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GHANA MAKES GIANTS STRIDES IN EDUCATION FOR ALL (EFA) 2000-2015 AND JOINS THE WORLD TO SET THE AGENDA FOR EDUCATION 2030

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Ghana has made significant progress in access and participation across all the levels of education in terms of absolute numbers and proportions. The Minister for Education, Professor Naana Opoku-Agyemang who doubles as Chairperson of the National Commission (NatCom) for UNESCO, was specifically invited to the launch of 2015 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report  at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 9, 2015, due to the progress Ghana has made in education since 2000. In her delegation was the Chief Director of the ministry, Mr. Enoch Hemans-Cobbinah, who is the Vice-Chair of the NatCom, Ghana.

 

In her statement to the world body, she explained that primary net enrolments had increased from 30% in 1999 to 89.3% in 2014 while gross enrolments of Pre-primary rose from 47% to 128%  and a net of 90.8% over the same period, with a GPI of 1.03 in favor of girls. Secondary enrolments have seen some remarkable improvements in terms of absolute numbers although quite modest in proportional terms. At the tertiary level, public funded universities have increased from 4 in 1990 to 10 in 2014 in addition to over 50 accredited private Universities and University Colleges, with a corresponding rise from under 6% to 16% of the age bracket.

The success attained is attributable mainly to the central focus governments Ghana place on education, prudent measures taken to back the conviction that education remains the bedrock of national development. All this is reinforced by dedicated non/teaching staff, supportive families and communities, as well as the desire of the students themselves to succeed. She expressed gratitude to them all.

Interventions that include the provision of capitation grant, meals, school uniforms and other supplies to young learners from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, provision of student loans, as well as massive infrastructural development and expansion were isolated as measures that ensure attraction and retention.

At the pre-tertiary level there is as well increase in enrolment of teacher trainees, provision of pre-service teacher training infrastructure and facilities to raise the numbers and quality of teachers and facilitators trained for the sector, with special emphasis on three key areas: early childhood care and education, technical and vocational education.

The Government of Ghana made of two-year pre-school education part of the compulsory basic education system backed by policy. Government partners with the private sector for sustainability of this important area.

These notwithstanding, challenges include requisite numbers of qualified human resource, suitable infrastructure to meet a growing, youthful population and credible data for the purposes of planning and policy decisions. These remain areas of focus for the sector.

Ghana’s post 2015 education agenda goals concentrate on three major areas:

  1. Increase equitable access to and participation in quality education at all levels
  • Remove the physical and financial barriers and constraints to access education at all levels
  • Diversify delivery modes, including distance education
  • Mainstream education of learners with special needs when appropriate
  • Enable necessary interventions for life-long education
  • Roll out a program for the attainment of universal access to secondary education
  • Deepen relevance of and diversify the post-secondary terrain
  •  Intensify research output in our universities.
  • Bridge gender gap in access to education at all levels
  • Provide all public basic schools with modern sanitary facilities and improve access to potable water

 

  1. Improve the quality of teaching and learning especially for Mathematics and Science at all levels
  • Institute efficient teacher and resource deployment
  • Ensure adequate teacher time-on-task and attendance
  • Provide adequate TLMs and equipment
  • Rebrand technical/vocational education

 

  1. Improve the management of education service delivery at all levels
  • Systemise the collection, compilation analysis and dissemination of relevant and timely data for planning, policy making, programming, monitoring and evaluation
  • Develop capacity for effective use of data for decision making
  • Strengthen capacity for education management and quality assurance mechanisms by strengthening accountability at all levels  
  • Ensure efficiency development, deployment and supervision of teachers
  • Review policies to meet emerging demands in education at all levels and especially at the tertiary level.

The overarching strategy is to rethink education not in terms of segments, but as an integral whole, in planning and execution.

At the World Education Forum, Incheon, South Korea in May 2105, Ghana was again commended during the Opening High-Level Panel discussion for progress made. This forum which attracted over 130 minsters for education from across the globe was organized by UNESCO in collaboration with UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN Women and the World Bank Group to review the performance of the EFA goals set in Dakar in 2000. The forum further set a new agenda for education for the next 15 years dubbed ‘Education 2030’ and proposed the mechanism for its coordination, monitoring and financing. Among dignitaries that addressed the gathering during the opening ceremony were the President of the Republic of Korea; the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Republic of Korea; the UN Secretary-General; the Director-General of UNESCO and the President of the World Bank.

