Inequality is evident in many spheres of life and the education sector is not an exception. Inequality can occur at any level of education and can affect the access that children have to education, as well as the quality of education they receive. Whether inequality affects quality or access, it puts children at a disadvantage.
By Festus Akuetteh Ankrah, Keisha Osei-Kuffour, Ruby Nutor, and Sandra Kwayisi
- Equity should be the aim in educational interventions. This is in line with objective of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to ‘Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities For All’. Equity suggests that each school/region/entity should be assessed and funding and resources (teachers, trained teachers and learning materials) should be targeted and allocated based on need to ensure that everybody is brought up to the same standard. To improve equality and equity, there must be standardization of school facilities from kindergarten to Senior High School with libraries, toilets, classrooms, kitchen, housing for teachers, playground.
- Ensure availability of credible data to address the needs of each group of people/school/region/entity. This is especially true as there is a lack of data on tertiary education and people with disabilities as compared to other levels of education and other groups of people.
- The teacher training institutions should also be strengthened to improve the quality of education across board and teaching methods revised periodically.
- Introduction of decentralized funding and community accountability mechanisms will improve education outcomes across board as the trend in test scores is retrogressive.
- Continue to institute policies and programs which address the issue of gender and regional parity in terms of access and quality education.
- Programs such as the school feeding program, free sandals and the capitation grant to deprived and poor households should be well coordinated such that the most disadvantaged can take advantage of the social schemes to improve the equity in the education system. They must be well integrated with other social protection interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP), to make sure that there is holistic assistance to the families to support the education of their children.
- Mainstream other issues of inequality such as disability access. All new schools should be equipped with handicap accessibility as standard features and Provision of free SHS should be well targeted to ensure the neediest schools are prioritized. This work and publication was part funded by UNICEF.
Inequality is evident in many spheres of life and the education sector is not an exception. Education is an important tool for the eradication of poverty. It can empower people with the knowledge and skills needed to offer opportunities to pull oneself, and future generations, out of poverty. Educational inequality is the disparity seen in learning efficacy and results as encountered by students with varying backgrounds. Efficacy in education is mainly determined through test scores, grades, entrance statistics, drop-out rates and the completion rates amongst students in schools. Inequality in Education is a concept very much at the heart of social justice theories.
Inequality can occur at any level of education and can affect the access that children have to education, as well as the quality of education they receive. Whether inequality affects quality or access, it puts children at a disadvantage. Inequality in education may be a result of the region or district that the child resides (spatial inequality), the gender of the child (gender inequality), whether the child has disabilities or not (disability discrimination), the income of the child’s parents (socio-economic inequality), and other factors such as religion and ethnicity.
This paper evaluates trends in inequality in the education system, and provides recommendation to political parties for consideration in the preparation of their 2016 manifestos.
FACTS AND FIGURES
1. Gender Parity
1.1 Across different levels of education
Between 2009/10 and 2014/15, gender parity has been exceeded at the kindergarten level where there are currently fewer boys than girls. At the primary level, gender parity has been achieved, inching up from 0.96 in 2009/2010 to 1 in 2014/15. There have been improvements at both the JHS and SHS over the six years however parity is yet to be achieved. Gender parity is at 0.97 and 0.91 for JHS and SHS respectively. The pattern also reveals a drop in enrolled female students at higher education levels.
1.2 By region-Spatial Picture
Gender parity has not been achieved in 5 out of 10 regions (Central, Eastern, Northern, Upper East, Volta) as per 2013/2014 data. However, this is an improvement from 4 years prior, when gender parity was not fulfilled in 8 out of 10 regions. This could imply that the specific interventions targeting gender inequality in primary schooling in each region are yielding some results.
2. Completion Rates-by gender and level of education
Completion rates, which measures the ratio of the total number of students successfully completing (or graduating from) the last year of school in a given year to the total number of children of official graduation age in the population, drop as pupils move up the education ladder. Completion rates at the primary level average 96% while at the JHS level is averages 68% from 2009/10 to 2013/14 and averages 36% at the SHS level. At each level and for each year, the completion rate for girls lag behind that of boys except for the 2013/14 academic year at the JHS level.
3. WASSCE Pass Rate
3.1 By Gender
Females are less likely to pass the WASSCE in mathematics, science and social studies compared to males. In English however, females passed at the same rate as males in 2013/2014, and exceeded males in 2014/2015. This could lead up to a situation whereby females could be excluded from certain professions in the sciences and higher learning opportunities due to their weaker performance. In addition, in all subjects with the exception of mathematics, pass rates are declining which means students performed better in the past than they are today. This calls for evaluation of the quality of the education being provided.
