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Ghana: Education
Country Study > Chapter 2 > Society and Its Environment > Education


The dominant mode of transmitting knowledge in the precolonial societies of the Guinea Coast was through apprenticeship as smiths, drummers, or herbalists. By observing adult skills, or through proverbs, songs, and stories, children learned proper roles and behavior. Also, at various stages in life, especially during the puberty rites for young adults, intensive moral and ethical instruction from family or societal elders was given. The purpose of that "informal" education was to ensure that the individual was able to satisfy the basic traditional or communal needs, such as motherhood for women, and hunting, long-distance trading, or farming for men. It was also important that the religious sanctions associated with the various professions and stages in life be understood, because the traditional society saw close relationships between religious and mundane activities.

Western-style education was introduced into the Gold Coast by missionaries as early as 1765. Many of these institutions, established by Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries, were located in the south of the country in what became the British Gold Coast Colony. In 1852 the British colonial government instituted a poll tax to raise money to support public schools, but the measure became unpopular and was abolished in 1861. Mission schools continued to spread, however, and by 1881 more than 139 had been established with an enrollment of about 5,000 students.

A board of education was set up in the 1880s to inspect schools and to standardize their management. Grants were established for private schools that met government standards, and the government devised regulations for the recognition of new schools. Primary education was emphasized until limited secondary education was introduced in the early 1900s.

After World War I, the development of education was given additional impetus under Governor Guggisberg. His education policies stressed the need for improved teacher training, equal education for girls, a greater emphasis on vocational training, and the establishment of secondary schools. In the governor's ten-year development plan, which was announced in 1919, education was given a special place, partly because of his goal of replacing Europeans with educated Africans in many administrative positions within the country. The policies were not fully implemented, especially at the secondary and vocational levels, but the Achimota School, a firstclass secondary school designed to train Ghanaians for the lower levels of the civil service, was established in 1927. Although English remained the principal language of instruction in the school system, vernacular languages were also allowed in the primary schools, and the publication of textbooks in these languages began in earnest.

Stimulated by nationalist ideas of political and economic selfdetermination in the 1930s through the 1940s, popular demand for education reached such proportions that the combined efforts of the colonial government and the missions could not satisfy it. The result was the opening of hundreds of schools by local groups and individuals. The Convention People's Party (CPP) promise of free instruction during the 1951 election campaign was made in response to an increasing demand for education. Whereas some parents in the northern regions of the country resisted enrollment of their children, many in the south encouraged formal instruction because it was regarded as a virtual guarantee of acquiring white-collar jobs and wage-earning positions. Western education was accepted more readily in the southern sector of the country because Christian missionaries had been in that area longer than they had been in the north. The purpose of the CPP's free and compulsory education policy was to make formal education available to all at minimum cost.

In 1952 the CCP-led government drew up the Accelerated Development Plan for Education. The program, which became a reality in 1961, was designed to provide an education for every child aged six and above. To achieve this goal, the central government took responsibility for teacher training and funded schools through the Ministry of Education. Since this time, a considerable portion of the national budget has been spent on educating the population. Various attempts to shift the cost to students and parents, especially at the university level, have met great resistance.

Data as of November 1994

Last Updated: November 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Ghana was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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