Publication - Policy Brief
While enrolment rates in Ghana’s primary schools have significantly improved (to a 95% Gross Enrolment Rate), the quality of education has lagged behind. A National Education Assessment in 2007 showed that less than half of students in grade 3 achieve the minimum level of competencies in reading, writing, and basic arithmetic, and less than 20% achieve the proficiency level. The causes are complex and multiple: poor infrastructure; lack of materials; overall poor teaching conditions; teacher and students’ absenteeism. Pupil to Teacher Ratios (PTR’s), while low on average, hide wide disparities in classroom size, so that teachers often have to deal with crowded classes and students with very different skill levels. As education expenditures represent 10% of GDP, a significantly higher percentage than in other developing countries, it is critical for the government to find relatively low-cost and high impact solutions. Several studies by JPAL and IPA Affiliates provide evidence that improving general school quality (such as providing materials or adding teachers) in developing countries, in the absence of other reforms, may not increase learning for a large fraction of students, who have not already acquired the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. Studies in India and Kenya have highlighted four main insights: it is relatively easy to teach children how to read, using a simple methodology; focusing on the child’s skill level is key. This can be done by pulling out low performing children for a few hours a day to teach them the basic skills, or by dividing the class based on initial ability levels; lower qualified individuals, with a minimal amount of training, can teach children the basic skills; empowering local school committees to hire community teachers and monitor their performance can maximize the benefits for children. This study evaluates the effects on learning outcomes and school quality of adapting these four principles to the Ghanaian context, through a program implemented by the Ministry of Education, the Teachers Union, and the Ministry of Youth, with the support of IPA and J-PAL. This intervention takes insights from the studies in India and Kenya mentioned above, and combines them. The objective of this initiative is to scale-up concepts that have worked elsewhere, adapting the program to the local educational structures, and with the ownership of the program held by the government and the teachers’ union, to ensure its sustainability. If the program is found to be effective then it can be scaled up nationwide. The aim of the evaluation is therefore to validate that this type of program is effective in Ghana, and when implemented by the government, and to provide cost-effectiveness comparisons with alternative programs, to allow policy makers to take the decision to roll-out the program nationally. In addition, it aims to understand the mechanisms through which the intervention impacts learning, by disentangling its various components.