Students in the school yard.

Education in Ghana

In the United States, we expect clean water to run from our tap, grocery stores to offer us a wide range of food options, our wall switch to produce electricity, and more. We have also been able to rely on our children receiving a free basic education. Public schools in the United States have been around since 1635, and states tend to mandate student attendance from 5 to 16 years old (this varies by state).

In other countries, however, public schools often come with out-of-pocket costs. Even at schools that don’t have a tuition cost of any kind (and many do), parents can be expected to supply transportation, school uniforms, meals for lunch, educational supplies, and other key services or parts of the schooling process. These are more than a challenge for the very poor. They can end a child’s education abruptly when times are tough.

While Ghana’s education system is better than those of many other sub-Saharan African nations, there is still room for improvement. Read on below to learn more about Ghana’s education system and how you can help Cross Catholic Outreach bring quality education to Ghanaian children.

Key Takeaways

  • The arrival of the English in Ghana brought the current formal education system and instruction in the English language.
  • Primary schooling became tuition free and compulsory in 1961 in Ghana and remains so to this day. In 2017, secondary schooling also became tuition free.
  • While seeing enrollment grow over time is promising, exponential growth has led to shortages in vital parts of the education system — teachers, supplies, classrooms and much more.
  • Cross Catholic Outreach helps poor families make the most of life-changing educational programs.

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A teacher with her students in the school yeard.

When Did Formal Education Begin in Ghana?

Before the arrival of Europeans, Ghanaian education was largely informal and based on apprenticeship. European colonizers (in particular the British) brought the familiar structured school system to Ghana. Currently, Ghana’s schools operate on a 6-3-4-4 system:

  • Primary school: Six years
  • Junior secondary school: Three years (this is known as middle school or junior high school in the U.S.)
  • Senior secondary school: Three years (this is known as high school in the U.S.)
  • University bachelor’s degree: Four years

The British also brought their language of instruction — English. While students in Ghana may use up to 11 local languages for the first three years of schooling, English is required for the remainder of their education. Students still study Ghanaian languages and French until at least senior secondary school but use English as their primary educational language. 

A student stands in front of a chalk board.

Is Education Free in Ghana?

The introduction of free and compulsory primary education in 1961 led to a strain on the Ghanaian school system. The nation was not prepared for the massive influx of students. Restructuring occurred during the 1980s, yet the quality of education still lagged behind its projected growth. Then, in 2017, the Ghanaian government declared that secondary education would also be free: 

“There will be no admission fees, no library fees, no science centre fees, no computer laboratory fees, no examination fees, no utility fees. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals.” — President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo 

Rows of desks in a classroom.

What Does Education in Ghana Look Like?

Unfortunately, the rapid expansion of Ghanaian education has led to critical shortages in the education system — too few teachers, classrooms, learning materials and even sanitary supplies. The introduction of free secondary school undoubtedly improved enrollment numbers, but the Ghanaian school system (which was already spread thin) struggles even more now to keep up with the growing number of students. 

Children with disabilities rarely have their physical access or special educational needs met, so many fall behind in their classwork, and some drop out entirely. Additionally, gender and urban/rural disparities exist in the system. This means that while each child in Ghana receives an education, two different children may have very different opportunities to succeed.

Rural schools in particular struggle to attract and retain qualified teachers, instead relying on volunteers to act as teachers. Despite promises from the government for funding for facilities, many of these schools never receive the funding they need. In rural Ghana, a visitor can see “under the tree” schools where classes are literally taught under a tree because either no buildings are available or those structures are in such a state of disrepair that it is not safe for the children to use them. In these cases, bad weather means classes are canceled, leading to the already disadvantaged children falling further and further behind.

How Can I Help Improve the Education System in Ghana?

At Cross Catholic Outreach, we are dedicated to making sure that all God’s children have access to education. In pursuit of that mission, we have answered the pleas of our ministry partners in Ghana — but we need your help. If you feel called to provide life-changing education programs for impoverished children in Ghana, please consider supporting Christ-centered education through one of our school construction projects. Help us share the warmth of God’s love by providing the education they need to be happy and successful now and throughout their lives. Help give a child an education today! 

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