Presenting progress on the EFA goals, the Director of the GMR team Dr. Aaron Benavot indicated that Ghana had half of her children attending pre-school at the time of the Dakar declaration in 2000, but today, there is universal enrolment at this level. He indicated that at the dawn of the Twenty First Century, Ghana stood out from her neighbors with existing as ECCE policies / programs and had since then taken pragmatic measures to abolish school fees at this level; made pre-primary education compulsory for two years starting at age 4; dedicated resources to teaching and learning; provided extra support for the most disadvantaged children. This, according to him was highly commendable.

The major verdict of the 2000-2015 effort is that “Member States’ have made significant progress on the Education for all goals worldwide since 2000, yet the EFA still remained an unfinished business.”  (See full report at www.unesco.org)

The Minister for Education Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang who led Government delegation to the Incheon Forum was invited by UNESCO as a Special Guest to share her forward–looking perspectives on “Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good” at the High – Level discussion segment at the opening ceremony of the forum. Taking her turn during the discussions, the Minister acknowledged with gratitude, the recognition by the international community of Ghana’s achievements in education. She said looking forward to the post-2015 education agenda, it was imperative that the educational enterprise be perceived at once as one whole package, both horizontally and vertically, involving all of the various levels, types and actors, in order to afford adequate preparations and reach. She reminded the audience that whereas the emphasis on access to primary education was critical, it remained imperative to look ahead to all the levels of education right up to the tertiary, while emphasizing quality and relevance. She stated, for example, that while those who started at 6 years in the year 2000 when the EFA goals were adopted are currently 21 years, there had not been commensurate global attention to their upward mobility in education. Professor Naana Opoku-Agyemang further drew attention to the issue of educational outcomes to emphasize, in particular, the intangible, but critical outcomes of education, such as human rights and responsibilities, social values, attitudes, aptitudes and global citizenship education to help ground the indispensable role of education in a changing world.

Thematic Session on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education GCED:

The 2015 World Education Forum under the theme Transforming lives through Education recognizes the transformative and unmatched power of education to improve the wellbeing of the peoples of the world. For that reason, the Forum staged another High-Level discussion which focused on ’Educating and learning for peaceful and sustainable societies’.

This segment also saw Ghana’s Minister for Education and other Ministers of Education and United Nations Ambassadors from across the continents sharing their thoughts on how Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) can be effectively integrated into education systems in order to help improve education relevance and its capacity to contribute to achieving sustainable development worldwide. She explained that these needed clear conceptualization with the broadest consensus for practical application. ESD/GCED goes beyond ‘business as usual,’ she maintained, and must be able to question assumptions to raise a new generation of ‘critical thinkers’. Critical thinking, she defined, as the ability to look very closely at what exists and add value to it or even to create something new in its place. Education will have to be reconceived to allow this to happen.

At the third plenary session, the Government of the Republic of Korea which is hosting the World Forum also used the occasion to share Korea’s experiences in educational development, revealing new ideas to achieve greater quality education in a post-2015 era.

Presenting the Korea experience, the President of the Korean Education Development Institute Dr. Sun-Geun Baek highlighted the pivotal role of education in the transformation of the present Korean economy. He said the Korean education model is founded on three pillars - strong Government leadership for educational development; competent teachers and societal enthusiasm for education.

Ghana’s Contribution towards Education 2030:

At the request of UNESCO, Ghana contributed significantly in a number of UNESCO high-level consultative events which led to the formulation of a new vision for education in a post-2015 era. These events have served to gather country level experiences and expertise towards education post-2015 and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

 

In that context, Ghana had earlier on taken part in the High-Level discussions during the International Conference on Sustainable Development which took place in Aisha-Nagoya, Japan in November 2014; The Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Ministerial Conference and the Second Extra-Ordinary Session of the Bureau of Conference of Ministers of Education (COMEDAF) in the Africa Region which was held in Kigali, Rwanda from 7th - 11th February, 2015. Ghana was also specially invited as the Special Guest to share her experiences in the area of Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD).

