However, the education system is struggling to keep pace with the rate of progress. The government has therefore initiated a UK aid-sponsored change programme, managed by Cambridge Education, which will overhaul pre-service teacher training.
To maintain Ghana’s forward momentum, the Ministry of Education is looking to develop students with skills in critical analysis and critical thinking. The current education system is more focused on teaching children to pass exams rather than solving problems or working in groups.
Children sit quietly in rows, memorising facts handed down by the teacher and then they repeat them as well as they can on the exam paper. In the past, efforts to improve teaching standards with in-service workshops and training courses enjoyed short-term success, before teachers reverted to old habits.
Moreover, the wider support network for teachers did little to incentivise higher performance, while pre-service training perpetuated the existing system and propelled young teachers into the firing line with insufficient practical experience. Typically, student teachers only gained meaningful experience in a classroom in the third year of a three-year diploma, and then often received limited supervision.
Courses were the same for both primary and junior secondary education, despite the huge difference in aptitudes needed. In addition, students would often take leave of absence from teaching to start a new university degree, as the teaching diploma did not carry the same level of professional prestige.
The Government of Ghana has recognised teaching as the barrier to better learning outcomes, and also the potential solution for progress. The launch of Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL) aims to give the next wave of teachers the right core and technical skills from the start of their careers, by improving the quality of teaching and learning in all 40 Colleges of Education (CoEs).
The project started in 2014 and is funded by UK aid as part of its Girls Participatory Approaches to Students Success (G-PASS) programme. This new wave of teachers will look at education in a different way, adopting more modern teaching techniques that put the child at the centre of the process.
T-TEL aims to improve the level of tutoring in CoEs across the core subjects of mathematics, English and science, and support better management of the colleges. The Cambridge Education team will help reform the pre-service curriculum, including more opportunities for students to teach in classrooms from the start of their training. We are also working with the ministry and regulatory bodies on policy reform, and introducing incentives to innovate and improve performance.
Students will have the opportunity to specialise as early childhood, primary or junior secondary teachers from the start of the course. Importantly, the ministry is also making plans to upgrade the diploma into a four-year Bachelor of Education degree, to raise its standing among those considering a career as a teacher.
While pre-service reform is typically more testing than in-service realignment, the high level of political will and political backing is providing the right environment for deep systemic change that will embed performance management as business as usual. The challenge is greater, but so too are the rewards.
The intended outcome of the programme is the development of teachers who can demonstrate interactive, student-focused instructional methods. Recent results show that these methods have increased significantly from 0.8% at baseline (2014) to 17.9% at midline (2016).
Importantly, teacher training will be supported by a sweep of other education reforms such as the licensing of teachers, a revised basic education curriculum for children, teacher observations to monitor performance and then a promotion structure that’s linked to that performance (rather than simply years in service). The government is further demonstrating its commitment to educational reform by making secondary education free for all students.
Find out more on T-TEL's website.