Basic Education: 1991-1994

Yao Graham; Tetteh Hormeku
Third World Network

The 1987 official education policy of Ghana defines basic education as six years of primary and three years of junior secondary school. Children enter school at the age of six and are automatically promoted until the end of the JSS, at which time they take their first external examinations. Basic education is compulsory for all pupils living within 5 km. of a school, but this is not enforced.

This study, though covering the range of basic education, emphasizes primary education for two reasons. 1) Despite its formal commitment to basic edcation through JSS, the government's focus is on equipping the majority of Ghanaians with basic literacy and arithmetic skills. 2) More information is available on primary education.

Education is a right

The 1992 Constitution of the Fourth Republic guarantees to "all persons... the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities." To achieve this right, the Constitution provides that basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all. It states that the development of a school system with adequate facilities for all shall be actively pursued. It also requires that endeavors to achieve functional literacy be intensified.

For post-primary education, the Constitution specifies that secondary education and higher education, including technical and vocational education, be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, with emphasis on progressive introduction of free education.

In order to implement these provisions, the government was required, within two years after the Constitution came into force, to draw up a 10-year plan. In November 1995, the basic education program was adopted, but without an implementation timetable. The estimated cost of $350 million will require assistance from outside doners, and some educators question the ambitious new policy while there are many unresolved problems in the education sector.

The Decade of Collapse

Current national educational policy has been shaped by two main developments. These are:

* the collapse of education from the mid-70s, with the attendant questions about the relevance, distribution and sustainability of the educational system as it had been operating;

* the collapse of the economy, a World Bank directed economic policy response, and, within that, an emerging vision of education as human resource development for a "South-East Asia" type economic take-off.

Until the mid-70s, education in Ghana was one of the most highly developed in Africa. Then the system and quality of education collapsed. The proportion of public resources spent on education fell from 6.4% of GPD in 1976 to 1.4% in 1983. The construction, completion and maintenance of educational facilities ground to a halt; foreign exchange for the purchase of textbooks, library materials, scientific equipment and other essential instructional materials dried up while existing stocks deteriorated. There was a mass exodus of trained teachers, especially the more highly qualified ones.

In 1987/88 more than half of public primary school teachers were untrained. School enrolments fell together with educational outcomes.

The collapse brought to the fore long-standing, fundamental questions about the relevance and effectiveness of the educational system. These questions included:

* The inordinate 17-year duration of pre-university education.

* The pedagogic efficiency, quality and relevance -- especially in terms of the curricula, which emphasized rote recall and which prepared school leavers mainly for employment in the narrow circles of civil and public service.

* The cost of education, especially on the public purse.

* The access of the majority of the Ghanaians to education.

At the end of 1980s an estimated two thirds of Ghana's 15 million people were functionally illiterate. According to the 1988/89 Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS), only 40% of those 15 years and above could read, 39% could write and 48% were could do basic arithmetic problems.

The income, gender and geographical diversity within these figures is striking. On average the proportion of men who can read, write and calculate is 25% higher than women. While over 69% of the richest 20% in the urban areas can read, only 33% of the poorest townsfolk can do so and an even lower 22% exists among the rural poor.

Principles and Objectives of National Education

In spite of the clarity of the new constitutional provisions for education, national educational policy and implementation plans remain ambiguous. The provisions seem to form a solid educational perspective, but the government's programs seem to be informed less by this perspective than a particular strategy for the economic regeneration and development of the country.

From the mid-1980s, national educational policy has centred on the need to redress the collapse while reforming the system to make it relevant to Ghana's current needs.

These two planks of education policy were urdergirded by World Bank-IMF responses to the near total collapse of the national economy, which was indeed at the root of the collapse of education.

This affected educational policy at two levels. First, Ghana was required to reduce public expenditure and shift more of the cost of education from the public to the private sector. Second, education became tied to the development of a market and private enterprise economy, an export-oriented strategy for economic development.

The fundamental objective of national educational policy, as stated in key economic strategy documents, was to create the basis for a flexible labor force able to perform new and multiple skills.

As stated, the belief was that "in an economy experiencing dramatic changes ... a broad base of general scientific and engineering skill ... is more critical for success than specialized technical education."

