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State of Education in Ghana

By The Forum For Education Reform (IMANI)
State of Education in Ghana
LISTEN DEC 19, 2013

Ghana's education system is not delivering what its citizens need or want. We of the Forum for Education Reform believe that Ghana has what it takes to devise a very good education system for itself and even for export, and we have taken the challenge to brainstorm these issues and offer our best advice to stakeholders. This statement puts out our views about the key issues

Every child in Ghana has a right to be educated. Parents and the Government of Ghana have the primary responsibility to ensure that every child has access to good quality education regardless of their economic circumstance.

Ghana's education system is a mix of public and private schools. Government must focus on ensuring that the poor and vulnerable get access to good schools, whether public or private.

Currently, the proportion of GDP and budgetary expenditures on education in Ghana is one of the highest in the world. However, these expenditures in education do not give us commensurate output in terms of enrolment, retention and results. With some changes in the education system such as decentralization, improved management and supervision, we can achieve a lot more with the same resources.

The Forum, in its brainstorming sessions has identified a few key issues which it intends to put out now and continue to engage relevant stakeholders as we seek enduring solutions. This release focuses mainly on the general state of education in Ghana. Future releases will discuss specific issues and suggest some solutions for discussions and consideration by stakeholders.


Enrolment rates at various levels of education vary greatly and drop sharply as one ascends the education ladder. (See table 1) At the primary school level, the nation is achieving about 95% of enrolment which is good. At the Junior High School (JHS) level, the rate drops to about 78%.

An even sharper decline occurs between the JHS and Senior High School (SHS) level where the rate of enrolment falls below 40%. At the Tertiary level, only 12% of the population of tertiary age are enroled[1]. This is clearly unsatisfactory.

Table 1
Year Population (6-11) yrs Primary Enrolment % Population (12-14) yrs JHS Enrolment % Population (15-18) yrs SHS Enrolment %
2007/8 3,807,555 3,616,023 95 1,553,667 1,224,010 78.8 1,410,248 437,771 31
2008/9 3,910,349 3,710,647 94.9 1,595,620 1,285,577 80.6 1,448,401 490,334 33.9
2009/10 4,015,930 3,809,258 94.9 1,638,690 1,301,940 79.5 1,487,512 537,332 36.1
2010/11 4,112,511 3,962,779 96.4 1,678,222 1,335,400 79.6 1,996,927 728,076 36.5
2011/12 4,211,217 4,062,026 96.5 1,718,500 1,385,367 80.6 2,044,848 758,468 37.1


Closely associated to enrollment is the question of access. Although at the primary level the nation has made significant gains in terms of enrollment, some children in urban suburbs, not to mention rural areas do not have access to primary education.

In other countries as educational opportunities open up, primary enrolment exceeds 1oo% initially because children of older ages are enrolled. However, the introduction of capitation grant and school feeding programme did not have that effect, thus our 95% enrollment rate at the primary level could still mean a significant proportion of children between the ages 6-11 are not in school. The situation gets worse at the secondary level where 50% of JHS graduates who pass do not have access into SHSs. Public universities enroll far less than half of qualified students, whilst our numerous private universities are too small to absorb the remaining ones. As we work on the pressure within the public universities, there's the need to encourage private universities to expand their intake capacity.


The table below masks an important element in the educational statistics; that of retention. For e.g., the 95% enrollment does not show that a significant number of learners do not reach the 6th grade, especially girls in rural communities. The dropout rate at the primary level partly accounts for the lower enrollment rate at the JHS level. The aim of education policy should not only be to get children enrolled in school but to stay there until at least the end of the junior high school graduation point.


There is widespread concern about quality of education at all levels in Ghana today. Often this is expressed in terms of pass rate at the basic & secondary levels, and equipping students with the requisite skills for the labour market of the 21st century especially at the tertiary level. Whilst passing with good grades is not a comprehensive indication of quality, it is a good proxy to the quality of education at the basic & secondary levels.

