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When it comes to education in Ghana, most expats find the national curriculum to be limited, teaching methods outdated and the standard of facilities lower than what they might be used to back home. For these reasons, expats tend to bypass public schooling options in Ghana and rather send their children to an international school.
Public schools in Ghana
Although English is the official language in Ghana, the language of instruction at the primary level of public schools in many regions tends to be the local vernacular. In Accra, though, most schools teach in English with only elective courses in local languages.
Often, the teaching focus in Ghanaian public schools is on learning by memorisation and repetition. Although this can be effective for younger children, most expats will find the lack of focus on individual thinking and problem solving somewhat limiting.
The academic year is from August to May.
School is divided into three stages: basic education, secondary education and tertiary education.
- Preschool ages three to six
- Primary school ages six to 12
- Junior secondary school ages 12 to 15
Public primary schools and junior secondary schools are free and compulsory in Ghana.
Students graduate from junior high school with the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
Senior secondary school
Upper secondary education (from ages 15 to 18) includes normal high school classes, technical training and vocational education such as business and agriculture.
The school-leaving examination includes four core subjects namely English, maths, integrated science and social studies, as well as three or four additional chosen subjects. When passing these, students receive the West African Senior School Certificate.
Tertiary education in Ghana includes universities, colleges and polytechnics. Universities and tertiary education institutions have varying entrance requirements that may be specific to each faculty.
For students who wish to continue higher education outside of Ghana and have the Ghanaian school-leaving certificate, a foundation year may be required, including at many universities in the United Kingdom. This may be a contributing factor in deciding whether new arrivals will send their children to a public high school or international high school.
Private schools in Ghana
Public education remains largely underfunded and cannot cater to the entire population, which means a lot of expats choose to enrol their children in private schools, which receive both governmental and private funds. There are public-private partnerships with international organisations, private institutions and individuals, and churches and NGOs contributing to funding, infrastructure maintenance, furniture and technical assistance. Communities and parents participate, paying tuition fees, and organising food and transport for their children.
These schools tend to offer the same national curriculum but at a slightly higher standard provided the additional private funding and backing.
International schools in Ghana
Due to the large expat community in Accra, the city has a range of private bilingual international schools with international accredidation. Most of these schools teach the American, British or International Baccalaureate curricula, and there are also Canadian, French and German-Swiss schools.
Some schools are rooted in religion with a Christian-based academic environment, and there are also opportunities for Montessori education.
For families in larger cities such as Accra and Kumasi, finding an international school is unlikely to be a problem. However, those based further from these cities may opt for a boarding school option, or homeschooling.
Most international schools are rather expensive and expats should take care to negotiate tuition allowances in their employment contract or to negotiate their salary accordingly. On the other hand, the fees may be worth it. International schools offer many extra-curricular activities, learning of foreign languages, and better quality facilities and teachers. They can provide great opportunities for further study and career development.
They also ease the transition for expat children allowing them to make friends with students from various cultures and nationalities but in similar situations to them, allowing a diverse environment to grow up in. Similarly, this provides opportunities for parents of comparable circumstances to meet up and expand their network.
Tutors in Ghana
For parents who require extra tuition for their children, there is no shortage of tutors in Ghana. There are many private tutoring companies, especially in and around large cities. Schools will often be able to suggest good tutors in the area, but tutor companies can be found with a quick look on a search engine, through social media or by word of mouth. Some older students commonly offer extra support at little or no cost to younger children.
Tutoring can be centre- or home-based, and can help students who struggle with particular subjects, build self-confidence or just assist in maintaining focus, and it can be a great benefit close to exam time.
Homeschooling in Ghana
Homeschooling is legal in Ghana and although the numbers of families who opt for this are low, they are growing. There are several reasons for expats to choose this option.
Public schooling is of low quality and private education is limited and expensive. International school fees are exorbitant and much higher than what most parents can afford on top of their normal living expenses. Transport to and from school is another downside with heavy traffic and fuel costs. Additionally, traditional schooling, in general, may not meet the needs of each child and may not be sensitive to their learning style.
If parents themselves are capable to provide the educational support and learning experiences for their children, they can do this at little cost. It will only cost time to learn and present the chosen curriculum effectively, and some financial costs pertaining to books, stationery and other resources.
Involving an additional tutor could be beneficial, in order for children to learn from various individuals, and gain different perspectives.
Over time, parents in Ghana who choose to homeschool may network and provide support to each other, including advice and activities that their children could join and do together. In this way, expats teaching their children from home won’t isolate them from any social experience.
Of course, homeschooling requires a certain level of empathy, patience and expertise. When debating on teaching one’s own children, parents must put in the effort, do the necessary research and decide on what option works best for them.
Special needs education in Ghana
Ghana's Inclusive Education Policy envisions a path for all children to receive a fully supportive and inclusive educational experience. The government, private sector and NGOs are working towards inclusive education and providing assistive devices and training opportunities for teachers.
However, the main support for children with disabilities is in physical impairments, with limited but growing support for learning impairments.
Despite the push for mainstream education, many children with special needs are placed in segregated special schools, and some of these schools provide specialised support to both children and adults.
More inclusive options may be preferred and some schools accommodate a diverse range of educational needs for children with and without a disability.
International schools may provide varying levels of support for children with disabilities and expats should get in contact for specific information. The Montessori education method can also be beneficial as it puts the child first and allows learning to adapt to the child's needs.
Nurseries in Ghana
For parents with children who are not yet of school-going age, daycare may be a concern. The first few years are an important part of early childhood development for physical growth, emotional needs and learning stimulation. Daycares provide a fantastic opportunity for young infants to build their confidence and start to communicate with other little individuals outside of their immediate family. Daycare also allows for parents who work and wish to have some extra hours during the day.
There are many daycare centres in Ghana, especially in large cities. Many of these are Montessori-based and provide an alternative child-first style of care. Teachers and carers at daycares have broad expertise and qualifications which is assuring to parents.
Choosing a suitable daycare may be influenced by cost, location, schedule and daycare style.
►See a listing of International Schools in Ghana
"Finding the right school was key to our children settling in to their new lives. They initially attended a private Ghanaian school, and there were significant challenges in the style of teaching and social interactions." Our expat interview with Chris gives some fascinating insights into education and schooling in Ghana.
"Expats from the US or Europe will certainly not want to enrol their children in a public school since the standard of teaching is usually very low (though it gets better at secondary level)..." Get insights into the Ghanaian education system from Carsten who taught in a local school by reading this interview.
Are you an expat living in Ghana?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ghana. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
I'm a writer at heart with a double life as a regional sales manager in the telecoms industry in Africa. My work and social life take me around the continent, and provide me with a plethora of interesting material to ramble about, which I try to do at least weekly on my blog, Holli's Ramblings.
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