Imperfect Information and School Choice in Ghana

This study identifies and analyses how information influences school choice by students in Ghana. It explores why lessprivileged students do not apply moreaggressively and, in particular, whether a lack of information is responsible for this disparity. Ghana, like many other countries across the world, has a centralised application system for admission to secondary school based on merit. Merit-based systems provide an opportunity for high-achieving students to attend the best schools in the country, irrespective of their families’ economic background. Such systems may be especially important in reducing inequality in settings with large variation in household income and school quality. However, this appears not be happening in Ghana, since students from less privileged backgrounds still tend to apply to less selective schools than their wealthier counterparts. In Ghana, students who complete Junior High School (JHS) can rank up to six Senior High Schools (SHS) choices and are admitted based on their performance on the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). The admission process is administered through the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS), which was introduced in 2005. Access to information is potentially an important determinant of the school choices and admission outcomes, especially since students are required to select a limited number of secondary schools in order of preference,before they sit the BECE. As such, students enter into the school selection process with incomplete information about their performance and their likelihood of gaining admission into any of their chosen schools. The result is that high-achieving students from underprivileged backgrounds may miss out on the opportunity to attend high-performing schools because of a lack of information, rather than because of their preferences. This observation potentially reflects a source of inefficiency in the school selection and placement system if there are talented or motivated students from underprivileged backgrounds who are failing to obtain a high quality education.