Table 1 WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate Examination) Pass Rate for males and females, 2013/14 to 2014/15
|Math||English||Integrated Science||Social Studies|
3.2 By region (spatial)
The graph below indicates a wide spatial disparity between the ten regions for the WASSCE pass rates. It is shown that the lowest pass rates in English are in Northern (33%), Upper East (47%), Upper West (59%), and Central (59%) regions. There are low pass rates in mathematics throughout most regions but the lowest are in Northern (23%), Upper East (28%), Upper West (28%), Volta (33%), and Central (36%) regions. For Integrated Science, the lowest pass rates were in Northern (21%), Upper East (34%), Volta (36%), and Central (36%) regions. The lowest pass rates for Social Studies occurred in the Northern (52%), Volta (65%), Upper East (66%), and Central (68%) regions. Generally, more students passed social studies than other subjects. From the data, it seems that overall; the lowest pass rates for WASSCE were in Northern, Upper East, Volta and Central regions, indicating that they may need targeted initiatives to overcome the regional differences.
4. Trained Teachers
The ESP has a goal of having 95% trained teachers by 2015. Even though the goal has not been met, some improvements have been made. However, the distribution of trained teachers varies significantly across districts and regions. At the regional level, Greater Accra has the highest proportion of trained teachers in all three levels of basic schooling, and Upper East has the lowest. Disparities in the distribution of trained teachers in the country imply that the country faces challenges in ensuring an effective and equitable distribution of trained teachers among districts and schools. There is therefore greater need for redistribution of teachers as opposed to additional recruitment.
HOW GHANA TACKLES INEQUALITY IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR
To combat gender inequality, the GoG developed the Girls Participatory Approaches to Students Success (PASS) in 2013/14. This is a four-year program, which aims at addressing internal and external factors that affect the enrolment, retention, completion, and performance rates of girls in JHS. Some ways they do this is to offer scholarships for girls in 75 deprived districts, as well as ICT training.
The GoG has also completed renovations of SHS facilities to include the construction of female dormitories, as well as the proposed plan to offer free sanitation pads, all to encourage female participation.
Another intervention is to offer support for female role models in schools and communities.
The Government of Ghana has taken giant steps to bring economic recovery to its citizens in the education sector through the implementation of the capitation grant policy. There have also been other interventions like the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), Free School Uniforms and Exercise Books. While the capital grant has nationwide coverage, the other programs are targeted at the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the implementation of these programs is impeded by delays in the release of the grant, corruption with regards to funds, less transparency and poor record keeping. A 2014 publication, Citizen’s Assessment Report on the Capitation Grant Scheme’ found a positive impact on enrollment as a result of capitation grants. However, this positive impact was affected negatively by the fees levied on school pupils by the Parent-Teacher-Association. Secondly, the capitation grant did not have significant impact on attendance and retention. Similar results have been reported for the other programs aimed at bridging inequality.
While Ghana on its part has achieved the Millennium Development Goal of access to basic education for all, the next phase will be to improve retention and quality. New policies should focus on supply side factors, which include the quality of services and conditions rendered at the schools to help retain the pupils. The free school uniforms, sandals, feeding, textbooks, sanitary pads etc., programs must be well integrated with other social protection interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP), to make sure that there is holistic assistance to the families to support the education of their children.
To ensure overall quality in the education sector, there should be checks on heads of institutions, and removal of mock and extra classes’ fees and other non-tuition related costs. The government needs to set up audit teams to put administrators on their toes so that they are well monitored to produce required results. A clear decentralization plan for the education sector will facilitate the actualization of these goals.
The Inclusive Education Policy was developed from the 1992 Constitution and adapted to be included in the Ghana Education Service’s Educational Strategic Plan 2003-2015. It includes four policy objectives, which are aimed at including children with disabilities in the education system. These four objectives are:
- Improve and adapt education and related systems of all learners particularly learners with special educational needs
- Promote a UDL (Universal Design Learning)/learner friendly school environment for enhancing the quality of education for all learners
- Promote the development of a well-informed and trained human resource cadre for the quality delivery of IE (Inclusive Education) throughout Ghana
- Ensure sustainability of Inclusive Education Implementation
As such, the strategies outlined in the policy were implemented by the Special Education Division of the Ghana Education Service in a pilot program, which began in 2003/2004 with schools in three regions, and which spread to 529 schools in 34 districts in Ghana by the end of 2011.
Despite this effort to include this group in mainstream education, this program has been met with issues including 
- Attitudes of teachers (unsupportive, intolerant, undermining of children’s abilities)
- Rigid methods and curriculum
- Inaccessible environment
- The frequency of drop-outs and repeaters not being addressed
- Poor quality training of teachers and learners
- Uninvolved parents
In response to the challenges, in 2015, the GoG officially launched the Inclusive Education Policy.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 2012 POLITCAL PARTY MANIFESTOS
Ghana needs to bridge the equality gap in the education system. To achieve this goal, each of the political parties has to draw out feasible plans to attain quality education in the country. UNICEF describes quality education as one with healthy learning environment, protective and gender sensitive. In 2012, each political party presented policies they planned to implement if elected into office.
The NDC had policies geared towards infrastructure development. Their promises included the construction of 200 New Community Day SHS which represents a 38.9 % increase in the number public SHS and the elimination of the shift system from the public school system. They also promised the elimination of the remaining 60% of identified schools under trees; construction of dormitories and laboratories and making allocations from the GET Fund for the training of faculty members of tertiary institutions. They included also providing special training for pre-school and kindergarten level teaching as well as equipping JSS for science, technical and vocational subjects.
