Education is the engine that drives much of economic development, so becoming educated is probably the most significant means for personal success. In a number of urban areas of the country, education starts as early as three years in the pre-school; however, school-going age for the 6-year primary education level is pegged at six years, even though many children start a year earlier at five, particularly among the urban middle class, or a year later at seven or more, particularly among the rural farming community. Primary education is of a six-year duration.
This is followed by a 3-year junior secondary school (JSS), after which the more academically inclined would continue through another 3 years of senior secondary school (SSS), and then to the university or polytechnic or other post-secondary institutions such as teacher and nursing training institutions. Those who do not make it to the SSS may proceed to commercial, technical or vocational Schools.
On the average, of a cohort of 100 Ghanaian children of school-going age, only 70 begin primary one, even though basic education is supposed to be free and compulsory. By the time these children reach junior secondary, only 50 of the original eligible 100 in the cohort remain, an indication that 30 per cent of children of school-going age do not even begin to have any education at all, while another 20 per cent of the original cohort do not go beyond primary school. By the end of junior secondary school, another 30 of the original 100 would have dropped out of the secondary school system, leaving only 20 who eventually make it to senior secondary school.
As has been stated earlier, the Western Region is potentially one of the richest regions of the country. Yet in terms of infrastructure and educational facilities, the region faces many difficulties. In this section we shall examine various aspects of education in the region, the challenges the region faces and make recommendations.
The Western Region has seen some improvement in educational attainment over the last decade. For instance, in 1984, 28.0 per cent of persons in the region received some basic education (JSS/Middle); this figure increased to 34.0 per cent by 2000. Improved enrolment rates at the primary level since 1984 (87.0%) may account for the noticeable improvement in education attainment in the region (GSS, 1998).
For persons aged 6 years and older, 2.2 per cent had attained pre-school level, 37.8 per cent had attained primary school level, 40.9 per cent middle school/junior secondary school, 9.1 per cent with senior secondary school education, 4.1 per cent with vocational or technical education, 2.9 per cent with post secondary (teachers and nurses colleges, etc), and 3.1 with tertiary education. In all the districts, including the rural districts, over 70.0 per cent had attained basic education level (primary and middle/junior secondary).
The proportion of persons with only primary education is almost equal to those with up to middle/junior secondary education in all the districts. In Jomoro (40.1% primary and 36.3% middle/JSS) and Shama-Ahanta East (28.8% primary and 40.7% middle/JSS), the relatively low attainments at the basic level are compensated for by relatively high attainments at the senior secondary and tertiary level. Jomoro has 11.0 per cent attainment level for senior secondary school and 3.1 per cent attainment at the tertiary level, while Shama-Ahanta East has 13.4 per cent senior secondary attainment and 4.9 per cent tertiary attainment.
Shama-Ahanta East recorded the highest proportion (13.4%), which is understandable in view of its urban and social composition and the concentration of educational institutions and industrial establishments. Jomoro (11.0%), Nzema East (9.1%) Aowin-Suaman (7.3%) and Juabeso-Bia (6.9%) follow in that order. Such high proportions of persons with senior secondary school attainment in such relatively rural districts cannot be readily explained since these districts also have relatively few senior secondary schools, compared to the other districts. Since most of the senior secondary schools are boarding institutions, absence or presence of a school in a locality does not really make a difference to availability.
The factors that determine access to schools are the quality of the junior secondary school which determines the capacity of the pupils to pass the entrance examination, and affordability of the senior secondary school to the prospective student, as well as the quality of the senior secondary school into which admission is being sought. Granted that students from districts without secondary schools, or with relatively poor schools, tend to travel to the better-endowed districts to attend boarding schools, these students from such poor rural communities cannot be expected to remain in those communities if the job opportunities for such levels of education do not exist.
Although the level of attainment of vocational, technical and commercial education is very low in the entire region, Juabeso-Bia and Aowin-Suaman, in particular, lag behind the rest of the districts, with 2.0 and 1.9 per cent respectively of the population having attained this level of education. Vocational and technical education (VOTEC) is an area to which District Assemblies could devote much more resources as a way of checking rural-urban migration of the youth, as they are more likely to move in the absence of further education after basic education.
In all the districts, at the primary and junior secondary level, there is not much difference in educational attainment of males and females. At the primary level, females seem to outnumber males in most districts. The trend however begins to change as one climbs up the educational ladder. At the tertiary level, however, there is a higher achievement level of females at the tertiary level in Mpohor-Wassa East (4.1%), which is below the male figure of 4.3 per cent. Jomoro and Shama-Ahanta East have high proportions of both males and females with senior secondary education. The case of Jomoro could be explained by the presence of large numbers of customs and security personnel at the borders, all of whom are expected to have at least a senior secondary school certificate before they can be recruited into these services.
