In Ghana, there are two main categories of teachers for primary and secondary schooling: teachers who received formal training in colleges for education or alternative training programs, and teachers who have no formal training (Acheampong & Gyasi 2019). Trained, or ‘qualified’ teachers are employed by the Ghanaian government and hold permanent positions. Conversely, untrained, or ‘unqualified’ teachers are recruited for temporal positions, with annually renewable contracts based on vacancies in the education service. UNESCO (2018) found that between 1999 and 2018, the percentage of qualified teachers in primary and secondary schools dropped from 72 percent to 60 percent, with the lowest figure falling in 2009 at 48 percent qualified teachers. Low percentages of qualified teachers pose a major problem for the Ghanaian education system and are symptomatic of a greater issue: a national teacher shortage.
To understand Ghana’s teacher shortage today, it is useful to look at its history. Akyeampong (2009) notes that school enrollment grew slowly but steadily from the country’s independence in 1957 until 1995 when the government passed Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) (Akyeampong 2009). FCUBE quickly increased student enrollment but did little to improve the economic situation of schools. In fact, FCUBE abolished school fees altogether, leaving schools without one a major source of income.
With insufficient funds and schools flooded with students, Ghana’s educational infrastructure and facilities rapidly deteriorated. The country soon experienced a mass-exodus of trained teachers to neighboring Nigeria where they sought better opportunities (Akyeampong 2009). Nationally, the student to teacher ratio exploded from 43:1 in 1996 to 63:1 in 2005 (Akyeampong 2009).
At the same time, to achieve universal education, Ghana’s government invested in expanding school buildings to meet the growth of the school-age population. However, only schools with qualified teachers could receive funding for construction projects (Akyeampong 2009). These stringent conditions for school construction projects under FCUBE disadvantaged schools in rural, low-density population areas that already struggled to attract qualified teachers due to poor infrastructure, pay, and quality of life. Head teachers in these schools had no way to secure valuable funding to develop their institutions in order to attract the teachers they would need to receive that funding in the first place. This meant schools inundated with children had little choice but to hire untrained teachers to deliver lessons, eventually doubling the number of unqualified teachers in the country (Akyeampong 2009). By 2009, just 48 percent of Ghana’s teachers held qualifications (UNESCO 2018).
Where are Ghana’s qualified teachers?
In Ghana today, qualified teachers are leaving positions at higher rates than new teachers are entering the field. Those teachers who do graduate from teaching colleges often choose to pursue further professional trainings shortly after starting teaching to seek higher salaries. On the surface, greater teacher training seems like a positive for the Ghanaian education system. However, Acheampong (2019) finds that upwards of 70 percent of teachers do not return to the classroom after additional trainings as they find more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Consequently, untrained teachers are sought out to fill those empty posts. For example, in 2004 the country needed 40,000 teachers to fill positions. Unfortunately, due to low interest in these positions on the part of trained teachers, 24,000 positions were eventually filled with untrained teachers, leaving the remaining 16,000 classrooms empty (Cobbold 2015).
Qualified teachers say the presence of unqualified teachers in the workplace “devalues the status of the profession” (Ghana National Association of Teachers, p. 76, 2009). This means that schools that hire unqualified teachers to accommodate large student populations are even less likely to hire qualified ones in the future. Cobbold (2015) finds that the presence of untrained teachers in the profession “creates a cycle of poor teaching, low standard of education, poor public perception of teachers and increased attrition rates” (p. 76). In short, combatting a teacher shortage by hiring unqualified teachers not only risks lowering the quality of teaching and learning, but also perpetuates disinterest in the profession by those trained to do it.
The Ghana National Association of Teachers (2009) say the attraction and retention of teachers is imperative to achieve the country’s goal of education for all. Unfortunately, poor pay, working conditions, living standards, and the presence of untrained teachers continue to devalue the profession in the eyes of trained teachers.
Progress to reverse this trend is slow as qualified teachers are leaving positions quicker than new teachers are taking them (Acheampong 2019). However, slow progress cannot be passed off as no progress. Namit (2017) reports that Ghana’s Ministry of Education seeks to remedy the problem with the Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education, introduced in 2012. This program has trained upwards of 8,000 young teachers (Namit 2017). The program follows the same curriculum as a typical trained teachers’ pre-service program, and as an added benefit, costs significantly less than the typical training model at $2,130 per teacher as opposed to $3,409 per teacher (Namit 2017). Though Namit (2017) believes it is too early to assess if the skills gained in this program will be sustained over time and if there will eventually be positive learning outcomes for students, the Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education is a step in the right direction for Ghana’s education system.
In closing, to ensure that quality universal education is being delivered to Ghana’s children, the government should invest in the assessment of the Untrained Teachers Diploma of Basic Education to gain better understanding of its effectiveness. With that knowledge, the program can be adapted to achieve stronger learning outcomes for untrained teachers, and subsequently higher quality education for Ghana’s children. For the future, the Ghanaian government should connect with trained teachers who have left the profession or are considering leaving the profession to learn what might incentivize them to stay. Above all, Ghana should continue to focus resources towards educating young people to foster greater economic development for the nation.
Acheampong, P., & Gyasi, J. F. (2019). Teacher Retention: A Review of Policies for Motivating Rural Basic School Teachers in Ghana. Asian Journal of Education and Training, 5(1), 86–92. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1203657
Akyeampong, K. (2009). Revisiting Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) in Ghana. Comparative Education, 45(2), 175–195. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/03050060902920534
Cobbold, C. (2015). Solving the Teacher Shortage Problem in Ghana: Critical Perspectives for Understanding the Issues. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(9), 71–79. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1082464.pdf
Ghana National Association of Teachers (2009) Teacher Attrition in Ghana. Teachers Task Force for Education 2030. Retrieved from: http://www.teachersforefa.unesco.org/en/Resources/All/GNAT_2010_TEACHER_ATTRITION__REPORT.pdf
UNESCO (2018). GEM Report Education Progress. Retrieved from https://www.education-progress.org/en/articles/quality/
Kabira, N. (2017). Lessons from Ghana: A Cost-Effective Way to Train Teachers. World Bank Blogs. Retrieved from:, https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/lessons-ghana-cost-effective-way-train-teachers.