This focus on education for a work-force led to an emphasis on basic education rather than post-primary education. The link between post-primary education and economic and technological innovation was ignored. With the objective of education thus situated, education was geared to that economic vision.

Central to this was the increasing role of the private sector, communities, and individual households in the provision of education. Linked to the concepts of cost recovery and decentralization, this put greater responsibility on local communities and families to meet the material costs of education while requiring an emphasis on the vocational education.

From 1987, a phased series of reforms supported by the World Bank and other donors was launched. The structure was changed to six years of primary, three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary, and four years of higher education. The nine years of primary and junior secondary became the period for which basic education was to be offered to all children.

The government's plan is to raise primary school enrolment to 98% by the year 2000. The proportion of the 6 - 11 age group enrolled at the end of the 1980s was 68%. Within this figure are gender, class and regional differences. 72% of boys were enrolled, compared to 64% of girls. 92% kids in the top 20% income group in Accra were in school compared with 27% of the poorest 20% in the rural savannah in the North, historically the underprivileged and neglected part of the country. In 1991 the government launched a mass literacy programme, in selected Ghanaian languages, with the aim of reducing the numbers of the literate by 5.9 million by the year 2000.

The curriculum, both at primary and secondary level, is billed as "less theoretical and more relevant to Ghana." The government has laid out six broad objectives for primary education. These are

* building effective numeracy and literacy;

* laying foundations for inquiry and creativity;

* developing sound moral attitudes and a healthy appreciation of

Ghana's cultural heritage and identity;

* laying the foundation for the development of life skills that will prepare the individual pupil to function effectively for his/her advantage as well as that of the community;

* inculcationg good citizenship education as a basis for effective participation in national development.

* developing the ability to adapt constructively to a changing environment

There are nine compulsory subjects for primary school pupils, including Ghanaian languages and agriculture. Teachers, who teach all subjects to a class, are expected to devote 30 - 35% of teaching time to English, the official language and mathematics.

Financing of Education

The government, at both central and local government levels, is the main source of education support Educational expenditures are derived primarily from taxes and donor funding, though there are cases of specifically targeted donor funding. Since 1987 official policy has been to transfer an increasing proportion of the costs of education directly to parents through

* charges levied on pupils and parents by schools;

* local levies imposed by local authorities or provision of labor for constructING educational facilities in the rural areas.

Increasingly CBOs -- especially associations of "natives" living and working away from ancestral towns -- are taking up fund raising for education in a manner reminiscent of the colonial and post-colonial era. NGOs, both local and international, are also involved in funding or providing services.

There are some differences between the southern and northern parts of the country in the division of responsibility and cost between central government on one hand, and local government and communities/parents on the other. In the Southern half, construction of school is the responsibility of the communities and local authorities, while in the north the government shares the cost. This is positive discrimination which recognizes the relative poverty of the north and the lower enrolment rates there.

Government expenditure

Between 1991-94 government spending on education averaged 3.7% GDP. In budgetary terms this represented an average of just over 20% of central government expenditure during the period. The share per year has dropped over the period: from 22.4% in 1991 to 22.3%, 20% and 18% in 1992, 1993 and 1994 respectively.

Education does have a much larger share of recurrent goverment expenditure -- an average of 40%. Between 1992 and 1994, basic education assumed an average of 66% of the total recurrent spending on education, falling from 68% in 1992 to 63% in 1994. See table I. (a- c).

Table 1. Government Spending and Share of Education Sector
(in billions of cedis) - a

Year Total Central Govt. Expenditure Education
1991 351,615 78,801
1992 510,813 119,382
1993 782,872 158,118
1994 1,149,572 213,901

Table 1. Government Spending and Share of Education Sector

(in billions of cedis) - b
Year Total Recurrent Expenditure Education Basic Education
1991 263,714 bn 74,452 bn  
1992 373,258 107,842 73,333
1993 596,558 157,304 106,967
1994 838,926 189,231 119,217

Table 1. Government Spending and Share of Education Sector (in billions of cedis) - c

Year Total Development Expenditure Education
1991 76,548 78,801
1992 119,563 360
1993 164,353 4,216
1994 302,350 4,724

Since the launching of the reform program, the governmnt has spent A considerable amount on teacher training and improving supervision and monitoring, provision of textbooks and other learning material, and on the rehabilitation or provision of classrooms. In 1990/91 a quarter of all public primary schools did not have classrooms or structures that could shelter pupils and teachers from the rain and the sun. In at least 14 of the country's 110 districts, more than half of the primary schools did not have classrooms.