Table 2
Year No. of Pupils (Sat) No. of Pupils Passed Percentage Passed%
2006 308, 383 190, 924 61.91
2007 320, 247 196, 240 61.27
2008 338, 292 210, 282 62.15
2009 395, 649 198, 642 50.21
2010 350, 888 172, 359 49.12
2011 375,280 176,128 46.93%

The examination pass rate of the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) for the years 2006-2011 are presented above in Table. The Table Indicates pass rates at basic education exams in recent times. There is a high correlation between student performance at terminal exams at the basic and secondary level and how well they do outside school in terms of work, incomes and social mobility. The pass rate at the basic education level since 2006 has never exceeded 63% of learners and it is falling. In 2011, only 46.93% of candidates passed the requisite number of subjects. Moreover, according to research as many as two out of three children who pass through basic education are functionally illiterate and innumerate.

At the tertiary level, pass rate is not the major issue, but rather the employability of the students. We have a paradox of inadequate enrollment rate (that is the proportion of the age 18-24 group at the tertiary level) co-existing with graduate unemployment. Of course, this graduate unemployment situation is partly because the economy is not generating enough jobs, and only partly because of the quality of education being offered in terms of employable skills such as analytical and critical reasoning, communication skills, ICT competencies, work ethic and entrepreneurship. The nation must address simultaneously, access, quality and employment generation, including self-employment through entrepreneurship.


A major factor with regard to improving the quality of education is the student teacher ratio. During the academic year 2011/2012 the pupil teacher ratio was 25:1 at the basic private school as compared to 29:1 at the public basic school. The average student-teacher ratio however, does not reveal that in some areas, especially urban schools in poor communities sometimes have as many as 80-100 students in a class.

The Forum believes we can improve teacher – student ratio to the required levels by dedicating the whole of National Service Scheme to teaching, particularly at the basic level.

A recent study by the World Bank shows that approximately 38% of the requisite contact hours are lost. Worse still, at the 22nd World Economic Forum (WEF 2012) on Africa, the Education minister stated that Ghana's teacher absenteeism stood at 45%. To improve the quality of education, these must change and what teachers do during contact hours must be supervised.


At the second cycle, vocational and technical schools are highly under-resourced and attendees are considered to be of lower grade as compared to grammar students. Any nation that neglects the production of quality technical staff and artisans will lack quality middle level manpower which will adversely affect industry and also create youth unemployment problems, which Ghana is currently grappling with.

The situation is no better at the tertiary level. The polytechnics have become mainly arts and social science colleges, and even our premier KNUST now has more arts and social science than science and technology students. This situation is anomalous; we need to dedicate our technical and engineering institutions to training people in technical and engineering skills.


With a global average of about 5%, Ghana spends over 6% of GDP on education. Ghana has one of the highest expenditures on education as a proportion of GDP compared to other countries as shown in the table below

Table 3
Year Ghana Senegal South Africa Japan USA UK Denmark Finland
2008 5.8 5 5.1 3.4 5.5 5.4 7.7 6.1
2009 5.3 5.6 5.5 n/a 5.4 5.6 8.7 6.8
2010 5.5 5.6 6 3.8 5.6 n/a n/a 6.8
2011 6.3 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a

REF: Navigate to relevant data

The table below shows education expenditure ratios to GDP and government expenditure for the years 2008 to 2011

Table 4
YEAR 2008 (GH¢) 2009 (GH¢) 2010 (GH¢) 2011 (GH¢)
GDP 30,179,000,000 36,598,000,000 46,232,000,000 57,013,000,000
GOG EXP. 9,538,244,209 8,756,146,694 11,039,923,940 13,837,325,330
EDUCATION EXP. 1,743,571,719 1,949,768,414 2,564,363,358 3,565,710,571
EDUCATION EXP as % of GDP 5.8 5.3 5.5 6.25
EDUCATION EXP. as a % of GOG EXP. 18.28 22.27 23.23 25.77

From tables 3 &4, it is obvious that Ghana spends a substantial amount of GDP on education and needs to get better returns on education expenditure.


