Education in Ghana
Ghana’s system of education has undergone several stages of restructuring over the past 25 years or so. The most dramatic change entailed phasing out the O-level and A-level system based on the British model and introducing a new Senior Secondary School system.
Up until the mid-1970s, the system of education in Ghana consisted of six years of primary education at the end of which time students were required to take the Common Entrance Exam. Students then had a choice of going on to either middle school or secondary school. After four years of middle school, students took the Middle School Leaving Exam, which provided admission to teacher education and some technical schools. Secondary school lasted five years. Graduates were awarded the West African School Certificate (WASC) and the General Certificate of Education (GCE) at the Ordinary (“O”) level. A small number of students were given the option of undertaking a two-year Form Six program, leading to the Joint Examination for the Higher School Certificate and General Certificate of Education at the Advanced (“A”) level. Tertiary education leading to a bachelor’s degree required three years of study.
From the mid-1970s until 1990, Ghana’s education system consisted of six years of primary schooling followed by five years of secondary education. However, this five-year secondary cycle (called Lower Secondary Education) was divided into two phases: three years of junior secondary school leading to the Junior Secondary School Leaving Certificate; and two years of senior secondary school leading to the WASC/GCE O-level. This in turn was followed by two years of A-level schooling called Upper Secondary Education.
In 1990, additional reforms created a new three-year senior secondary system alongside the old O-levels and A-levels while lengthening tertiary education to four years. Prior to the restructuring, schools and universities were considered elite institutions designed to turn out administrators and bureaucrats for government positions. The more recent reforms were designed to increase access to Ghana’s educational system.
Primary and Junior Secondary Education
The first nine years of schooling are compulsory for all children ages six to 14. This phase of education consists of six years of primary school, followed by three years of junior secondary school. Students who do not wish to go on to senior secondary school must take the Junior Secondary School Leaving Certificate to receive their terminal diplomas.
Senior Secondary Education
Students who complete the junior secondary level and wish to enter senior secondary school are required to take the Common Entrance Exam. The senior secondary level lasts three years. Then students must take the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) administered by the West African Examinations Council. In addition to making education more accessible, the new system paves the way for a more diversified curriculum in which there are five programs to choose from: agriculture, technical, vocational, business and general (arts and sciences). The old O-level and A-level programs were terminated in 1997.
Technical and Vocational Education
Students can pursue technical education at any of the following institutions: secondary technical schools, vocational centers, polytechnics, technical institutes and technical teacher education colleges and universities.
There are a number of secondary technical schools in Ghana operating at the senior secondary level. These institutions offer a variety of technical, commercial and vocational subjects. Entrance requirements are the same as for other secondary schools: a passing grade on the Common Entrance Examination.
Technical institutes offer several programs: pre-technical courses, general technical courses and craft courses. The pre-technical course, which requires the Common Entrance Examination for admission, takes two years of full-time study to complete. Then students can either take up an apprenticeship or continue their technical education, either in general technical programs or craft courses.
The general technical courses, offered in engineering technology and building, require two-years of full-time study and the pre-technical course. The craft courses, also offered in engineering technology and building, take two years to complete and lead to examinations of the City of Guilds of London Institute awards or local examinations. Graduates of the craft courses then can go on to apprenticeships or to the polytechnics for advanced craft courses.
Technical institutes offer three- to four-year secretarial and commercial programs, leading to the GCE O-level examinations. Students who complete a five-year secretarial and accounting course are awarded the Ghana Business Certificate.
Polytechnics offer programs leading to the City and Guilds of London Institute overseas awards of the Ordinary Technician Diploma (OTD), requiring two years of study, and the Higher Technician Diploma, requiring a further two years of study following the OTD. Graduates of these programs are qualified to work in local industry.
Polytechnics offer an additional program in institutional management, catering and domestic subjects leading to the Institutional Management Certificate in Institutional Housekeeping and Catering.
