The Hidden History of Education in Ghana: From Traditional Systems to Modern Reforms

Tracing the Evolution of Ghana's Education System from Colonialism to Modern Reforms


Ghana, a country located in West Africa, has a rich history of education that has been shaped by various factors. The country's education system has evolved over time, from traditional systems to modern reforms, influenced by colonialism, cultural traditions, and political developments. In this article, we will take a closer look at the hidden history of Ghana education.

The history of education in Ghana has been shaped by various factors, including the country's colonial past, cultural traditions, and political developments. Here are some key points that highlight the hidden history of Ghana education:

Ghana is recognized to have one of the best-structured educational systems in Africa. In tracing its history, one would have to go back as far as 1592 when the country first established its educational system. Over time, there have been several amendments to the system, which have led to its current structure, a 6-3-3-4 system comprising six years of primary education, three years of junior high school, three years of senior high school, and four years of university education. We will take a look at the history of education in Ghana, highlighting its mercantile era, colonial era, and post-independence era.

  • The Mercantile Era

Like many other colonies across the continent, the primary reason for education during the mercantile era was to foster colonization and evangelism. In Ghana, formal education was established in 1828 when the Basel Mission Society of Switzerland convinced Ghanaian chiefs of the need to send their children to school in Osu owned by the government. Everything from reading, writing, basic arithmetic and science, as well as basic vocational skills, were taught. The organization also transcribed local dialects, which was one of its greatest achievements.

  • The Colonial Era

By 1874, Ghana was a fully established British colony known as Gold Coast. There were already several mission schools scattered around the colony at the time. However, these schools ran on different educational programs and curricula, which created a lack of uniformity. The government decided to create a uniform educational system in 1882. The first Inspector of Schools was installed in 1887, and he worked on that position till 1890 when the office of the Director of Education was created.

In 1918, Sir Hugh Clifford set up the premier real targets for the development of education in Ghana, which included compulsory primary education for every African child, a well-equipped Teacher Training College in every Province, improved salaries for teachers, and a Royal College. As a result of these targets and several recommendations, the Prince of Wales College was established in Ghana in 1927, which was later renamed Achimota College.

Between 1922 and 1938, considerable progress was made in the development of education in the Gold Coast Colony, with several students receiving scholarships to study in British universities. The Second World War, however, hindered considerable progress as most of the European instructors were marshaled for the war. The first Ghanaian Director of Education was installed at this point in the person of Mr. V.A. Tetty.

  • Post-Independence Era

After gaining independence from Britain in 1957, Ghana's educational system was shaped in conformity to British standards. The Kwame Nkrumah government saw education as a major weapon for developing the Ghanaian economy and set up measures to achieve their "Education for all" desire and free universal primary education. An act which made education free and compulsory was set in motion in 1961. However, in 1974, the system was viewed as too academic, leading to the introduction of the junior secondary system as an experiment. It failed and was abandoned, leading to the educational reforms of the 1980s.

Note these points;

Traditional Education System: Before the arrival of European colonizers, Ghana had a well-developed traditional education system that was primarily focused on practical skills, such as farming, weaving, and craftsmanship. This system was based on oral traditions, and knowledge was passed down from one generation to another through storytelling, apprenticeship, and observation.

 2 Christian Missionaries and Education: In the late 19th century, Christian missionaries, particularly the Basel Mission, established schools in Ghana with the aim of converting the locals to Christianity. These schools played a significant role in the spread of Western education in the country.

 3 Colonial Education System: Ghana was colonized by the British in the early 20th century, and the colonial administration established a formal education system that aimed to produce a literate workforce for the colonial government and its industries. This system was designed to serve the interests of the colonial rulers, and little attention was given to the needs and aspirations of the local people.
 4 Nationalist Movements and Education: In the 1940s and 1950s, nationalist movements emerged in Ghana, led by figures such as Kwame Nkrumah. These movements called for an end to colonial rule and greater access to education for Ghanaians. Nkrumah's government established a number of policies aimed at expanding access to education, including the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) program.

 5 Challenges and Reforms: Despite the gains made in education in Ghana, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed. These include inadequate infrastructure, teacher shortages, and high dropout rates. In recent years, there have been efforts to address these challenges through reforms such as the introduction of the new education curriculum and the construction of more schools and teacher training colleges.

These reforms aim to improve the quality of education in Ghana and provide equal access to education for all Ghanaians.

In summary, the history of education in Ghana is complex and multifaceted, shaped by a range of factors including colonialism, cultural traditions, and political developments. Ghana's education system has come a long way, from the traditional education system to the modern education system. The country has made significant progress in expanding access to education, but there are still challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that all Ghanaians have access to quality education. Education is an essential tool for development and progress, and Ghana's education system must continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of its people to make it one of the best in Africa.

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