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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

1.4 Structure and Characteristics of Basic Education

Schools in Ghana are established by local authorities, Christian or Muslim organisations. Historically churches constructed and managed most schools, but in 1955 the running of most schools was taken over by the government. Although there remain Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican and Muslim educational units in the Ghana Education Service, the management and financing of all schools is controlled by district and central educational authorities.

Prior to 1987, the Ghanaian education system consisted of a six year primary cycle; a four year middle; a seven year secondary (the first five years leading to the ‘O’ level certification and the last two leading to ‘A’ level); and a three or four year tertiary. It was the norm for tertiary students to have spent up to 17 years on pre-university education (World Bank, 1996:2). The structure of Ghana’s education system prior to 1987 is shown in Appendix 1a.

The 1987 reforms brought changes to the education system resulting in the present structure as shown in Appendix 1b. Under the new system Ghana’s basic education cycle consists of six years of primary and three years of junior secondary schooling. This is followed by a three-year senior secondary cycle, and a tertiary sub-sector comprising several forms of technical institutes, universities, polytechnics, and teacher training colleges. The new system replaced the old completely after the academic year 1995/96, when the last cohort under the old system graduated. The basic education cycle is nominally compulsory, and children are supposed to enter primary school at the age of six. There is automatic promotion throughout primary school and JSS, using internal examinations, except for pupils with weak performances or poor attendance, who repeat with parental consent. External examinations occur only in the final year of JSS.

In the primary school, nine subjects are studied: English, mathematics, science, agriculture, social studies, life skills, Ghanaian language, cultural studies, and physical education. Lower primary classes (grades one to three) are officially taught in the Ghanaian language prevailing in the local community; for primary grade four and beyond, English is the language of instruction.

For most pupils JSS is terminal. JSS is expected to equip the majority, therefore, with basic skills to enter the labour market, and to prepare the minority for continued study at senior secondary level. To meet these dual objectives, JSS curricula have been restructured, and new teaching and learning materials developed for thirteen subjects - technical and pre-vocational skills training have been added to the core primary subjects, with French as an elective course (World Bank, 1996:3).

It is generally agreed that the basic curriculum is too heavy with too many subjects and examinations. As Penrose (1996: 4-5) observes,

There appears to be a consensus that there are too many subjects at the basic level, and that they should be reduced from the present nine subjects at primary to five or six; and from the present JSS total of 13, of which 12 are nationally examined, to 12 with national examination in 10.