Specialized post-secondary technical institutions include:
- The Tarkwa School of Mines
- Kwadaso Agricultural College
- Nyankpala Agricultural College
- Ohawu Agricultural College
- Ejura Agricultural College
- Bunso Cocoa College
- Kpong Irrigation College
- Sunyani School of Forestry
- Pong-Tamale Veterinary College
- The Ghana Institute of Journalism
- The National Film and Television Institute
- School of Hygiene (at Korle Bu Hospital and the public health colleges in Ho and Tamale)
- Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration
- Institute of Professional Studies
Higher education in Ghana is provided by universities, university colleges, polytechnics and pre-service training institutes. All institutions of higher education fall under the jurisdiction of the National Council for Tertiary Education, which is administered by the Ministry of Education. The polytechnics are currently being upgraded and will soon be authorized to offer university-level courses.
Entrance requirements for bachelor degree programs were five credits at O level, plus two or three A levels under the old system. For applicants who have taken the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination under the current system, a University Entrance Examination is also required.
The Mature Students Entrance Examination is an alternative admission requirement.
There are five public universities in Ghana:
- The University of Ghana at Legon
- Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology at Kumasi
- The University of Cape Coast
- The University College of Education at Winneba
- The University of Development Studies at Tamale
Programs and Degrees
Stage 1: The University of Ghana, Legon offers two-year diploma programs in accounting, library science and archives administration, adult education, public administration, police administration, music, African studies, statistics, social administration, agriculture, nursing education and medical laboratory technology.
The University of Science and Technology offers two-year diploma programs in agricultural extension and farm management, horticulture, and rural art and industry, various aspects of engineering, environmental health technology, data processing, estate management and natural resources management.
In the past, admission requirements to diploma programs in Ghana have been five O-level passes and two A-level passes. For bachelor’s degree programs, the minimum entrance requirements were five credits at O level and three A levels. For those whose secondary education is under the new Senior Secondary Certificate Examination system, a University Entrance Examination is also required.
Bachelor degree programs at the University of Ghana usually take three years to complete. At the University of Science and Technology and the University of Development Studies, bachelor degree programs in the social sciences likewise take three years. Programs in the applied sciences at those institutions and at the University of Cape Coast normally require four years of study to complete. The University College of Education offers Bachelor of Education degrees after two years of study to students who hold diplomas from advanced teacher training colleges. A bachelor’s degree in Ghana is considered equivalent to a bachelor’s in the United States.
Stage 2: Master’s and Master of Philosophy programs last one to two years and require writing a thesis. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university. Candidates are awarded the Graduate Diploma, a master’s degree or Master of Philosophy degree. The one-year master’s program requires course work and a dissertation. The two-year MPhil. requires a year of course work followed by research and a thesis.
Stage 3: The doctorate is offered to candidates who hold a master’s or Mphil. degree. Doctoral programs generally last three years. Candidates must study at least two semesters at their university, if they acquired previous degrees from the same university, or four from another. After this, students may spend the rest of their time off campus, conducting research and writing a dissertation upon approval from the Board of Graduate Studies.
Teacher training is offered at three types of institutions in Ghana:
- Primary-school teachers are trained at post-secondary teacher training colleges, which train teachers for both the primary and junior secondary levels. Candidates must complete a three-year program of study (formerly fouryears until 1987) leading to the Teachers Certificate A. Since the restructuring, all teaching candidates are required to study the following core subjects during their training programs: education, cultural studies, physical education, English, basic science, basic mathematics, Ghanaian language and basic agricultural science.
- Secondary-school teachers are trained at post-secondary training colleges. Programs last two to four years and lead to a diploma or degree in their subject (technical education, Ghanaian languages, agricultural sciences, etc.). Graduates are then qualified to teach at the secondary level and at teacher training colleges.
- Higher education instructors are trained at universities in programs lasting two to three years and leading to a master’s or doctoral degree.
|University of Ghana, Legon Grading Scale|
|A||70 and above|
|University of Science and Technology, Kumasi Grading Scale|
|E||below 40 (fail)|
|University of Cape Coast Grading Scale|
- Country Profiles: Ghana; prepared by National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition; Australia; 1993
- Guide to Higher Education in Africa; International Association of Universities and Association of African Universities; Great Britain; 1999
- International Guide to Qualifications in Education; The British Council; Great Britain; 1996
- “Secondary Education in Ghana at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century” by Hubert O. Quist; Prospects, September 1999.