse (Scadding, 1989; Peil, 1995) and viewed as dysfunctional in relation to the goals and aspirations of the country. The academic standards of pupils, support for teachers, instructional materials, school buildings, classrooms and equipment had declined through lack of financing and management. In 1996 the Ghanaian government embarked on a major donor-funded reform programme called the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme which touched all levels of the education system and attempted to address the perennial problems of access, retention, curriculum relevance, teacher training, provision of physical structures, and financing. What follows examines basic education in Ghana by dividing its policy history and practise into three major phases; that of the preIndependence era, the period from 1951 to 1986 and the period from 1987 to 2003. Each of these is discussed in turn in the following sections.

Stanislaus Kadingdi

Basic education in the pre-Independence era
This first phase in the development of basic education policy and practise in Ghana can be described as having been dominated by missionary activities in relation to literacy for trade and the teachings of the Bible. Formal education in Ghana dates back to the mercantile era preceding colonisation. European merchants and missionaries set up the first schools and Christian missionaries are said to have introduced...
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