Ghana: making inclusive education a reality

09 July 2018

IIEP recently spoke with Anthony Boateng the Deputy Director General for Ghana’s Education Service (GES) about the country’s Inclusive Education Policy. While Ghana has made immense progress and attitudes are changing in the country, he says more work is ahead in ensuring that all children have the opportunity to learn together. 

How is Ghana making quality education accessible to all?

Ghana’s current Education policy includes two years of Kindergarten (KG) as part of its commitment to Free and Compulsory Basic Education and places it ahead of the curve compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  Recognizing the benefits in the past two decades, Ghana through Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Services has registered increased national efforts to equitably expand KG services, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.  Since 2000, the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Services has actively worked towards universal access to basic education, and boasts of gross enrolment over 100 per cent and achievement of gender parity in primary  and relatively more modest gains in secondary education (EMIS 2016-17).   Key amongst other policies developed under the custodianship of the Ministry of Education/GES, which complements and creates enabling environment for effective education service delivery is the Inclusive Education Policy Framework, which provides opportunities for learners to access quality education. Ghana’s Inclusive Education (IE) Policy transcends the idea of physical location and incorporates basic values that promote participation, friendship, and interaction. The policy further recognizes the varied learning needs of learners and requires all stakeholders to address the diverse needs of different groups of citizens in the Ghanaian education system.

There are six key developments taking place:

  • Multi-sectoral engagement on IE implementation: The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health are beginning to coordinate with each other to promote annual health screenings and referrals as a practical step to support early detection and provide assistance.
  • Recognizing the need for a highly competent and motivated teaching cadre: The Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Services have started the reform process to make sure that the school curriculum and pre-service teacher education curriculum is both relevant and responsive to diverse learning needs; and in the interim, they have developed relevant modules to support inclusive in-service teacher education from kindergarten through junior high.
  • Acknowledging that support and management systems and funding mechanisms are critical to translate policy aspirations into practice: The government is looking at ways to promote a culture of results-based planning and monitoring to support inclusive systems. This is the most challenging part of the inclusive puzzle as the government balances competing priorities and limited resources. The recently completed education sector analysis on inclusion has helped identify critical bottlenecks in both system capacity and financing. We hope to address this in the new education sector plan.
  • Nothing is possible without the availability of meaningful and reliable data collection systems. Ghana has a robust EMIS system in place, which currently reports on the incidence of children with disability. While the recent sector analysis indicates that it may be underestimating the number of children with disabilities, it does provide us with a useful and necessary starting point – and one that will be further strengthened and expanded.
  • Convincing all stakeholders – children, parents, communities, teachers, administrators, and policymakers – that inclusive education benefits all children and the society at large. The government has begun the sensitization process through the dissemination of the policy and its provisions, however, we need to do a lot more to transform societal attitudes and values, which will help us to rise above the stigmas and discrimination associated with disability. Sensitization activities have been complemented by some NGOs/CSOs (including the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations) as part of the promotion of the IE policy.
  • Establishment of the IE National Steering Committee: The Committee has oversight responsibility to ensure the successful implementation of IE in the country. Its membership includes representatives from government ministries and agencies, academia, NGOs/CSOs, and development partners. There are also sub-committees that promote issues relating to resource mobilization, monitoring, evaluation and learning, screening/referral and support, sensitization and advocacy, capacity building, and partnerships and coordination.
How have attitudes changed in opening the classroom to children with disability?

As part of Ghana‘s Education Sector Analysis on its IE experience, a simple survey was conducted across the country (in nine selected districts) to collect data on participant’s perceptions about knowledge regarding inclusive education, attitudes and practices towards inclusion of children with special needs into schools and solutions to barriers children with disability face in accessing school.

Here are some views from various stakeholders on inclusive education, especially in the 20 UNICEF-supported districts (financial, logistical, technical support):

  • Head teachers/teachers are accepting enrolment of children with disabilities in schools and supporting them to benefit from learning. This has been possible due to the continuous orientation to the IE Policy and capacity building activities related to IE practice.
  • Most parents with children with disability are enrolling their children with disabilities in school. This is the result of sensitization on the IE Policy at all levels (national to sub-national).
  • Children without disabilities are willing to learn in the same classroom, support, and play with children with disabilities in the school. Head teachers and teachers who have been trained on the implementation of IE have also sensitized their students on inclusion and acceptance of diversity (CwDs) in the classroom.

The Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Services continue to engage different stakeholders with IE to promote inclusivity in the country to maximize results. Among stakeholders engaged are the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC), Partnership for Child Development (PCD), Perkins International, and the British Council among others.

What challenges do you face in planning for inclusive education?

Here are some key findings from the recently completely ESA on IE work in Ghana, which affect planning.

  • The IE Policy is currently aspirational and is formulated with an ideal system capacity in mind. However, there is not enough system capacity to support implementation. The level of knowledge about childhood disability (categories, causes, prevention, assessment, and support, etc.) at all levels are limited.
  • The critical building block for effective policy implementation – data and resources - need to be further unpacked and strengthened. Data availability, especially strengthening EMIS data collection and analysis to support inclusive education, remains a challenge in Ghana.
  • The aspirational function of the IE Policy is also reflected in its financing. Currently, IE accounts for only for 47.2 million of the 7.7 billion cedis of recurrent expenditure on education. This means that IE represented 0.6% of the total budget for education in 2015.