Since the government during the first Republic took over church schools, the management of education has become highly centralized. Despite the overall national decentralization policy, very little autonomy exists at the district levels of education. Schools' management and supervision remain weak; the head teacher has virtually no authority, limited orientation or training to be a leader and manager, and has little incentive to perform. Effective decentralization, improved management and supervision, as well as motivation will be important elements in turning the state of education around for the better in the public sector.


History shows that private schools have always been a feature of Ghana's education landscape and their importance has been growing at every stage of education: primary, secondary and tertiary.

At all levels of education in Ghana, there is a significant participation in the delivery of education by the private sector; thus public-private partnership is the norm as the table below shows.

Table 5
Distribution of Public and Private Schools
KINDERGARTEN 13,305 69 5,972 31
PRIMARY 14,112 71.1 5,742 28.9
JHS 8,818 70.9 3,618 29.1
SHS 535 64.6 293 35.4
Technical and Vocational Institutions 125 54.1 106 45.9
UNIVERSITIES 9 14.1 55 85.9

REF: Education Sector Report 2013

It is critical for government to clarify its policy towards private education at all levels, in view of their growing importance and potential to contribute more to the entire education system. It is imperative for Government to develop incentives to facilitate investment in private education and encourage the existing ones to expand.


Government has a non-negotiable primary responsibility to ensure that it provides accessible and quality public education for all Ghanaian youth. However, the issue of parental contribution to the cost of education, even within the public sector, must be a subject of critical analysis. There is never 'free education', even within the public sector. The question therefore is whether we will fund it fully, and collectively do it via a tax system or through a combination of state funding and parental contribution.


Ghana's development discussion must elevate education to the highest rung, because of the strong nexus between education and development.

The Forum for Education Reform believes that the issues we have raised in this report must be at the forefront of any discussion on our country's development plans. We need to find workable solutions and paradigms which will ensure that the Ghanaian youth has access to quality and affordable education.

Subsequent releases will focus on specific aspects of education in the country with the view to providing practical suggestions for improving the quality of education.


The Forum for Education Reform (FFER), under the auspices of IMANI-GHANA is group of eminent Ghanaians, educationists, leaders of industry, business people and researchers. The Forum for Education Reform is working with government and like-minded organizations to improve standards in education.

1. Sir Sam Jonah K.B.E. O.S.G. Chairman, Jonah Mining – CHAIRMAN

2. Prof. Stephen Adei Educationist (former Rector of GIMPA) – VICE CHAIRMAN

3. Prof. Seth Buatsi Educationist (formerly of UNIVERSITY GHANA/MOED)

4. Mr. Kenneth Quartey Businessman, MD, SYDALS LTD. & OLD ACHIMOTANS ASSO

5. Mr. Franklin Cudjoe Founding President and CEO, IMANI

6. Ms. Adelaide Ahwireng Managing Director, FIO ENTERPRISES

7. Mr. Kofi Bentil Vice-President, IMANI & GEN SECRETARY TO FORUM.

8. Dr. Patrick Awuah President, ASHESI UNIVERSITY

9. Mr. Israel Titi-Ofei Principal, SOS-HERMANN GMEINER INTL.COLLEGE

10. Dr. Tony Oteng-Gyasi Managing Director, TROPICAL CABLE LTD & IMANI BOARD

11. Prof. Addae Mensah Educationist (FORMER VICE CHANCELOR, UNIV OF GHANA

12. Prof. J. S. Djangmah Former Director-General. GHANA EDUCATION SERVICE.

13. Dr. Lydia Apori Nkansah Lecturer, KNUST LAW SCHOOL.

14. Dr. K.B. Asante (Retired Diplomat and Educationist), SECRETARY TO GHANA'S FIRST PRESIDENT, DR. KWAME NKRUMAH.

15. Mr. Tony Fosu CEO, SINAPI ABA Savings & Loans Limited