Chapter 2  The context of the national review

Brief history of educational development in Ghana

All over the world, education is accepted as the process by which individuals acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes which enable them to develop their faculties in full. It is universally accepted that one of the benefits of good education is that it enables individuals to contribute to development and improvement in the quality of life for themselves, their communities and the nation as a whole.

It is on account of the belief in the benefits of good education that successive governments of Ghana have sought to use education as the vehicle for accelerating the implementation of their development policies and programmes. However, it was realized, even before the attainment of political independence in Ghana, that the type and quality of education system inherited from the colonial era did not address the country’s needs and critical problems of development and equity. Various education review committees emphasized this fact and proposed remedies. Significant among them was the Dzobo Report of 1973 which set the pace for new thinking about Ghana’s education system.

In 1987, a new structure and content of education for Ghana became operational with initial focus on the implementation of the Junior Secondary School (JSS) programme. The policy decision on the new structure was based on an earlier Government White Paper entitled The New Structure and Content of Education (MOE, 1974). Under the new structure, the 6-3-3-4 system was adopted. The country now has 6 years of primary-school education, 3 years of junior secondary-school education, 3 years of senior secondary-school education and a minimum of 4 years of tertiary education. The six years of primary-school and three years of junior secondary-school education constitute the basic education level which is supposed to be compulsory and free for every Ghanaian child of school-going age.

The 1987 reform became necessary as a result of a virtual collapse of the system. This was due to reasons which included insufficient supply of trained and qualified teachers. Other reasons were inadequate funding of the education sector, which led to the lack of textbooks and other needed curriculum materials, lack of adequate supply of furniture and equipment, and the deterioration of school-buildings. The ultimate effect of all these deficiencies was poor quality of teaching and learning and poor patronage of the school system by children of school-going age.

The reform was therefore launched. It was based on the principle that literacy is a basic right of every Ghanaian and that every Ghanaian needs a sense of cultural identity and dignity, needs to know his/her environment and how to protect it, and needs to participate in the development efforts of the nation using the most modern scientific and technological skills and tools.

By 1990, the focus of the reform exercise had shifted to the Senior Secondary School Programme. It was, however, not until the first batch of the senior secondary school students graduated in 1993 that the weaknesses in the implementation of the reform came to the fore. The reform had failed to achieve quality targets and exposed the education sector to public criticism.

The government’s response to public criticism of the reform programme was to set up the Education Reform Review Committee of 1993/94. The work of the Committee culminated in the National Education Forum of 1994 with a focus on basic education to the year 2000. The forum, attended by 150 representatives of various stakeholder groups, received critical comments from participants and also provided an opportunity for discussion of problems of the sector which were identified by the Committee. Problems identified included the following:

  • Poor quality of teaching and learning in schools as a result of ineffective teaching/learning and ineffective management practices.
  • Inadequate funding of the sector leading to inadequate supply of inputs.
  • Lack of adequate parental involvement in their children’s education.
  • Poor language policy that makes English the medium of instruction after primary-school class 3.
  • Lack of teacher motivation with the resultant lack of commitment and devotion to teaching.
  • Lack of adequate co-ordination and collaboration among the implementing divisions of GES.
  • Disappointing growth in enrolment in schools.
  • Persistent low regard for and poor attitude of the Ghanaian public towards technical and vocational education.

The outcome of the public discussion of these problems as well as the 1992 Constitutional Provision led to the formulation of a new basic education policy which is being implemented as Free Compulsory Universal Education (FCUBE). The 1992 Constitution provides that within two years after Parliament first met, the Government should draw up a programme for the provision and implementation of free, compulsory and universal basic education.

Free compulsory universal basic education (FCUBE) and strategic objectives

The FCUBE programme has a focus on primary education and seeks to improve upon the 1987 reform by addressing the shortcomings identified in the implementation process to ensure quality. The programme also aims at increasing the participation of primary school-going-age children so as to make it as close to one hundred per cent of the population as possible. Additionally, FCUBE seeks to address a particular policy focus of raising the enrolment of girls in basic education.

In the process, MOE identified three key objectives for the FCUBE programme:

    • Improving the quality of teaching and learning.
    • Improving the management efficiency of the education sector.
    • Improving access to and participation in basic education.

The scope of the strategic objectives were expanded in 1997 to include four more objectives:

    • Decentralization and sustainability of management structures (derived from (ii) above).
    • Improving operations of a self-sustainable functional literacy programme (derived from (iii) above).
    • Improving access to science and technology education and training (also derived from (iii) above).
    • Ensuring the relevance of education to the manpower needs of the country (derived from (i) above).

In this review, the last four objectives will be subsumed under the original three from which they derive.

