Education in Ghana

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Education in Ghana. At the time of independence in 1957, Ghana had only one university and a handful of secondary and primary schools. In the past decade, Ghana’s spending on education has been between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of its annual budget

Presently, Ghana has 18,530 primary schools, 8,850 junior secondary schools, 900 senior secondary schools, 28 training colleges, 20 technical institutions, four diploma-awarding institutions, six public universities and over 15 private universities in addiction to 12 polytechnics serving a population 30 million Ghanaians.

A new Education Plan was finalised in 2007 and the aim is to provide universal free primary education by 2015 in line with the Millennium Development Goals. Most Ghanaians have relatively easy access to primary and secondary education.

However, the government is supporting public schools with school fees, uniforms and free school feeding programs.

The sole official language of instruction throughout the Ghanaian educational system is English. Students may study in any of eleven local languages for much of the first three years, after which English becomes the norm. Students continue to study a local language and French as classroom subjects through at least the ninth grade. All textbooks and materials are in English.

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Ghana operates on a 6-3-4-4 System

  • Primary School – 6 years
  • Junior Secondary/High School – 3 years
  • Senior Secondary School – 3 years
    • (Senior High School entrants 2007- 2009 – 4 years)
  • University Bachelor’s Degree – 4 years

Students may study in any of eleven local languages for much of the first three years, after which English becomes the medium. Students continue to study a Ghanaian language as well as French as classroom subjects through at least the ninth grade.

Basic Education

Basic Education is now 11 years made up of 2 years of Kindergarten, 6 years of Primary School, and 3 years of Junior High School (JHS). After JHS, students may choose to go into different streams at Senior High School (SHS), comprising General Education and Technical, Vocational and Agricultural and Training (TVET) or enter into an apprenticeship scheme with some support from the Government.

Senior Secondary education

After basic school, pupils may enter senior high (or technical/vocational) schools for a three-year course, which prepare them for university education. Students usually study a combination of three (in some cases, four) ‘elective’ subjects and a number of core subjects. For example, a science student could study Elective Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and Physics as his ‘elective’ subjects. An arts student might study Geography, Economics and Literature as his elective subjects. In addition to the elective subjects, there are ‘core’ subjects, which are those studied by all students in addition to their ‘electives’. The ‘core’ subjects include Mathematics, English and Science.

At the end of the three year senior secondary course, students are required to sit for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). Students who obtain aggregate 36 or better (six subjects) can enter the university. Usually, the score is determined by aggregating the student’s grades in his elective subjects. The aggregate score is then added to the aggregate score of his best ‘core’ subjects, with scores in English and Mathematics considered first.

So if an arts student scores ‘A1’ in Geography, ‘B2’ in Literature and ‘B3’ in Economics, he’d obtain an aggregate score of 6 for his electives (i.e. A1=1; B2=2 & B3=3…F9 (fail)=9). His best core subjects are then added. If he obtains ‘B2’ in English, ‘B3’ in Mathematics and ‘A1’ in Social Studies, his best ‘core’ aggregate will be six. Therefore, his overall aggregate score will be 12 and he qualifies for admission into a university. Once again, an overall aggregate score of six is best.

Tertiary education

Entrance to universities is by examination following completion of senior high school.

Ghana’s tertiary institutions enroll over 100,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, certificate and diploma programs in a full range of academic and professional fields. The public universities are:

  • University of Ghana at Legon, Accra.
  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi.
  • University of Cape Coast.
  • University of Education at Winneba.
  • University of Development Studies, Tamale.
  • Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration/Greenhill College, Accra

Twenty-one private institutions are also accredited by the National Accreditation Board to award Bachelor’s degrees. Their enrollment totals less than 5,000, but they are expected to become a recognized force during the next decade. Ten public polytechnics offer three-year Higher National Diplomas in applied business and technology fields. The HND is not equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree, but undergraduate transfer credit can be awarded, as is also the case for Teacher Training Colleges and other tertiary non-degree programs.

Ghanaian university admission is highly competitive, especially in fields such as medicine, engineering, law, and pharmacy. The quality of education is considered reasonably high, evidence that human resources are more significant than material resources. In an effort to attract international enrollment, all Ghanaian universities operate on a modular, semester system. Pass grade is C6 or better. School enrolment is 98% totaling over 2 million. 