Access To And Performance In Education
Availability Of Primary And Junior Secondary Schools
There are 12,326 primary schools in the whole country. As at 1997/1998, the Western Region had 1,340 of these, made up of 1,258 public and 82 private schools. By year 1999/2000, this number had reduced to 1,320, made up of 1,240 public and 80 private schools, as a result of the closure of some non-viable private and public schools. With an inter-censual population growth rate of 3.2 percent, the third highest in the country, one would have expected to see a corresponding increase in the number of schools. As at 1998/1999, the country had 6,020 junior secondary schools, of which the Western Region had 655 (10.9%), made up of 622 public and 33 private schools. By year 2000 the number of JSSs in the region had risen to 694.
School Enrolment At The Regional Level, 1996/1997 to 1999/2000
In the Ghana Education Service, from where the figures were obtained, enrolment and school attendance appear to be used interchangeably. The figures may therefore be regarded as those who were actually attending school at the time the headcount in the various schools was taken and the returns sent to the Regional Office of the Ghana Education Service. Considering the fact that for 1998 and 1999 the region presented 3,568 and 3,544 candidates respectively for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, which should be about a third of the total attendance for those two years (SSS is a three-year programme), one may be inclined to regard the Ministry’s figures to be a more plausible reflection of the true situation. Even if it is assumed that the Ministry’s figures are for public schools only, which is not the case anyway, these huge differences cannot be accounted for by enrolment or attendance at private schools, since these are very few and have very low enrolments, especially at the post primary levels.
But there could be other reasons for the higher figures . For example, persons who were pursuing courses that are not normally recognized as secondary or basic school courses, or who were not even in school at all, may have indicated that they were at one level or the other of schooling, but does not reflect in official Ministry of Education statistics.
Whether this is the case or not, and whether such cases could introduce such significant differences in data, it is possible that this situation might be revealing the existence of a major demand for school places than what is actually available. The GSS and the Ministry therefore need to undertake some reconciliation of figures to ensure that any differences for school attendance, whether real or apparent, are rectified for use by policy makers and implementers, as well as researchers.
Technical and vocational education have not received the sort of attention that should be given to them in a region where there are mining and other industries that will require appropriate middle level manpower. This is however a reflection of what obtains at the national level, where there are only about 23 public vocational and technical institutions. With only about 20 per cent of those who complete junior secondary school moving on to the senior secondary school level, an expansion in technical and vocational education will be one of the best ways of absorbing those who do not move on to the senior secondary level, and preventing them from prematurely joining the job market with no marketable skills.
Current School Attendance
The Ministry of Education data, the two sets of data, in percentage terms, tell virtually the same story. Whereas pre-school and primary school enrolments in all the districts are at high levels for both males and females, and in some cases with even higher female attendance than male, the situation changes from the junior secondary school level, and female enrolment in all the districts drop off drastically.
Shama-Ahanta East has 3.6 per cent enrolment at pre-school while in Aowin-Suaman and Jomoro, it is 2.9 per cent and 4.3 per cent respectively. At the primary school level also, the rural districts have higher percentages of school attendance than the regional average. For example Wassa Amenfi (68.2%), Aowin-Suaman (68.3%) and Sefwi-Wiawso (67.0%), all have significantly higher attendance rates than the regional average (64.3%) and the fully urban Shama-Ahanta East (56.3%). The situation however drastically changes at the junior secondary level. Shama-Ahanta East (23.6%) and Wassa West (23.1%), the two most urbanized districts have levels of attendance at junior secondary above the regional average of 21.3 per cent.
Four of the more rural districts with very high primary school attendance, have junior secondary enrolments below the regional average. These are Aowin-Suaman (19.2%), Wassa Amenfi (20.1%) and Mpohor-Wassa East (20.3%). This implies that in the rural areas, children enroll significantly at pre-school and are able to sustain their attendance up to the end of the primary school, but then drop out after that. Many of them do not go beyond primary school. This may be due to several factors, including lack of junior secondary schools to complement the primary schools, long distances that children have to travel to attend junior secondary school or lack of teachers, all major disincentives for children to stay in school.
