Shining the spotlight on basic education completion and foundational learning in Ghana

A new report placing a spotlight on foundational literacy and numeracy in Ghana was published and launched this morning during the National Education Week. The work was undertaken by the Global Education Monitoring Report and the Association for the Development
of Education in Africa (ADEA) in partnership with the Ministry of Education with the support of T-TEL. This research aimed to answer four overarching questions: 

  • What is the current state of Ghana’s education system? 
  • What progress has the country made in achieving universal basic education completion and foundational learning skills? 
  • What challenges does the country face in achieving universal basic education completion? What solutions is the country pursuing to overcome them? 
  • What are potential ways forward to foster foundational learning outcomes given the country’s structural characteristics and its commitments to other goals?

The Spotlight on Ghana report is one of five country reports on foundational literacy and numeracy, which feed into a continental Spotlight report on Africa, Born to learn, the first of a three-part series. The first continental report will be launched on October 20 at the ADEA Triennale. All Spotlight publications worked from the same analytical framework.   

As with all of the five national Spotlight reports, the study in Ghana comprised a set of activities, each generating evidence and findings related to the study’s four research questions: 

  • Literature review and stakeholder mapping  
  • Initial stakeholder workshop 
  • Fieldwork 
  • Validation workshop 


For the fieldwork, eight public basic schools were visited. Within each municipality, one school receiving interventions under the Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Project was visited as a proxy for low performance. Classroom observations and interviews were held with teachers and head teachers responsible for primary classes. 

Access has been a historic strength of Ghana’s education system, although issues remain with over-age enrolment. The research report highlights the clear progress made toward accessible, high-quality education in Ghana. New data displayed on VIEW, a GEM Report and UIS website, shows that 77% of children are now completing primary school ‘on time’ (i.e. by age 15), a figure considerably higher than 57%, where it stood two decades ago. Eventually, almost 9 in 10 children complete primary.  

By contrast, while there is some recent encouraging progress in reading, basic education learning outcomes remain low. By the end of the second grade (P2), 77% of students could not read a single word and most pupils struggled with foundational reading skills; less than 2% were able to read with fluency and comprehension. In mathematics, while pupils did reasonably well on number identification and addition or subtraction of two single-digit numbers, 73% of pupils could not correctly answer a question involving subtraction of at least one two-digit number. The vast majority of children still do not acquire basic skills in literacy and numeracy by the time they reach the end of primary school. 

Timely and ultimate primary completion rate in Ghana  

Note: DHS = Demographic and Health Survey; MICS = Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. Source: UNESCO country completion estimates,

Since 2017, Ghana has embarked on an ambitious set of reforms, including development of teacher standards, introduction of a new curriculum, an overhaul of pre-service teacher education and reforms to improve accountability for learning outcomes in basic schools. There has also been a recent transformation of the Ghanaian approach to pedagogy, which places collaborative, student-centred learning at the forefront of the curriculum.  

Ghana is doing well in terms of the clarity of national vision, leadership and roles and the use of an effective and appropriate curriculum. During the consultation, resource shortages topped the list of priorities (57%) for national stakeholders (57%), followed by effective support and supervision (14%). Participants felt that priority should be to resource schools and Regional, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Education Offices. 

There are good examples of effective supportive supervision and teacher delivery of the new curriculum, but these are also areas where consistency and improvement are needed if Ghana is to achieve the Education Strategic Plan 2018–2030 objectives. In addition, the report identifies three positive case studies that are worth building upon.  

Teaching at the right level 

  • The Strengthening Accountability to Reach all Students (STARS) project gathered data on student achievement through enhancing head teachers’ and circuit supervisors’ roles in monitoring, providing feedback, motivating and supporting teachers.  
  • STARS took place in 20 districts, with 70 schools receiving training on targeted instruction, 70 on targeted instruction and management training, and a control group. 
  • Targeted instruction and targeted instruction plus management training increased students’ combined mathematics and English test scores.  
  • Targeted instruction was incorporated within GALOP and is now being implemented in 10,000 basic schools nationwide.

Mother-tongue education 

  • A USAID-funded early grade reading programme, Learning, worked in 100 districts across 7,200 schools to promote the use of mother tongue. 
  • The 2019 endline survey found that Learning programme pupils read 8.6 words per minute more and scored 10 percentage points higher in reading comprehension in the Ghanaian language of instruction.

Pre-service teacher training 

  • The Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (2015–20) project aimed to develop the National Teacher Education Curriculum Framework and introduce a B.Ed. for teacher training. 
  • The teacher education reforms have improved the quality of newly qualified teachers entering basic school classrooms.

Launched along with a campaign supported by the Ministry of Education in Ghana, #BorntoLearn, this new Spotlight report on Ghana offers a diagnosis of the current state of foundational learning in the country and identifies policy solutions that are critical for improving education outcomes for all students – and which are worth discussing with other countries that face similar challenges. 

Six recommendations for improving learning outcomes are drawn from the study. They have been designed with both the recent positive developments to the Ghanaian education system, and its ongoing challenges, in mind, and were developed in collaboration with the Ministry.  

  • Introduce structured materials and support to teachers for professional learning sessions focusing on phonics and teaching at the right level. 
  • Invest in ensuring that textbooks and other teaching and learning materials reach classrooms. 
  • Provide structured, on-the-job education leadership training for all basic education schools. 
  • Help Regional, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Education Offices prioritize objectives and oversee their achievement, providing supportive supervision to this end. 
  • Consider ways of decentralizing decision making and enhancing local accountability. 
  • Explore new resourcing mechanisms for basic education, including results-based financing. 



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