Senior Secondary School/Senior High School:  375,000 Ghanaian students take the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) at the end of JHS Form 3 (ninth grade) in seven subjects.  Admission to Senior Secondary/High School is competitive: only 150,000 students can be admitted into the 500 public and 200 private national secondary schools.  The vast majority of Ghanaian students attend public boarding schools, many of which are highly competitive; there are only half a dozen international private secondary schools in the country, collectively graduating about 300 students a year and offering the IB or A-level curricula.

The Senior High School was introduced in 2007, expanding the system to four years but not otherwise changing the curriculum, a policy that was reversed after three years, as a result of which there were no graduates in 2010, and two cohorts graduating in 2013. In the public national schools, all students take a Core curriculum consisting of English Language, Integrated Science, Mathematics, and Social Studies.  Each student also takes three or four Elective subjects, chosen from one of seven groups: Sciences, “Arts” (social sciences and humanities), Vocational (visual arts or home economics), Technical, Business, or Agriculture.  The secondary school transcript should contain a letter or percentage grade for each subject, for each of three terms, for the three (four) years of senior secondary school, equivalent to the tenth through twelfth (thirteenth) grades.  Students’ Term Reports (report cards) contain rank in class for each subject as well as grades for classwork and end of term exams.  The grading system is tough: 80-100% is usually an A, a grade rarely awarded.

At the end of Senior Secondary/High School (twelfth/thirteenth grade), all students take the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, or WASSCE, (SSCE through 2005; WASSCE beginning in 2006) in each of their seven or eight subjects.  These exams are given nationwide in April-June each year, but the results are not available until the following August.  Grading is exceptionally tough: 4% of grades are A’s, and while 80% of grades are passes, only 53% of grades are credit passes of A1-C6. C’s can be quite competitive grades.

SSCE Grading System

Credit GradesWASSCE Grading SystemPointsFrequency
AA114%
BB224%
CB3314%
DC4, C5, C6432%
Pass Grades: not acceptable for tertiary admission
ED7, E8Pass-no credit27%
Failing Grade
FF9Fail 18%

The minimum university standard for admission to post-secondary education is a ‘C-’ average on the SSSCE or WASSCE, with credits (A-D or A1-C6) in all subjects.  U.S. universities should not admit Ghanaian students who have not attained at least this level.  Students are expected to retake exams in subjects they have failed.  Colleges should require a photocopy of the WASSCE Statement of Results bearing an original signature and stamp from the headmaster or headmistress, as well as the transcript.  You are strongly encouraged to verify these documents at source, through the West African Examinations Council’s online system at www.ghana.waecdirect.org. The student provides you with a PIN number that they purchase for the equivalent of $3 (available at post offices or WAEC regional offices), that is used to retrieve a printable copy of their WAEC results. This is the fastest and most reliable way of verifying a student’s results from Ghana. All results from all WAEC exams dating back to 1993 can be verified through WAECDirect.

University Education:     Ghana’s tertiary institutions enroll over 300,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, certificate and diploma programs in a full range of academic and professional fields.  The National Accreditation Board (www.nab.gov.gh) lists 140 accredited institutions, both public and private, offering four-year degrees as well as two and three-year diplomas, which are not equivalent to Bachelor’s degrees, but undergraduate transfer credit can be awarded.  Twenty-six percent of tertiary students are enrolled in private institutions.

Ghanaian university admission is highly competitive, especially in fields such as medicine, engineering, law, business and pharmacy.  The quality of education is considered reasonably high, evidence that human resources are more significant than material resources.  In an effort to attract international enrollment, all Ghanaian universities operate on a modular, semester system.  The University of Ghana is committed to 10% international population and attracts significant numbers of American students, as well as students from Africa and Europe.  The United Nations University operates several programs on campus in fields of health and development.

Ghanaians in the United States:  2,863 Ghanaians are enrolled in over 600 U.S. institutions in all 50 states.  Their influence is significant: each year, newly enrolling Ghanaian students are awarded over $5 million in financial assistance for study in the United States.  Ghanaian public secondary school and university graduates regularly attain admission to the most competitive universities in the United States.

Testing: The SAT and ACT are offered on all test dates, in both Accra and Kumasi.  The GRE, GMAT and TOEFL are offered at least weekly at computer-based test centers in Accra; IELTS and PTE-A are also available.  Although we want students to demonstrate their commitment and competitiveness, we advocate the use of testing only as warranted, and discourage institutions from requiring the TOEFL of students who can adequately demonstrate their English proficiency by other means.

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