A recent report by the BBC has said that Ghana has a very well-structured educational system. Comparing Ghana’s educational system to those of other countries on the African coast, it is safe to say that it is among the best. If we are to trace the history of education in Ghana, we will be going as far back as 1592. From then till now it has been a long journey requiring amendment upon an amendment to achieve what is obtainable today.
Ghana gained her independence from the British in 1957 and immediately after the educational system was shaped in conformity to British standards. Afterward, several measures were taken to reform the sector, the most significant in the 1980s. This period saw the educational curriculum transformed from purely educational to one befitting of grooming the manpower needed by the country.
The country currently runs a 6-3-3-4 system. This simply translates to 6 years of primary education, 3 years of Junior Secondary School, 3 years of Senior Secondary School, and 4 years of university education. A child is expected to begin schooling at age 6 and the first 9 years of education are free and compulsory.
Without wasting more time, let’s get to the crux of this article, the History of Education in Ghana
The Mercantile Era
Just in several colonies spread across the continent, the major reason for education was to foster colonization and evangelism. In Ghana, three different nationals had their colonies, the Dutch, the Danish, and the English. It was either the merchants needed to educate the mulatto children they had by native women or the missionaries needed to educate their assistants for the furtherance of their work.
In 1828, the Basel Mission Society of Switzerland was approached by one of the Danish Governors in Ghana, John Von Richelieu. This step is recorded as one of the most important with respect to the development of education in Ghana. The representatives of the organization convinced Ghanaian chiefs of the need to send their wards to the school in Osu owned by the Government. This way they were able to establish formal education in Ghana, especially the interior parts.
Everything from reading and writing to basic arithmetic and science as well as basic vocational skills were taught. The organization also went ahead to transcribe the local dialects, Twi, Ga, and Ewe, which was one of their greatest achievements. By 1894, they had established 98day schools, 7 boarding schools, 3 Grammar Schools, and a Training College in Ghana.
The Colonial Era
By 1874, Ghana was fully under the British Government as a colony known as Gold Coast. There were already several Mission Schools scattered around the colony at the time. The schools, however, ran on different educational programmes and curricula meaning there was a lack of uniformity. In 1882, the government decided to draw up a plan to create a uniform educational system.
The first Inspector of Schools was installed in 1887 and he worked on that position till 1890 when the office of the Director of Education was created. 1918 saw Sir Hugh Clifford set up the premier real targets for the development of education in Ghana and they include:
- Compulsory primary education for every African child.
- A well-equipped Teacher Training College in every Province.
- Improved salaries for teachers.
- A Royal College.
Due to these targets and several recommendations, the Prince of Wales College was established in Ghana in 1927. The College was later renamed Achimota College, though not in existence again, it has been transformed to one of the prestigious secondary schools in Ghana. As a matter of fact, the University of Ghana can trace its roots to the Achimota College.
Between 1922 and 1938, giant strides were made in the development of education in the Gold Coast Colony with several students receiving scholarships to study in British Universities. The Second World war however hindered considerable progress as most of the European instructors were marshaled for the war. It was at this point the first Ghanaian Director of Education was installed in the person of Mr. V.A. Tetty.
One of the greatest Ghanaian scholars till date, Dr. James KwegyirAggrey, who went on scholarship to study at a university in the US, made a great impact on his return. He bagged several degrees while away and on his return became the Vice Principal of the Prince of Wales College. One of his major campaigns was supporting the education of the girl-child.
At the time of Independence, the British had already ensured that a solid educational foundation was laid in Ghana as over 6.6% of the country’s population was enrolled in School. The Kwame Nkrumah government which took saw education as a major weapon for developing the Ghanaian economy.
The Kwame Nkrumah led government set up measures to achieve their Education for all desire and Free Universal Primary Education. An Act which made Education free and compulsory was set in motion. The Act is known as the 1961 Act (Act 87).
At this point the country was running an educational system which consisted of :
- 6 years of primary education
- 4 years of secondary school
- Qualified students were to take a 2-year sixth form course to led them into 3 years of University education.
- For those who didn’t qualify, they took two years of vocational training.
After a while of running this system, it was viewed as too academic and thus in 1974, it was reviewed. The Junior Secondary system was introduced as an experiment but it failed and was abandoned soon after. This led to the educational reforms of the 1980s.
The 1980s reforms
The educational system was reviewed based on recommendations by several bodies and assistance from organizations like the World Bank. These reforms were fully implemented in 1987 and here are the dictates of the reforms:
- Provide increased access to basic education.
- Make pre-university shorter, from 17 years to 12 years.
- Ensure the education system is cost-effective.
- Improve the quality of education through ensuring that it adapts to socio-economic conditions.
All of these solved many problems in the education system but the results in the primary schools were poor. This led to the government embarking on the Free, Compulsory, Universal, Basic Education Program (FCUBE). The aim of this was to ensure that every child had access to free education, at least for the first 9 years of study.
Currently, Ghana has a goal known as Vision 2020, which entails that the country attains the status of a “middle income earning country by 2020.” To achieve this the country believes the educational sector must focus largely on science and technology, which is seen as the future. This is where Ghana is today, running four major groups of the Ghanaian educational system:
- Basic Education (FCUBE)
- Secondary education
- Teachers’ education
- Tertiary education.
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