The rehabilitation and provision of classrooms has been an important part of the government's capital spending in basic education over the last decade. Under the 3-year Programme of Action to Mitigate the Social Cost of Adjustment (PAMSCAD), which was launched in 1988, the government provided matching grants for communities that were ready to construct social amenities, including schools. Since PAMSCAD, the government has been implementing a World Bank funded scheme to provide needy communities with primary school pavilions (roofs on pillars), and other educational infrastructure. The community is expected to find the resources and labor to fill in the walls -- initially the floor as well.

Under the ongoing Primary School Development Project, supported with a $65 million IDA credit, the government is building the primary school pavilions -- totalling nearly 11,000 classrooms --in just under 2,000 communities around the country. More than 1,500 classrooms are also being re-roofed and 1,893 houses are being built for head teachers.

Donor Funding

Since the mid-1980s, government spending has been heavily dependent on donors. Over this period, funding from multilateral and bilateral sources has amounted to about 10% of GDP annually. Government spending, especially capital expenditure on education, has received considerable support from donors, especially since a 1986 Social Sector Donors Conference in Vienna. The World Bank, the biggest donor, has lent a total of $170 million for six education sector projects since 1991.

The biggest donors apart from the World Bank (IDA) include USAID, which has committed $35 million for improving primary education; CANADIA CIDA has provided R14 million FOR basic and vocational EDUCATION; the British ODA, $8 million for literacy and teacher education for basic education; Norway over $8 million for literacy and school education; OPEC fund, $4.4 million for primary school pavilions. Other donors include the World Food Programme: UNICEF, GTZ, the Saudi Fund, Switzerland, European Union, UNDP and ILO.

CBOs and NGOs

A number of international NGOs are active in the education sector. For example, Action Aid has been supporting a number of activities in the Upper East Region -- the part of the country with the lowest ENROLLMENT and literacy rates. Since 1991 its activities have included sponsoring children to attend primary SCHOOL, building or renovating classrooms, paying for the training of adult literary facilitators, and supplying aids such as lamps and radios for adult literacy programmes.

Religious groups have a long and substantial involvement in the provision and financing of education. For the purposes of this discussion, however, they are not treated as organizations of civil society because of their institutionalized role and relations with the state in the education sector.

Local community based organizations (CBOs) have been more actively involved in education than NGOs. Current CBO involvement in the provision of basic education is simply a resurgence of a long standing tradition. Their contributions usually take one of three forms: monetary contributions, donating building material or other commodiiities or providing labor.

Cost Recovery and the Parent/Pupil Share of Expenditure

Predictably donor support has come with their increasing influence on education policy, especially on the amount and distribution of funds for educatinal purposes. A number of approaches have been taken. Staff hiring was frozen from 1987 to 1992, about 13,000 non-teaching staff were laid off at secondary and university levels, and many temporary, untrained teachers with low academic qualifications were not re-hired. School supplies are now sold at cost, with a partial subsidy for text-books in basic education, and full subsidy at the senior secondary level. At the university level, a subsidized student loan scheme operates. Food subsidies have been eliminated at both secondary and university levels.

Since the initiation of the educational reforms, the World Bank and Western donors have pushed hard for an increasing cost of education to be born by the pupil/parent. Alongside this, the Bank has been urging the widening of private provision of education. In 1991-92 there were 1.8 (million) pupils in 11,064 public primary schools, compared with 142.274 in 542 mainly urban private primary schools.

The growing burden borne by parents/pupils, though all deriving from central government policy, comes from four sources:

* as a direct result of central government policy or decision;

* levies and charges imposed by local government bodies;

* charges imposed by school authorities, mainly in the urban areas;

* payment of private tuition to make up for the shortcomings of the formal education system.

