Problems in Education

Ghana Table of Contents

At least two major educational issues faced Ghana in the early 1990s--the effort to shift part of the expense of education onto students, especially in the universities, and the future of the JSS innovation. Since the introduction of the Accelerated Development Plan for Education in 1952, the central government has shouldered much of the financial burden of education. In 1972, for example, about 20.1 percent of the total central government expenditure was spent on education. This figure rose to 25.7 percent in 1989. Compared with Nigeria, where only 4.5 percent and 2.8 percent of the total government expenditure was spent on education in 1972 and 1989, respectively, the Ghana figure was high even among its peers.

Efforts by the central government to shift the cost of education onto students, particularly at the university level, have been challenged. But despite the many demonstrations that were organized by the various student representative councils and the National Union of Ghanaian Students, the government resolved in the latter part of the 1980s to make university students pay for their boarding and lodging through loans. This policy, among others, was the cause of the unsettled relationship between university students and the government that characterized the early 1990s. In March 1993, an especially serious confrontation occurred in Accra between university students and police over the proposed charges. Such protests notwithstanding, the Ministry of Education proceeded with the changes for university funding on grounds that they were in line with the nation's Economic Recovery Program introduced in 1983.

The introduction of the JSS system was also problematic. It had been agreed upon after the Dzobo Committee, chaired by N.K. Dzobo of the University of Cape Coast, reported in 1974 that the nation's educational establishment needed overhauling. In fact, this committee afforded education specialists and the public the opportunity to respond to a 1972 Ministry of Education proposal for the introduction of junior secondary schools. Despite the favorable evaluation of the Ministry of Education proposal by the Dzobo Committee, the proposed changes in the structure and content of primary and secondary education were never implemented, perhaps because of the difficult economic situation of the country in the mid-1970s.

When the JSS system was implemented in 1987, it was hailed by its supporters as the answer to the country's educational, social, and economic problems. Detractors, however, condemned it because of the limited time allowed for the development of necessary infrastructure, such as the provision of workshops, before the system went into effect. As a community-sponsored program, the JSS became a source of endless irritation to parents and guardians who had to contribute to building and equipping JSS workshops. There was also the concern that the JSS system would ultimately lead to an unfair distribution of educational resources because wealthier communities were likely to provide better facilities than those in poorer areas. Finally, it was argued that the JSS program did not challenge students enough because, unlike the former Middle School Leaving Certificate Examinations, all students writing the Basic Certificate of Education Examination conducted for the JSS received certificates of participation. The validity of these arguments, as well as the long-term impact of the new structure and content of education on the nation's development, remained to be demonstrated in the early 1990s.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress