“Education is the shortest pathway between deprivation and opportunity, between despair and hope, between helplessness and promise. It is on record, empirically, that every single year of schooling raises one’s earnings by 10 percent, a rate of return which is obviously higher than alternative investments in bonds, stocks, deposits, among others. The main reason why the focus on education and acquisition of essential 21st century skills for the new millennium learners is now pervasive than it was in the past, across the world” , said Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, Minister for Education.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has made no secret of his intention of putting education at the heart of his vision for the growth, development and transformation of Ghana. The more reason he is committed to providing our citizens with the requisite knowledge, skills and experiences, needed to lift them from deprivation to the path of prosperity.
This reflects in the bold decisions and steps his government has taken in reforming our education to meet the needs as well as prepare the citizens for the 21st century. Through the successful implementation of the Free SHS policy, 1.2 million Ghanaian children, the largest in the history of the country, are now in the country’s education ecosystem, four hundred thousand (400,000) of whom would otherwise have been excluded.
Due to the attention the Free SHS policy has received, there seems to be the impression that nothing or little is being done at the other levels of education, especially the basic level. The evidence on the ground however do not support this claim. Government has implemented significant reforms to improve access, quality of education, infrastructure, teacher training and professionalisation, curriculum development, school inspection, education and training at the basic level.
In September 2017, a new curriculum for kindergarten and primary school, that reflects the realities of our aspirations was introduced. The subjects are integrated into themes reducing the subjects taught at the KG level from seven (7) to four (4). The thematic areas for KG are Numeracy, Literacy, Creative Arts and Our World, Our People (citizenship).
In the new curriculum, History of Ghana as a subject has been reintroduced and made compulsory for each child from Primary One to Six, while Religious and Moral Education (RME) and Physical Education (PE) would each be a stand-alone (separate) subject. In all 186 Master Trainers, 3,900 Regional and District level trainers and 152,000 teachers have been trained on the new curriculum.
Again, under this administration, capitation grant has been increased by one hundred and twenty -two percent (122%), from GH¢4.50 per child to GH¢10.00. The government has invested heavily in infrastructure, and in the supply of teaching and learning materials for the pupils.
Education cannot happen when those who make teaching and learning happen; teachers, are themselves impoverished. On improving the welfare of teachers, government has restored, since coming into office three and a half years ago, and paid up to date teacher trainee allowances, which were abolished by the previous administration. In addition to the yearly average increase in salaries by ten percent (10%), over the last three (3) years, government is, for the first time in our history, paying a professional allowance to teachers.
The arrears, and promotions due teachers have also been effected. At the start of the 2018/19 academic year, all Colleges of Education were upgraded to university colleges. A 4-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree has been introduced in University Colleges of Education.
These policies have started yielding results. For instance, In 2016, the ratio of pupil to trained teacher was 1:52 at the Kindergarten and 1:43 at Primary level. Similarly, the percentage of trained teachers was 66% at the Kindergarten level and 78% at the Primary level. To improve the quality of education, we have had to increase the supply of trained teachers to our basic schools. Within the period, the pupil to trained teacher ratio has improved to 1:37 at the Kindergarten level and 1:33 at the Primary level in 2019. The percentage of trained teachers has also improved to 88% at the Primary level.
Again, learning outcomes were low across our pre-tertiary levels of education. Both in 2013 and 2015 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) results showed that by the end of P2, only 2% or less of pupils can read with fluency and comprehension, whilst the majority of pupils don’t perform well in mathematics beyond the procedural level. In the National Education Assessment (NEA) conducted in 2016, only 11% of Primary 6 pupils were proficient in Mathematics. It is heartwarming to note that the well thought out initiatives pursued since 2017 are beginning to yield results. In the 2018 National Education Assessment proficiency rate in Mathematics increased from 11% in 2016 to 22% in 2018.
The question then is, what does the future hold for basic education beyond 2020 under the NPP? The answer is in the recently launched 2020 NPP manifesto. The NPP aims to improve basic education in many ways especially through the Ghana Accountability and Learning Outcomes Project (GALOP). The government has secured a two hundred and nineteen million dollars ($219 million) which aims to drive standards and quality in some ten thousand low-performing basic schools across the country.
Ten thousand (10,000) low-performing basic schools, across the country, have already been selected to benefit from the Project, and it is the belief that the implementation of GALOP will help drive standards and quality in these schools. Through this Programme, teachers, in the early grades, will be provided with continuous training, in line with the new curriculum; schools will receive teaching and learning materials; heads of schools will be trained on improved school management techniques; and supervision and assessment systems will be strengthened.
The program which is a collaboration between the Government of Ghana, World Bank, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development(DIfD) and Global Partnership for Education (GPE) aims to improve learning outcomes in some selected basic schools (KG-JHS) across the country will last for five years, though most of the interventions will remain after the program. The program is targeted at disadvantaged schools with the objective of ensuring equity, promoting accountability in education delivery.
The 10,000 schools were selected through an objective and transparent process. The indicators used in selecting the schools included the poverty index of the districts, BECE raw scores of the schools, percentage of trained teachers, and average class size of the schools. In all, 2,328,750 pupils and 76,000 teachers are among the beneficiaries of the program.
The NPP’s agenda on education is an inclusive and wholistic one. Their policies and programs ensure that all, especially the disadvantaged in society, have equal opportunity to be what they want to be. Whiles we wait to see the real benefits of most of the policies implemented in their first term, their programs for the next term in government will not on consolidate the gains made so far but will also improve the quality of education at the basic level.