In Ghana, low Junior High School pass rates and poor primary literacy rates show that children are not fulfilling their academic potential. The lack of quality in the education system is consigning hundreds of thousands of young Ghanaians to a life of poverty and work in the informal sectors. There is increasing recognition that these issues track right back to how children begin their education, and that a poor early years education sets children on a path to underachievement at primary and secondary school.
In spite of the government of Ghana’s strong policy commitments to the kindergarten sector, it continues to face challenges of access and quality. The needs at this level are significant:
- 38% of teachers have never received any formal training
- Learning is typically delivered through a rote-based “chalk & talk” methodology, which is far less effective than the active and play-based methodology endorsed by the Ghana Education Service
- Despite being prohibited, corporal punishment is highly prevalent in kindergarten classrooms, and has a damaging effect on children’s learning
- Learning materials are in short supply, with one workbook for every three children enrolled
- Kindergarten classrooms are often over-crowded with an average of 55 pupils per class, and suffer from issues of over- and under-age pupils
(Source: Ministry of Education Ghana 2014/15)
Kindergarten school infrastructure is grossly inadequate:
- 41% of schools lack toilets
- 55% of schools have no access to drinking water
- There are only enough desks and chairs for 50% of pupils
Those children lucky enough to be in school experience a rote-based style of teaching that only succeeds in drilling them to repeat words without understanding their meaning, and does little to promote independent thought and self-confidence.
However, it does not have to remain this way. The Ghanaian Ministry of Education’s recently published Operational Plan to Scale up Quality Kindergarten Education Nationwide offers a strategy to introduce a new approach to teaching and learning, which is child-centred, activity-based and recognises the value of play in early years.
The Sabre Trust is firmly committed to supporting the Ghana Education Service in delivering this Operational Plan, and changing the way that the youngest Ghanaians begin their education. It will be at least a decade before the fruits of these labours are seen in improved exam results and school completion rates, but like the Ghana Education Service, we believe that this change must begin in the early years.