Performance At The Basic Education Certificate Examination
The Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) is terminal and determines achievement at the basic level. It is also used to select candidates for the post-basic level. It is therefore a good measure of how a region is performing, or its achievement level, at the basic level. Analysis of such results can also assist policy makers to determine whether basic schools are performing well or deteriorating, in order to institute measures to improve upon facilities in schools in the various districts. This section therefore assesses performance of the various districts at this examination in the Western Region since 1999.
Of the 22,229 candidates who sat for the BECE in 1999 in the region, only 624 obtained aggregate 6, constituting 2.8 per cent of all candidates. Of this number, 568 (91%) per cent were from schools in Shama-Ahanta East and Wassa West, where Sekondi-Takoradi, the Regional Capital, and Tarkwa, a gold and manganese mining town, are located. Tarkwa also hosts the Mining Engineering College of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Most of the good quality private and even public junior secondary schools in the region are located in these two districts. An additional 1,958 candidates (8.8%) obtained aggregate 7-15. These two categories of candidates are those who were likely to have made it into any reasonably good senior secondary school, from where they could eventually make it to the tertiary level, or would be equipped with the requisite educational tools for their future social advancement.
54.8 per cent of the region’s urban population of 668,836 live in Shama-Ahanta East and a further 11.6 per cent live in Wassa West, mostly Tarkwa, Prestea and Aboso. These two districts account for nearly two-thirds (66.4%) of the urban population, and make up 31.6 per cent of the total population. Yet the two districts produce over 90 per cent of those BECE candidates who are likely to make it to the next level of the education ladder. Juabeso-Bia, on the other hand, has the second largest population in the region (245,035, with 227,689 being rural) but has a very poor educational achievement record.
There is a gross rural-urban imbalance in educational opportunities in the region that need to be seriously addressed. Research findings have demonstrated that ability and intelligence are generally evenly distributed in any society, and achievement is the result of the opportunity to develop this ability. The key to improvement in educational standards at all levels in the country therefore lies in the quality of the basic education given to children. Things can be considerably improved with even modest improvements in pedagogy and basic facilities. This has been clearly demonstrated through a case study of the Ahanta West District (Addae- Mensah, 2000).
Senior Secondary And Tertiary Education
At the senior secondary school level, candidates are not limited to attending schools located in the locality, district or region in which they live. All candidates nationwide are free to choose whatever school they wish to attend, and are admitted provided they meet the minimum entry requirement set by the school of their choice. In order to measure the quality of the senior secondary schools in the Western region, one needs to compare their enrolments as well as performance with schools in other regions, and the extent to which candidates from schools in the region are able to compete nationally and qualify to enter the tertiary and postsecondary institutions. Levels of enrolment are partly a reflection of the ability of the schools to attract adequate qualified candidates nationwide, and this is in turn a reflection of the quality of the school; hence the presentation of tables indicating senior secondary school attendances at the regional and national levels.
The Western Region has 42 senior secondary schools, or 8.3 per cent of the 504 senior secondary schools in the country. This puts the region in the 7th position, coming only better than the three northern regions in the number of senior secondary schools. The region in addition has 3 Teacher Training Colleges, 2 Technical/Vocational Schools, a Polytechnic, and the College of Mining and Mineral Engineering of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
The 1999/2000 Ministry of Education data and the Ministry of Education data for 1996/1997, though not totally comparable because of different population bases, seems to suggest that the situation in the region has not improved much since 1996.
In terms of the population aged 15-19, which ought to be in senior secondary school, the region comes equal at the bottom with Brong Ahafo, with only 7 per cent of that population group being in secondary school in 1996/97. In terms of actual enrolment, the region again comes out equal third from the bottom with Brong Ahafo, accounting for only 6.6 per cent of the total national secondary school enrolment, better than only Upper West (3.4%) and Upper East (4.6%). In Ghana, as noted earlier, students normally travel from one region to another to attend secondary school, so enrolment in a particular region is not necessarily a reflection of enrolment of youth living permanently in that region. The fact that schools in the region record such low enrolment rates in relation to the population, however, may be a reflection of the quality of schools in the region, which do not therefore attract many students from other parts of the country.
The causes of the low enrolment rates in secondary schools in the region have been attributed to several factors. In addition to the region having very few quality schools, the situation has also been blamed on early dropout from school by the youth to engage in “galamsey” or illegal gold mining activities. Apart from the methods adopted in this illegal mining being a serious potential health hazard, the future of these young men, with no education and no long-term skills, is uncertain, because they soon become unemployable when their youthful strengths can no longer cope with the demands of “galamsey”.