Currently pupils in primary three through junior secondary school pay a government approved fee meant to cover half the replacement cost of supplied textbooks, sports, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) dues and cultural events.

AT of the end of 1995 the charge in the Tema Municipality broke down as follows: District Assembly levy -- 900 (CEDIS), Culture --500 (CEDIS), Sports -- 500 (CEDIS) and PTA 100 -- (CEDIS). Parents also face ad hoc financial and time demands to provide a range of educational services. In the rural areas labor constitutes a notable part of the contribution while in the urban areas it is the money equivalent.

(Note: The "CEDI" is the unit of monetary exchange in Ghana.)

Communities benefiting FROM the Primary School Development Project provide services material contributions and labor. The services include:

* clearing the sites for the pavilion site;

* mobilizing labor to build walls and other physical amenities within six months, providing cement for mortar and blackboards and maintaining the buildings when they are erected.

The shifting and increasing cost to parents dovetail with the devolution of some education costs to local government bodies, which is part of the government's decentralization plan. There has been an explosion of local government-imposed charges since 1988, the year when local government reform saw the creation of the District Assembly system. In addition to their own demands, many local authorities permit PTAs to impose their own fees for a variety of purposes. The abolition of unauthorized fees is a condition for a community to benefit from the World Bank- funded Primary School Development Project. There is no measurement of the impact of this conditionality.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that a large number of communities have failed to complete their pavilions because they could not raise the required amount. According to a senior education official, in many villages the first set of pavilions built in the late 1980s have become goat pens. Many of those being built under the current program, which, unlike the first lot, have cement flooring, are being used as unwalled classrooms. In one case a school of predominantly poor children in the dormitory town of Ashiaman near the port city of Tema demanded 20,000 (CEDIS) each from the parents of its 198 pupils to complete a government-provided six-classroom pavilion. Only three parents paid in full; a total of 168,000 cedis was raised, barely enough to complete one classroom.

Community Influence Not in Step with Contributions

The increasing direct financial and material contribution of parents and communities to provide for of basic education is not matched by their role in the development of educational policy at either the local government or school level. In theory, PTAs are expected to provide a forum for parents to get involved in the policy direction and management of their children's schools. In practice the only purpose of the PTAs is that of a forum which brings parents together to contribute financially to the school or to mobilize community labor for a project. Education officials are resistant to non professionals getting involved in the supervision of teachers. More often than not, complaints from parents about teachers meet with a defense from education officers.

Above the community level, district assembly members are no more responsible and accountable to their electorate. The relationship is a top down one from assembly member to constituent, with the main part of the relationship being the latter's material or financial contribution to realize a decision made by the palyers in the district structure.

The problem of citizens' marginalization in the running of schools and the making of educational policy has to be seen in the context of Ghana's long history of authoritarian and unaccountable government and weak civil society mobilization against it.

Outcomes of Educational Policy

Up-to-date information on the effects of educational policy over the decade either does not exist or is not complete. The "Ghana Living Standards Survey," published in December 1994, gives the most complete information on educational outcomes, covering the period from September 1991 to September 1992.

Though the information that it contains does not cover the most recent period, the trends that the report captures provide an accurate enough picture of educational outcomes at the presetn time.

The trends are not encouraging, judging by indices such as the levels of school attendance, atendance distribution by gender, social status, and geographical location.

