|Girls and Basic Education - A Cultural Enquiry - Education Research Paper No. 23 (DFID, 1998, 160 p.)|
In 1992 the Ghana Ministry of Education in collaboration with the local UNICEF office initiated an action research project, "for equity improvement in primary schooling" (Research report-draft. Unpublished 1993). Using a largely quantitative approach, the team of researchers collected a wide range of data from seven geographically representative areas of the country. The report writers undertook some preliminary analysis of the data and came to a number of conclusions concerning issues of girls, non-enrolment and drop-out e.g. that family factors such as the effect of broken homes or non-enrolment was important in all types of schools surveyed.
The draft report concluded with a suggestion that further research be carried out,
"a more focussed study in a couple of districts
which would be more ethnographic than the current one deploying qualitative
methods to the full to try and understand the complex inter-relation between all
the factors that have been proposed as causes of drop-out and the variety of
educational provision being offered for children" (GES/UNICEF
This research is a result of that suggestion, though it owes its origins and development to a number of other factors too.
In 1994, the principal researcher took unpaid leave from his university position, and was appointed an education adviser for the Overseas Development Administration in Ghana (working as part of the Support for Teacher Education Project (STEP) team based at the University College of Education at Winneba and at Accra).
With an interest in qualitative and culturally-sensitive research, and with a professional brief to assist in building up research capacity at Winneba, the research project began to take shape.
Initially the idea was to pick up from where the GES/UNICEF research had left off in 1993 and to carry out, 'a more focused study' of girl drop-outs in two or more districts, one perhaps in the North of the country where access issues had been identified as acute, and the South, perhaps Winneba-Town, where the situation seemed better.
Eventually two locations were chosen for the study: Tamale and Laribanga village in the Northern region, the latter singled out by UNICEF for its problems in attracting and keeping girls in school; and Winneba, a Southern university town, home for much of the time to the principal researcher and the indigenous team who would carry out the research in that area (the Northern case study being carried out by the principal researcher and a local researcher working from the Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies).
It soon became apparent that the research would not only address questions of gender and access to schooling but would try to do so in a way that was appropriate and sensitive to the cultural milieux under investigation.
A case study approach was therefore adopted and life history of women teachers and girls was selected as the major research tool. The research would attempt to answer the following questions:
1) Why do some children, particularly girls,
fail to enrol and/or drop out of school during their basic education?
2) What are the contextual and educational factors responsible for non-enrolment and drop-out?
3) How far do the life histories of women and girls explain and provide solutions to the problem being studied?
4) What intervention strategies and agents of change can we identify at school and community level to solve the problem?
5) To what extent is the problem essentially different within two contrasting areas of one country?
6) To what extent can we develop culturally-sensitive research methodologies and methods in our work in educational development?
Working in two teams - one in the North, the other in the South - research data was collected from clusters of primary schools via life history interviews with 89 women teachers, head teachers, and from girls in and out of school. Six Ghanaian languages were used in the interviewing - English, Twi, Hausa, Dagomba, Gonja and Kamara (the language exclusive to the village of Laribanga) by the research team who were all experienced primary school teachers, being able to speak one or more of these languages.
Secondary data on the broad question of primary school quality and on the more focused issue of gender and access to schooling was also collected from published sources and from the archives of aid donors and the non-governmental organisations working in the country.
The data is analysed and presented around three domains : the culture of the home; the relationship between culture and the economy; and the culture of the school.
The research team felt from the beginning that the research report should not be 'just another survey' telling us why girls drop out of school, but rather that it should try and paint a picture of the complex world inhabited by real people with real and sometime contradictory motives. As such space has been given to the 'voices' of those interviewed and to an attempt to ground the experiential data in a broader context of the domain under investigation.
Though the particular school names have been retained, the individual teachers, headteachers and girls are indicated only by their initials.
The report consists of eight sections: the first, the introduction, is followed by a review of theoretical issues concerned with the inter-relationship of 'culture' and 'education' and 'development'. The third section then considers the rationale for employing a qualitative methodology and contains a brief discussion of the advantages (and disadvantages!) of using culturally-sensitive research approaches. The rationale and design of the study is also outlined.
The fourth, fifth and sixth sections present and discuss the findings centred around the three domains of: home, the economy and the school. Each section is divided into two parts, the first presenting broad, contextual material drawn largely from the secondary source material, the second from the experiences of those interviewed.
The report ends with a concluding section drawing together issues raised and indicating ways forward. Finally a bibliography and a number of appendices are provided.