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close this bookGhana: A Baseline Study of the Teacher Education System (CIE, 2000, 67 p.)
close this folderChapter 1: Basic Education in Ghana: An Overview
View the document1.1 Introduction
View the document1.2 National Indicators
View the document1.3 Recent History of the Basic Education System
View the document1.4 Structure and Characteristics of Basic Education
View the document1.5 Participation in Basic Education
View the document1.6 Pupil-Teacher Ratios
View the document1.7 The Quality of Basic Education
View the document1.8 Education Expenditure
View the document1.9 Teachers
View the document1.10 Conclusion

1.7 The Quality of Basic Education

There has not been a comprehensive attempt to evaluate the impact of the 1987 reforms on the basic school system. Some idea of whether it has made a positive impact on children’s learning and achievement can be deduced from studies about the performance level of pupils. These are discussed below.

Test results, it can be argued, constitute the primary benchmark for evaluating educational quality, and therefore pupils’ performances in specially designed tests could be used a yardstick for measuring the impact of reform.

As a consequence of the 1987 reforms, a test instrument was developed, with the support of USAID, to measure students’ achievement in English and mathematics in the last year of primary school. The test is criterion-referenced (i.e. standards are fixed) with scores being reported as a percentage of students reaching a score of 60 per cent in English and 55 per cent in mathematics (Table 1.8). Data for 1996 show that only 5.5 per cent of pupils achieved the criterion pass score in English, and only 1.8 per cent in mathematics. In that year the tests were administered to a total of 16,641 pupils from 529 public and 36 private schools.

Table 1.8: Criterion-Referenced Test Results (Public Schools), 1992-1996


1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

English*

2.0%

5.3%

3.3%

3.6%

5.5%

Mathematics**

1.1%

2.1%

1.5%

3.6%

1.8%

Source: DFID, 1998

Notes: *percentage achieving 60 per cent criterion pass score; **percentage achieving 55 per cent criterion pass score

The criterion-referenced mean scores shown in Table 1.9 suggest that there is some learning, but the scores, based on multiple response items mainly, are quite near to those that would be achieved from random guessing (i.e.20 per cent). The terminal JSS examination, the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), gives little indication of student achievement, as it is norm-referenced with a consistently high pass rate - 84.8 per cent in 1994 (DFID, 1998:71).

Table 1.9: Criterion-Referenced Mean Test Scores (Public Schools), 1992-1996


1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

English

29.9%

30.9%

31.0%

31.6%

33.0%

Mathematics

27.3%

27.4%

27.7%

28.1%

28.8%

Source: DFID, 1998

While the quality of the test items is variable, and the setting of a pass/mastery scores of 60/55 per cent is open to question, available data suggest that the vast majority of pupils in public primary schools are learning very little in terms of basic skills (DFID, 1998:70). The 1996 CRT results also showed pupils at private primary schools achieved significantly superior results in the tests, with a mean score of 61 per cent in English and 47 per cent in mathematics, compared with mean scores of 33 and 28.8 per cent, respectively in public schools. See Tables 1.10 and 1.11.

Table 1.10: Mean Scores in English (Public and Private Schools), 1992-1997

YEAR

PUBLIC

PRIVATE

1992

29.9

-

1993

30.9

-

1994

31.0

58.8

1995

31.6

-

1996

33.0

61.0

1997

33.9

67.4

Source: PREP/MOE, 1997

Table 1.11: Mean scores in Mathematics (Public and Private Schools), 1992-1997

YEAR

PUBLIC

PRIVATE

1992

27.3

-

1993

27.4

-

1994

27.7

47.3

1995

28.1

-

1996

28.8

47.0

1997

29.9

51.7

Source: PREP/MOE, 1997

Classroom based research conducted by CRIQPEG (the Centre for Research into Improving the Quality of Primary Education in Ghana), at the University of Cape Coast, indicates that a substantial proportion of children at all grade levels are unable to read and write to an appreciable standard. For example, even at grade 5, 40-50 per cent of children tested could not decode typical passages from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th English grade books. Only about 1/6 of grade 4 children and 1/3 of grade 5 children could decode a reading passage with at least 70 per cent accuracy (CRIQPEG Report, 1995).

Other than the CRTs, very little reliable data is available on the quality of schooling and learning achievement other than that outlined above. Both the 1995 Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) and the 1992 Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS) describe the poor quality of education as viewed by community members and service providers. Parents consistently said their children could not read or write (their assessment of whether the system was working) and that the JSS curriculum was too broad. A sharp rise in enrolments in private schools where exam results are better, and increases in repetition rates during the 1990s, further suggest learning outcomes in public schools has fallen (Norton et. al., 1995). This evidence indicates that the 1987 reforms have not produced the dividends expected. Again, such evidence of the poor performance of students in schools suggests that teaching and learning in schools is not having the desired impact in terms of improving the achievement levels of children.

A 1996 report by the Primary Education Programme (PREP) of the MOE attributed the poor performance of public schools primarily to low level teaching and learning. Other causes of the low performance were poor supervision of teachers, poor school management, frequent absenteeism of teachers in school, and the lack of instructional materials. The PREP report also concluded that private schools performed better due to certain advantages over public schools, such as greater control and supervision of teachers, more effective school management and parent-teacher relationships, and proportionally more instructional materials (MOE, 1996).

The observations from the PREP study lead to certain conclusions and implications for teacher training that require further investigation. An overarching issue is the role of the teacher training process in contributing to the effectiveness of the school system. More specific issues include the design of instructional tasks for teacher training, what these tasks emphasise, and how they relate to the goal of raising children’s achievement and performance at the basic school level.

The MOE, in trying to understand the reasons for low achievements among pupils in school, has suggested the following factors as among the key causes:

(i) Lack of learning materials, and for teachers’ failure to make use of textbooks, equipment and other learning materials;

(ii) Low levels of pupils and teacher absenteeism;

(iii) Inadequate funding by Government on non-salary recurrent expenses;

(iv) Insufficient use of teacher - pupil instructional contact hours;

(v) Unmotivated teachers owing to unattractive incentives, ineffective sanctions and poor social appreciation of the roles of teachers;

(vi) An overly ambitious curriculum burdensome to both teachers and pupils;

(vii) Ineffective pre-service teacher training and inadequate in-service teacher training to introduce teachers to the new curriculum;

(viii) Non-interactive mode of teaching;

(ix) Weak supervision, both in school and by district/circuit supervisors and inspectors; and

(x) For the Junior Secondary School, a lack of workshops and equipment and qualified technical teachers.

(Ghana Ministry of Education briefing on fCUBE to the Cabinet, 1995).

This list shows four main areas to which the problems of weak learning results of pupils could be linked. These are:

· ineffective system of teacher training - (i), (vi), (viii);

· ineffective system of teacher and school supervision - (ii), (iv), (ix);

· inadequate funding and lack of support for teachers in terms of incentives - (iii), (v), (x) and;

· over ambitious school curriculum when viewed in terms of content coverage and time availability.

The evidence of low achievement of pupils in schools created an awareness of the need to target initial teacher training for more reforms. Recently, attempts have been made in teacher training to focus more attention on the development of specific teaching skills and professional qualities with the intention that this would ultimately lead to improvements in the teacher’s instructional practices and pupils’ learning outcomes.