Tables 2, 3 and 4

Table 2. School Attendance Rate, by region, gender and age

Region 6û11 (Age Group) 12û15 16û18 19û25 6û25
  M F M F M F M F M F All
West 83.6 75.7 83.2 75.5 60.3 47.3 8.8 6.O 64.5 54.3 59.5
Central 77.6 72.4 83.3 71.4 61.O 51.7 26.8 6.1 68.O 53.7 60.8
G. Accra 87.8 85.4 93.2 77.7 65.9 52.5 33.3 15.4 72.8 61.O 66.6
Eastern 87.5 83.5 90.4 81.1 57.1 36.5 19.6 5.6 73.5 57.5 65.6
Volta 8O.O 81.4 82.7 81.5 63.5 31.8 40.9 15.4 69.5 61.1 65.6
Ashanti 89.1 81.8 94.O 76.O 55.O 36.3 21.6 6.1 70.1 53.4 61.7
Brong Ahafo 86.1 83.5 83.3 82.5 65.9 53.6 19.O 6.4 69.6 62.1 66.O
Northern 57.2 31.3 63.3 31.5 40.9 22.6 30.6 12.8 51.1 25.8 39.7
Upper West 34.3 33.8 30.8 35.5 42.1 33.3 13.O 6.7 31.1 28.4 29.8
Upper East 30.2 31.9 44.8 34.1 14.3 15 22.2 O.O 31.1 25.7 28.6
All 77.O 71.9 81.5 70.8 56.9 41.1 24.6 8.5 64.9 52.4 58.8

Table 3. School Attendance Rate by age, locality and gender

  Accra Other Urban Rural Country
AgeûGroup Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female All
6û11 91.3 87.7 87.5 80.2 72.1 67.O 77.O 71.9 74.6
12û15 97.7 74.2 87.8 74.7 77.6 68.5 81.5 70.8 76.6
16û18 69.2 53.6 64.3 47.2 51.7 35.2 56.9 41.1 49.1
19û25 35.6 17.1 33.8 11.6 18.8 5.7 24.6 8.5 16.O
All 75.2 61.O 72.2 56.9 60.9 49.2 64.9 52.4 58.8

Talbe 4. School Attendance Rate for each income quintile, by locality and gender

  Accra Other Urban Rural Country
Quintile Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female All
First 70.4 53.5 59.6 40.4 52.3 42.1 53.8 42.3 48.2
Second 66.2 51.8 65.5 56.O 63.8 49.1 64.4 50.9 58.2
Third 69.6 67.2 74.3 59.3 64.5 53.6 68.1 56.5 68.2
Fourth 79.3 57.9 78.2 61.8 67.6 54.1 72.4 57.1 64.8
Fifth 83.3 66.9 83.5 60.9 68.9 57.6 76.6 60.9 68.0
All 75.2 61.O 72.2 56.9 60.9 49.2 64.9 52.4 58.8

A correlation between school attendance in relation to age-group, gender, location (rural/urban), region, and wealth is seen. In 1992, out of the total school age population of 6.9 million people, some 4.1 million -- that is to say, 59% -- were in school.

In terms of gender, age-group, place of residence and region, the story is even grimmer. Starting with the age-groups: the highest school attendance, both male and female, is recorded for two age-groups: 6-11 and 12-15. These are the groups in primary and junior secondary schools basic education.

Thereafter, school attendance rates drop rapidly.

For the 6-11 age-group, male attendance was 77%, and female attendance 71%. For the 12-15 age-group: 81% male to 70.8% female. For the next group, 15-18, senior secondary school age, attendance dropped to 56.9% for males and 41.1% for females. By university age, 19-25, attendance dropped to 24.6% for males and 8.5% for females.

Even the basic school age group was affected by high drop-out rates. Between 1990-91 and 1991-92 there was a 4.2% drop in enrollment. This falling trend in school attendance also has a regional and a rural-urban variation. In all age groups, school attendance was higher in urban areas than in rural areas. 75% of male, and 61% of female attendance respectively are recorded for Accra; 72.2% and 56.9% in other urban areas; 60.9 and 49.2% in rural areas. The gap widens in regional terms, where a north-south divide is evident. In the Southern regions, school attendance ranges FROM 60 to 65%. However, in the three northern regions of the country, this falls to 28 -29%.

The gender differential cuts across age-groups, across the rural/urban as well as north/south regions. Female school attendance is consistently lower than male attendance in all sectors. The differences are most pronounced in the higher age groups, in the rural areas, and in the northern regions of the country. Only 9% of women are enrolled in the 19-25 age group, compared to 25% of men in the same age range. In the Upper East region, there are no female enrollments while 22.2% of the men are enrolled.