 

Towards 2030: The Declaration:

Having taken stock of progress made towards EFA since 2000 and the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as the lessons learned, and having examined the remaining challenges and deliberated on the proposed 2030 education agenda and the Framework for Action as well as on future priorities and strategies for its achievement, the Forum adopted this Declaration:

  • Commitment to an education agenda that is holistic, ambitious and aspirational, leaving no-one behind. The new vision is fully captured by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all” and its corresponding targets. It is transformative and universal, attends to the ‘unfinished business’ of the EFA agenda and the education-related MDGs, and addresses global and national education challenges.
  • This Agenda is inspired by a humanistic vision of education and development based on human rights and dignity, social justice, protection, cultural diversity, and shared responsibility and accountability.
  • The Forum reaffirmed that education is a public good, a fundamental human right and a basis for guaranteeing the realization of other rights. It is essential for peace, human fulfillment and sustainable development.
  • The Forum fully committed to implementing the Education 2030 Framework for Action after its adoption, to inspire and guide countries and partners to ensure that our agenda is achieved.

The Forum further committed to focus its efforts on Access, Equity and Inclusion, Quality and Learning Outcomes, within a Lifelong Learning Approach. (For full report, see www.wef.org/www.unesco.org)

OECD/PISA Scores for Ghana:

As part of the issues tabled for discussion and analysis at the World Education Forum 2015 at Incheon, Korea was the report of the OECD regarding Education Post 2015 with the theme: ‘’Knowledge and Skills transform lives and societies”.  The report sought to highlight a global problem of the low scores of students in mathematics and science, especially in the low income developing countries, which was considered to have strong correlation with economic growth.

The report generally discussed and analyzed the global comparison between improved skills and economic growth. The argument was that the quality of schooling in a country is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run.

According to the report, titled “Universal Basic Skills – What Countries Stand to Gain”, ensuring universal access to schooling at the current quality of education yields some economic gains.

The report received mixed reactions from the Forum.  While some thought it was meant for rich countries, that it was contextually inappropriate for poor countries and that it gives an incomplete picture of what education is; others thought it made the important point that access alone will not guarantee a country’s prosperity and that of the world.  Its conclusion were therefore enough to propel the world into action as some rich OECD and non-OECD countries also fell significantly below PISA score points in Mathematics and Science.

The report was to influence debate over development goals, and to facilitate the adoption of target that ensures that all 15 year olds achieve basic level of skills.

Concerns about Methodology:

For Ghana the report emphasized the challenges Government had already identified as far as students learning outcomes in Mathematics and Science were concerned. In that regard, governments over the years had introduced interventions to address the challenge. These include:

  • Basic School computerization program leading to the supply of computers and accessories to schools and teachers
  • The rigorous re-training of teachers in science and mathematics including plans to establish centers for the training of basic schools science and mathematics teachers,
  • Rehabilitation of existing science resource centers to train teachers at both basic and secondary levels of education

The Ghana delegation observed that even though Ghana did not take part in PISA, its data from the 2011 TIMSS was re-scaled onto the PISA scale which raised a number of concerns.  Again, the strategy adopted by the authors which appeared to be selective to enable them achieve their aim of linking the country’s economic status with that of the performance in mathematics and science further raised a lot of questions as it failed to recognize that Ghana scores in TIMSS since 2003 was rather improving as shown in the table below.

Year

Science Score

Mathematics Score

2011

306

331

2007

303

309

2003

255

276

 

The delegation further observed that the random sampling technique employed could not hold in Ghana’s situation since Ghanaian schools are not homogenous as compared with other participating countries. However, Ghana was willing to learn best practices of growing a critical mass of mathematicians and scientists from the basic level upwards.

Conclusion:

Ghana has made significant progress in education over the past 15 years, but like other countries in the world challenges exist.

Moving forward we will continue to expand access at all levels, remove barriers and focus on quality and relevance while improving learning outcomes through appropriate policy and other interventions.

Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang PhD/FGA

Minister for Education and Chairman, Ghana National Commission for UNESCO

 

*The Government delegation to the World Education Forum was composed as follows: the Chief Director, Ministry of Education, Mr. Enoch H. Cobbinah; the Acting Director-General of the Ghana Education Service, Mr. Jacob Kor; the Acting Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service, Mr. Stephen Adu; the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, Prof. Yaw Afari Ankomah and the Ag. Secretary-General of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO Mr. Riche-Mike Wellington.


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