The 1994 National Education Forum may be considered as an important landmark in the history of education sector analysis in this country. This is because the forum provided an opportunity for stakeholders to examine critically the strengths and weaknesses of the 1987-initiated reforms and make recommendations for the correction of identified weaknesses. The National Education Forum was also significant in that it set the agenda for prioritization of issues in the education sector. Most of the agencies that participated in the first phase of the reform process were still interested in continued participation within the framework of the new policy focus. These agencies, however, sought greater assurance of success in promoting the improvement of the sub-sector performance through their assistance packages. Hence their recourse to more frequent sector analysis during the period.

The new trend of building sector analysis into the implementation of the FCUBE programme seems to be yielding dividend already. Indeed, so far, the implementation of the FCUBE programme has revealed weaknesses in piecemeal sub-sector approach to reforming the system. As a result, the new orientation is towards whole-sector approach. The MOE is known to have received a foreign grant to develop a strategic plan for the whole education sector. It is therefore expected that sector analysis will soon begin to focus on this new vision to guide the planners in determining and designing the relative priority areas in any given year.

Education policy formulation in Ghana

A policy is a plan of action for guiding, directing or administering affairs to achieve a set target or goal. Policies are therefore goal-motivated and goal-targeted. For example, the various plans, strategies and other operational means evolved or adopted for developing, maintaining and processing the education delivery system constitute the education policies of Ghana.

New policies may seek to supplement or strengthen existing ones or address weaknesses to improve existing situations. Such improvements are set in an achievable context. The introduction of new policies into an education sector may, therefore, be prompted by a concern to address an existing problematique in the system or in some cases fulfil earlier promises made, especially by politicians seeking the votes of the electorate. No matter the motivation behind the initiation of a policy in the education sector, policy formulation always takes the form of a process and is channelled through various stages.

The process of policy formulation begins with a felt need for a change in the education delivery system. Such a change may be necessitated for various reasons as mentioned above. In Ghana, it is usual to respond to demands for change by first setting up a national committee or commission with membership from a wide range of stakeholder organizations to review the situation. For example, the Education Reform Review Committee of 1993/94 was set up with a mandate to review Ghana’s policies on basic education. Such reviews draw heavily on the analysis of the experiences gained in the implementation of policies that are the focus/targets of the review. The concern here is not only to find out why targets are not being achieved and whether implementation has gone on as planned. It is also to examine what unintended outcomes or unforeseen obstacles have emerged during the process of implementation.

The analysis stage in the policy formulation process is followed by the determination of other options which are still open to the sector. These must take into account the past experiences and the extent to which the sector has drifted off course. Generally, an all-round stakeholder conference/meeting is convened to discuss the options proposed by the review committee. The MOE usually invites individuals of the various constituent bodies to such a meeting. Representatives of the development partners are also involved from this stage.

The review committee reconvenes to put together the various options discussed and adopted at the round-table conference. The outcome of this exercise is then submitted to the MOE in the form of policy recommendations. These recommendations may or may not be approved by the Minister for Education who has the final responsibility for policy-making in the education sector.

Sometimes, new policies are pilot-tested before wholesale national implementation is embarked upon. The recent practice is to set up a unit to monitor the implementation process and carry out periodic impact monitoring. Sector analysis is useful at virtually all stages of policy formulation but is most critical at the policy analysis, pilot testing and impact monitoring stages.

Once the policy decision has been taken, it has been a long-standing practice for the policy to be implemented by an established agency under MOE. GES, for example, implements pre-tertiary education policies. The policy formulation and implementation process is presented in Figure 1.

Prior to 1983, the agencies, notably GES, played a very significant role in education sector policy decisions. There was, therefore, a high degree of interplay between policy decision making and implementation with mutual benefits. Implementation informed future trends in policy which, in turn, affected modalities for implementation in a positive way. That relationship existed over the years but was more clearly defined in 1974 with the establishment of GES as the sole agency for implementing pre-university education policies. There was, however, growing dissatisfaction within the ministry that GES was wielding too much influence on decision-making in relation to its subordinate position within the ministry. This development must have arisen from the sheer size of responsibility of GES, which has the bulk of the top professionals of the education system at that level. Sometimes, the top management staff and field officers of GES made pronouncements bordering on policy without the prior knowledge of even the Minister/Commissioner/Secretary for Education. Such pronouncements were not well accepted by the ministry.

Under these circumstances, the GES Council was abolished in 1983 under Law 42 of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). Its functions were vested in the PNDC Secretary for Education. From that time, GES and other sector agencies, including GNAT, played a very small or had no direct institutional role in the policy decisions of the education sector, including those leading to the implementation of the current education reforms in Ghana. However, since the reestablishment of the GES Council in 1996, the situation has changed and there is greater institutional participation of GES in the policy formulation process of the ministry. On account of this new relationship GES and the ministry seem to operate in tandem for which reason they are treated in the remaining chapters as if they were one body.

Chapter 3

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