IMPROVEMENT OF EDUCATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: Case study: GHANA EDUCATION SYSTEM
RESEARCH FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE THE IMPROVEMENT OF EDUCATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES:
GHANA EDUCATION SYSTEM
The need for improvements in the educational system in Ghana today is greater than ever before, but there are some sophisticated research methods available that can help educational reformers in Ghana accomplish these important goals. In order to determine which research approach is superior for this purpose, or combination of methodologies, an understanding of what is involved in the Ghanaian educational system is in order. In terms of educational expansion as measured by the enrollment of both male and female school age children at all levels, virtually all African countries have accomplished remarkable results since the 1960s and 1970s, yet profound problems remain (Assie-Lumumba, 2000). According to Morrison (2001), the level of education provided to young children in Ghana today is a direct legacy of many events that relate to the country's colonial past and subsequent independence. For example, in 1957, Ghana became the first West African country to receive its independence from colonial rule; further, during the early years of its independence, the government recognized the importance of education during the early years in the lives of Ghanaian children. Further, in 1989, Ghana became the first country to ratify the United Nations' Rights of the Child; later, in 1998, the government passed The Children's Act (Act 560), which added additional strength to the laws on children's rights, justice, and welfare (Morrison, 2001).
Today, almost half of Ghana's 19.5 million citizens are younger than 15 years and the most recent census data reported that about 16.5% of the population is under the age of 6 years; unfortunately, there remains a paucity of educational services for students across the board, but the need is most severe for very young children, a problem that is even worse in most rural areas of the country. In fact, today, just 12% or so of the nation's very young children have access to early care and education (Morrison, 2001), and the literacy rate (defined as those age 15 years and over who can read and write) for the total population of Ghana is just 74.8% (82.7% and 67.1% for males and females respectively) (Ghana, 2005). Nevertheless, this literacy rate is still one of the highest in tropical Africa today, and again, by comparison, Ghana has a better educational system than any of its immediate neighbors; this achievement has been enormously costly though.
This is not to say, though, that the educational legacy of Ghana is recent; indeed, the first recorded educational program for children in Ghana was the Elmina Castle School founded in 1745; however, beginning in 1823, Western missionaries began a program of proselytization in an effort to convert the native Ghanian population to Christianity. Much like the problems facing the country in the 21st century, the colonial Ghanaian government also lacked sufficient resources to fund a national system of education and turned over the responsibility for education to these Christian missionaries, a responsibility they readily embraced for they believed it was in keeping with their theological tenets (McWilliam, 1959 cited in Morrison, 2001). According to this author, the first mission on record was the Basel Mission Society; this facility featured some kindergartens that were offered with the "primary one classes" (these are the Ghanaian equivalent to first grade classes in the United States) by 1843 (Morrison, 2001).
Following their independence from the UK in 1957, Ghana reassumed responsibility for its national education system through the passage of the Education Act of 1961; this act made preschools the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. Thereafter, any Ghanaian facility that offered an educational program for young children (with or without fees) was required to register with the Ministry; this Act also established free basic compulsory education for children beginning with primary 1 (age 6 years) through to primary 6 (Morrison, 2001). This system was introduced in April 1974, when the Ghanaian government began implementation of a new educational system comprised of a pre-primary cycle for ages 4 to 6 years; a basic first cycle, including six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary; and a second cycle of variable length. The second cycle is followed by secondary vocational or commercial programs or, in the alternative, to senior secondary university preparatory courses or other third-cycle courses in high-level polytechnics and specialized institutions (Boateng & Fage, 2005).
According to Ernest Amano Boateng and John D. Fage (2005), the first educational cycle is both free and compulsory; during the first three years, educational services are delivered in the predominant local language, with provision for education in at least one other Ghanaian language and English, the latter being the language of instruction from the fourth year of the primary cycle (Boateng & Fage, 2005). In addition, teacher training and technical education are approximately comparable to secondary education; however, these facilities tend to attract students who are not planning on attending a university. Today, university education is provided at three primary Ghanaian institutions:
The University of Ghana at Legon. This university is located near Accra, and was established as a university college in 1948 and granted full university status in 1961.
The University of Science and Technology at Kumasi. This institution was established in 1951 and was granted full university status in 1961; the Tarkwa School of Mines is affiliated with the University of Science and Technology and offers diploma courses in mining and related subjects.
The University of Cape Coast. This university was established in 1962 specifically for the training of science teachers and was afforded full university status in 1972 (Boateng & Fage, 2005).
All of these institutions are financed by the government; in fact, there are no private universities in Ghana today (Boateng & Fage, 2005).
Cost-saving initiatives that affected social expenditures during the late 1980s resulted in drastic reductions in student subsidies for food and accommodation in third-cycle institutions, but enrollment in all schools, particularly in secondary schools, has increased significantly since Ghana achieved independence (Boateng & Fage, 2005). For instance, there are a number of private schools at both elementary and secondary levels today; however, the number of available places in second- and third-cycle institutions, particularly in universities, remains far short of the demand from qualified applicants. "Despite the heavy national expenditure on education and the large school population, Ghana still has a relatively low literacy level by world standards. Thanks to the extensive use of the sound and visual media, however, illiteracy is not as serious a handicap as it formerly was. English is widely spoken, especially in the urban areas" (emphasis added) (Boateng & Fage, 2005, p. 17). To help address the lack of educational services in the country's rural areas, Maria Gonzalez de Asis (2005) reports that a recent initiative by the World Bank entitled, "Africa Good Governance on the Radio Waves," is designed to support local government capacity building and community empowerment by establishing radio links with outlying regions. The program is in place throughout Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda and was implemented July 14, 2005; the enterprise represents the most recent joint program between the Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (MDP-ESA) and the World Bank Institute (WBI), who are strategic partners with national associations of local governments in the participating countries. According to Gonzalez de Asis, "The program is transmitted by First Voice International via digital radio, reaching a large number of participants in rural and urban areas in these countries" (p. 2). In addition, Ghana has partnered with the World Bank-sponsored Inter-Agency Commission to:
Assist in the enhancement of country research capacity and application.
Collaboratively design and implement classroom research at the primary school level.
Link findings to practice and policy at various levels (from classrooms to national ministries) of the educational systems (Adams, Clayton, Ginsburg, Mantilla, Sylvester & Wang, 2000).
In spite of these early and ongoing initiatives, and the promises represented by emerging computer-based technologies though, political instability in the ensuing years has drained the nation of valuable resources that were not invested in the nation's educational infrastructure. The country still enjoys a per capita output that is twice that of its immediate neighbors, and recent initiatives targeted at social programs may provide even more assistance in the long-term; however, the need for improvements today is urgent and the longer it takes policymakers to find solutions for the wide range of problems facing them, the more difficult it will be to solve them. Furthermore, an entire generation of Ghanian children will suffer the consequences of these delayed decisions and the country can reasonably be expected to continue to suffer a dismal literacy rate by world standards with the implications this carries for its young citizens. Just as an understanding of the country's educational legacy and the current problems it faces is important to this study, the terminology commonly used in the investigation must be operationalized; these definitions are…