A new World Bank report on education says in Ghana a considerable number of children of primary age (age six to eleven) are out of school.
The World Bank Group Education report 2018 dubbed “Facing forward: Schooling with Learning in Africa” said 16 per cent of kids from the poorest quintile were out of school and that there was gender distinction at primary level.
The definition of ‘out-of-school’, according to Unicef, encompasses a wide range of realities and refers to children who:
• Do not have access to a school in their community
• Do not enroll despite the availability of a school
• Enroll but later than they should have
• Enroll in schools that have poor facilities / no teachers
• Drop out of the education system.
• Enroll but do not attend school
Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank Country Office, Mrs Eunice Ackwerh, who presented an overview of the report on Ghana, said access to education had increased, but challenges relating to age of entry and repetition remained.
She said age of entry was a persistent challenge to enrollment rate monitoring, which shows barriers to access for on time enrollment related to supply of easily accessible basic schools for example.
The report, which compared Ghana to Senegal, Burkina Faso and Malawi, indicated that in Ghana, there was relatively consistent attendance through basic education.
It said at the secondary level, there was a much bigger drop off since there was an entrance examination and placement process limited to those “qualifying” based on the number of places available.
The report said Ghana conducts national education assessments every two years but there was the need for more formative assessments to feedback into schools and to measure intermediate results of student competencies.
It said while the Basic Education Certificate Exam (BECE) was normative and used to place students into Senior high school, students have not tested again until the end of Senior High School (West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination) for entrance to university.
It noted that by participating in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) through 2011, Ghana saw increases in each year of testing (albeit from a low starting point).
It said Ghana had been participating in EGRA/EGMA since 2013 with support from USAID, however, the results had been questioned by policymakers because of the low learning levels revealed across both some local languages and English.
The report said in Ghana, schools lack basic services to provide quality education.
The report, which compares Ghana to the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) average of percentage of primary schools with access to basic services in 2013, indicated that for toilet, Ghana had 58 per cent while that of SSA was 69 per cent.
For portable water, Ghana scores 45, whereas that of the SSA was 51 per cent; however for electricity Ghana’s performance was 31 per cent, while that of the SSA was 25 per cent.
Policy direction for Ghana, the report recommended early investment; adding that quality pre-primary was critical especially in order to develop non-cognitive foundational skills.
It said Early Childhood Education could interrupt the low skills equilibrium improving schooling, jobs, and even earnings called for alignment of curricula, teacher training, materials and assessments around goal of foundational skills for all.
It said there was the need to recognise inequality in learning opportunities – disadvantaged children attend schools that are also disadvantaged adding “Our policies need to help level playing field and address particular challenges to learning for these children.”
It advocated quality-enhancing, non-teacher-related inputs, define and implement standards for minimum school facilities“Education doesn’t currently build literacy effectively- students can go through school without learning basic foundational skills in reading, maths and science,” and called for improvement in teacher management and support.
It said additional time for learning, school feeding and more/better teachers demonstrated impact as well.
Dr Beatrix Allah-Mensah, World Bank Senior Country Officer, said: “Schooling is not the same as learning and here in Ghana we are well aware of education failing some of our students, particularly children from low-income communities”.
She noted that education should equip students with the skills they need to contribute to their society. “The recent expansion in education is impressive- and Ghana deserves significant praise for its achievements in almost universal access to basic education,”.
“Ghana’s access indicators are the envy of many African countries, however, this contradicts the low learning levels, measured by several national and international assessments that indicate that even if students attend school, they may leave without the very basic skills for literacy and numeracy,” she added.
Dr David Evans, a Lead Economist on the team for the 2018 World Development Report, who gave an overview of the report, said countries that provide better education had faster and sustainable economic growth.