There is a definite correlation between these trends and some basic elements of educational policy, especially in the cost-recovery/ cost-sharing framework which shifts the burden of providing for school facilities and equipment onto parents and communities. A UNICEF study was done between December 1992 and March 1993 to determine the factors leading to non-enrollment and drop-outs among primary school kids in two urban and six rural districts. Community leaders, teachers, parents of drop-outs, parents of non-enrolled kids, non-enrolled and drop-out kids were surveyed. The factors discovered are: high cost of official fees and school uniforms; lack of facilities -- in 1990-91, 23% of public schools had no classrooms to protect teachers and pupils from the rain; kids were working for income or handling household chores.

A 1995 World Bank sponsored poverty study illustrates the tendency of school attendance to fall at the senior secondary school level, age group 16-18 and above. This study found that "this situation... has arisen mainly because, in the cost-sharing framework, communities are not only responsible for financing capital requirements and school furniture, but also for providing tools and other inputs needed for the program."

The correlation is even clearer when the trend is examined in terms of the rural/urban division. The fall of the attendance in the secondary school age group is greater in the rural areas than in the urban areas (see table 2).

The emphasis on community resource mobilization and household payment for schools means that those communities and households that can afford least, suffer the most.

The World Bank, in its 1993 ("GHANA 2000 and BEYOND"), summarizes the point thus:

"The money costs of schooling are not trivial, and may dissuade some parents from sending their children to school. At least two thirds of private expenditures related to school attendance are devoted to items besides school contribution, textbooks and school supplies. In many communities, residents provide labour and materials to construct school buildings. School contributions at primary and public secondary school levels amount to 308 cedis and 3.522 cedis, respectively, in rural areas, and 1.10 cedis and 8.352 respectively in Accra.

Schooling-related food expenses, books and other school supplies add about 2,000 cedis for primary schools and 7,000 cedis for secondary schools in rural areas, and about 6,000 cedis and 15,000 cedis respectively in Accra. These expenses are not trivial for the poorer household.

For households at the lowest expenditure quintile, on the average, per capita education expenditures for primary education represent 12% of total per capita expenditures; for the junior secondary level, 17%, and for the senior secondary level, 41%.

The effect of this can be measured in the following figures, reflecting the access of children from different social backgrounds to various levels of education. While at primary school level, attendance for the poorest quintile was higher than that of the richest, by the time of the secondary school the situation had reversed to reveal a wide gap now in favour of the rich, thus:

Primary school:        poorest quintile, 22%
                               richest quintile, 14%

Secondary school:    poorest quintile, 15%
                               richest quintile, 20%

Tertiary:                    poorest quintile, 6%
                                richest quintile, 45%

The above applies not just to school attendance but also to the quality of learning. In general, learning outcomes of the educational policy has been very poor. According to the World Bank's April 1995 Country Assistance Review, in two successive tests given to sixth grade primary students, it was found that "ONLY just two percent of students were able to answer more than 60 percent of relatively simple mathematics and English questions CORRECTLY." 40% of all school leavers are functionally illiterate.

Again, this affects different social and regional groups differently. In the two major cities, Accra and Kumasi, the numbers of private schools, where wealthy parents spend from 2 to 4 times more per child than parents with children in public schools, have steeply increased. For those who can afford the fees, these schools substantially increase the probability of their children getting into good senior secondary and tertiary schools, thereby strenthening the high correlation between educational attainment and income.

Finally, there is a mismatch between the objectives of the reform and reality, and between user aspirations and the revised curriculum, particularly for first cycle schools. The 1995 World Bank poverty study, ("GHANA Poverty, Past, Present and FUTURE") stated:

"...the reforms are not fulfilling the purpose for which they were designed. In both rural and urban areas, the implementation of the technical training component, kingpin in the educational reform programme, is largely unsatisfactory. In case after case --in schools, communities and in the Ghana Education Service-- informants alluded to the lack of tools, working buildings, and trained teachers. This situation... has arisen mainly because, in the cost-sharing framework, communities are not only responsible for financing capital requirements and school furniture, but also for providing tools and other inputs needed for the program.

Consistently, therefore, the skills training objective is being undermined by the high incidence of poverty. The strategic vision of education which is relevant to Ghana, that which creates a skilled work force for economic take-off, is thus being undermined by its precondition: shifting the burden of the cost to cost to the local communities and parents.