The NPPs promises were geared towards access and retention; including a promise to extend free SHS education to every child. Other promises such as addressing the problem of high dropout rates at primary and secondary levels from the NPP are geared towards increasing access to education. Other promises were the improvement of the quality of education and better performances in external examinations with a provision of a modernized library and ICT facilities. Also in their plans was to implement of the Teachers First Policy which focuses on training and supporting quality of teachers.
The PNC promises sought to revise pedagogy which is aimed at supplying teachers with new and improved ways to make teaching and learning more impactful as well as introduce an entrepreneurial study in schools.
The PPP promised investment in teachers and standardizing infrastructure. That is, provision of learning and teaching materials and motivating teachers to improve outcomes. Thus, providing Ghanaian children of school-going age with facilities to ensure quality and improve learning systems and conditions at all levels.
The CPP quite ambitiously rode on the idea of ICT to provide equality. The idea mainly sought to provide every school with audio-visual equipment across the country, to stream lessons and lectures by a world -class instructor via the web to every school across the country.
While the manifestos from the leading political parties bear some similarities, each one is unique in what is appears to be the driving factor. Some of the promises do address inequality although the linkages are implied. For instance, the elimination of financial barriers to access in education will ensure equal opportunity to every child no matter where they find themselves. But questions have been raised about the cost burden of this endeavor and potential demise it could have on the quality of the teaching and learning. A better alternative will be to target those regions, districts or populations with high school dropout rates to give them the same opportunities as the richer regions or districts. This will ensure equitable distribution which is favored over equal distribution.
The data also shows that while there may be sufficient trained teachers in the educational system, they are disproportionately distributed leaving certain areas more deprived than others. Therefore in this case, equitable distribution is important and incentives should be created to attract teachers to low performing areas.
Improvement in quality of education is linked with the training of teachers. Therefore, improvement in the training of teachers is necessary and this issue is addressed by nearly all the political parties. However, low level of monitoring and evaluation and the overly centralized nature of the educational system may be a bigger hindrance to learning outcomes. This is greater in remote areas which seem cut off from all accountability links. Strategies for accountability must incorporate the use of ICT. And where ICT is to be employed it should be made clear how it will be used and for what problem it will solve.
- In light of the SDG on education which places emphasis on the need for equity and quality education. The political parties and government should aim 20% of the education budget allocation or expenditure to asset or investment as again current average of 5%. This has been persistent over the 10 years under review with calls for reverse in order to achieve equitable quality education
- Policies must be based on data, and must solve specific problems of bridging inequality and must be feasible.
- Standardize school facilities from kindergarten to Senior High School with libraries, toilets, classrooms, kitchen, housing for teachers, playground.
- Decentralization for Education Sector to improve the participation and accountability.
- Investment in Teacher development through the creation of incentives for trained teachers to take up teaching posts in the areas identified as deprived and where education outcomes are low and opportunities for the in service upgrade. These would include the following regions Northern, Upper West and Upper East.
- Continue to institute policies and programmes which addresses the issue of gender and regional parity in term of access and quality education. Programmes to deprived and poor households should be well coordinated such that the most disadvantaged can take advantage of the social schemes to improve the equity in the education system.
- The teacher training institutions should be strengthened to improve the quality of education across board
- Programs to deprived and poor households should be well coordinated such that the most disadvantaged can take advantage of the social schemes to improve the equity in the education system.
- Ensuring the full implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy
- Mainstream other issues of inequality such as disability access. All new schools should be equipped with handicap accessibility as standard features
- Free SHS does not need to be rolled out nationwide. It should be properly targeted to the deprived schools where it will have the most impact. This guideline is true for all other initiatives aimed at improving equality through equity.
- Integration of education interventions to the poor with other social protection interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP), to make sure that there is holistic assistance to the families to support the education of their children.
Equitable quality education is undeniably important for a nation’s development. Ghana’s story is no different from other developing nations with a goal achieving high literacy rate by equipping all Ghanaians with useful knowledge and skills to develop their potential and productivity to eventually reduce poverty for national growth. The road to this goal has not been smooth as it has been hindered by various challenges over the past decade and dialogue on how to enhance equity still continues. These challenges, among others, appear to have culminated in the slow improvement in the equitable quality education in Ghana and in the long run weaken efforts in reducing or addressing the issue poverty and inequality. For Ghana to progress in the education sector, political parties must consider the recommendations aforementioned and more emphasis must be placed on individual performances with regards to Teacher-Pupil character and attitude development as well as making funds available for various educational projects.
Festus Akuetteh Ankrah, Keisha Osei-Kuffour, Ruby Nutor, and Sandra Kwayisi work with the Center for Social Policy at IMANI.
- World Bank Database
- Education Sector Performance Reports
- Annual Progress Reports
- Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda II
- Ghana National Commission For UNESCO (2015). Inclusive Education in Ghana: Practices, challenges and the future implications for all stakeholders.