One criterion that is used to measure the performance of secondary schools is the number of students who qualify for admission to a tertiary institution such as the University, by obtaining an aggregate score of 24 or better in six subjects including core English language and core mathematics. Obtaining this aggregate is however no guarantee that one will gain admission into a university, since the competition is so keen that for competitive courses such as administration, medicine, the sciences and engineering, an aggregate score of 12 or better is what is likely to get a student considered for admission in the first place.
The ability of students from senior secondary schools in the region to qualify for, and gain admission to, the country’s Universities is also not very encouraging. The 28 schools whose students qualified for consideration for admission to universities were from 8 of the 11 districts. Nine of the schools are located in Shama-Ahanta East and 4 in Wassa West. Nzema East and Ahanta West have 3 schools each.
Of the 13,000 students who were pursuing undergraduate studies at the University of Ghana in the 2001/2002 academic year, 9,435 were admitted directly from senior secondary schools. Of this number, the Western Region accounted for only 331 students, or about 3.5 per cent of the total, drawn from only 19 out of the 42 secondary schools located in 7 of the 11 districts.
Twenty-three (23) secondary schools in the region were not even represented at the University of Ghana. Even more significant is the fact that 282 or 85 per cent of the 331 students from schools in the region at Legon, were from only eight schools, with Archbishop Porter (16.9%), Fijai (19.0%), GSTS (12.4%) and St. Johns (9.4%) accounting for almost 60 per cent. Just one girls’ secondary school in another region has over 350 students in the University, more than the whole of the Western Region.
The situation in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is no different. The University of Ghana admitted 2,176 students in 1998/1999 and 3,186 in 1999/2000 from 338 educational institutions. For those two academic years, the Western Region schools accounted for only 84 students in 1999 and 97 in 2000. The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, including its School of Mines at Tarkwa, admitted 1,210 students in 1998/1999 and 3,766 in 1999/2000 from 226 institutions, and only 65 in 1998/1999 and 164 in 1999/2000 came from schools in the Western Region.
In effect, only 20 of the 42 schools in seven districts in the region were able to contribute students to the two universities, with only 14 schools in seven districts contributing students to both universities each year. They contributed 3.8 per cent in 1999 and 3.0 per cent in 2000 of the total national intake to Legon, and 5.4 per cent in 1999 and 4.4 per cent in 2000 of the total national intake to KNUST. Eight schools, namely, Archbishop Porter, Fijai, GSTS, Nkroful, Nsein, Sekondi College, St. Johns and Tarkwa Secondary schools, produced the bulk of the students from the region to these universities. These 8 schools, between them, contributed 70 (83%) of the 84 students to Legon in 1999 and 78 (80%) of the 97 students in 2000. For the KNUST, the 8 schools provided 56 (86%) of the 65 students in 1999 and 149 (91%) of the 164 students in 2000.
The region has to take appropriate steps to ensure that education is given all the priority attention it deserves, to avoid being denied its fair share of the natural resources of the region. Investors who come to the region expect to find the requisite manpower to employ in the enterprises they establish. Traditional rulers, opinion leaders, the district assemblies and educational authorities in the region will have to coordinate their efforts to ensure that there is long-lasting, sustainable qualitative change in the educational fortunes of the region.
Apart from Shama-Ahanta East (26.5%) and Wassa West (33.3%), which recorded relatively low levels of illiteracy, most of the districts have levels much higher than the regional average of 41.8 per cent. Literacy is an important indicator of social development and such high levels of illiteracy across the districts indicate under-development in most parts of the region. More than half of the districts (7 out of 11) in the region (Jomoro, Wassa Amenfi, Juabeso-Bia, Aowin-Suaman, Sefwi-Wiawso and Bibiani) have less than 20 per cent of persons above 15 years literate in the English language only, while all the districts have between 1.3 and 2.9 per cent of persons literate in only a Ghanaian language.
Literacy in English and a Ghanaian language is however widespread. More than one-quarter of all persons above 15 years throughout the districts are literate in both languages, with the highest being in Shama-Ahanta East (42.3%) and the lowest in Ahanta west (29.0%).
The high proportions of persons literate in only English in all the districts, particularly Shama-Ahanta East (29.0%), Wassa West (27.0%), and Mpohor-Wassa East (25.4%), gives cause for concern. These high percentages cannot be accounted for by the relatively low percentage (less than 1.0%) of foreigners in these districts. If it is indeed a manifestation of the fact that both parents and teachers are not giving the local languages the attention they deserve, both at home and at school, then there is an urgent need for a policy reappraisal.