ACCRA, Ghana — In November, Ghana’s Minister for Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, formally launched the 2016 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report; Education for People and Planet. The launch was held at the University of Education, Winneba.
In her keynote address, Opoku-Agyemang emphasized that collaboration between educators and governing bodies could help Ghana reach a key United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
According to UNESCO, which publishes the GEM Report each year, analysts work under GEM report director Aaron Benavot to evaluate education in developing nations in the context of SDGs. Among other factors, experts monitor gender equality, literacy, teaching in conflict and early childhood learning as they affect educational outcomes.
GEM report experts will evaluate program efficacy based on the 10 targets of the SDG. Those targets, which the U.N. hopes participating nations will achieve between 2020 and 2030, are to:
- Ensure that all boys and girls complete free primary and secondary education programs.
- Prepare all young boys and girls for primary education with access to early childhood development programs.
- Give women and men access to higher education through tertiary, vocational and university programs.
- Increase the number of laborers with vocational and technical skills so that they can assist in development and entrepreneurship.
- Address gender disparity in education and ensure that all marginalized groups receive equal access to education.
- Improve literacy rates in youth and adults.
- Tailor programs to teach students about sustainable development, human rights, advocacy and diversity.
- Update and renovate schools so that children in rural areas, girls and those with disabilities are not further disadvantaged.
- Encourage enrollment by creating more scholarship opportunities for students in the developing world.
- Train more teachers to deliver education of the highest quality.
Currently, Ghana’s educational system operates under a 6-3-4-4 model. Students first complete six years of primary school and three years of junior secondary school. If their Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) scores are high enough, they go on to four years of senior secondary school and four years at university.
According to UNICEF, the net enrollment of primary school students in Ghana is 84.3 percent. Gender parity in primary school shows encouraging trends, with attendance among boys and girls at 72.2 percent and 73.8 percent respectively. Approximately 72.2 percent of all students in Ghana make it to their final year of primary school.
Access to secondary schooling in Ghana, however, is problematic. Over the same four-year period, net enrollment ratios for boys dropped to just 48.1 percent between primary and secondary school. For girls, net enrollment ratios decreased to 44.4 percent.
U.S. Embassy data reveals that of the 375,000 students who sit for the BECE each year, just 150,000 are admitted to secondary school programs in Ghana. There are 500 public and 200 private secondary schools in total.
Testing for admittance into university programs is also competitive. Only 53 percent of Ghanaian students in secondary school score high enough on the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) to qualify for university.
The curriculum poses an odd problem for education in Ghana as well. While many developing nations suffer from lackluster curriculum requirements, some argue that Ghana has the opposite problem. According to former Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Michael Kenneth Nsowah, Ghanaian curriculums can be too complex.
“In Ghana, many education reviews have been undertaken but the curriculum continues to be overloaded or very ambitious,” he explained. Designed to be innovative, the curriculum tests and objectives often prove challenging for both students and teachers to complete.
Nsowah believes that a more integrated approach to education would be most effective. “Why must the school teach everything in the classroom? It is because we are obsessed with exams and we are moving dangerously to very dangerous points,” he said. In his mind, education must be reinforced by political sectors outside the classroom and in the home.
Nsowah’s thoughts about using collaboration to improve education in Ghana were echoed in Opoku-Agyemang’s recent remarks as well.
According to an allAfrica press release, Opoku-Agyemang “disclosed that government had identified the lack of community support, inadequate teacher professional development and management and language as obstacles to the provision of quality education in Ghana.” She then “gave the assurance that government was taking steps to remove these obstacles.”
Potential government involvement in reevaluating curriculum and closing educational gaps could lead Ghana closer to the achievement of Goal 4. All representatives present at the GEM Report launch agreed that government measures and the GEM Report research must be evaluated closely. Once examined, that research would ideally be disseminated for nationwide review.
The goal going forward is to create harmony among political and educational leaders so that this research can be used to reach schooling milestones. When GEM Report data comes back, educators and governing bodies will have a better idea of what changes need to be made to the curriculum, teacher training and testing requirements.
Opoku-Agyemang hopes that by viewing education in Ghana in the larger context of development, curriculum requirements and integrated learning opportunities, access and achievement will see significant improvement, creating widespread sustainability and development.
– Madeline Distasio