Structure of Formal Education in Ghana

The Ghanaian education system is divided into three (3) parts: Basic Education, secondary cycle and tertiary education. Basic Education lasts 11 years (age 4 – 15), is free and compulsory. It is divided into Kindergarten (two years), primary school (two modules of three years) and Junior High school (three years). The junior high school (JHS) ends on the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). Once the BECE achieved, the pupil can pursue into the secondary cycle. The secondary cycle can be either general (assumed by Senior High School) or vocational (assumed by technical Senior High School, Technical and Vocational Institutes and a massive private and informal offer). Senior High School lasts three years and ends on the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). Other secondary institutions lead to various certifications and diplomas. Tertiary education is basically divided into university (academic education) and Polytechnics (vocational education). The WASSCE is needed to join a university bachelor’s degree program. A bachelor’s degree lasts four years and can be followed by a one- or two-year Master’s degree. The student is then free to start a PhD, usually completed in three (3) years. Polytechnics are opened to vocational students, from SHS or from TVI. A Polytechnic curriculum lasts two to three years. Ghana also possesses numerous colleges of education. New tertiary education graduates have to serve one year within the National Service Scheme. The Ghanaian education system from Kindergarten up to an undergraduate degree level takes 20 years.

The academic year usually goes from August to May inclusive. The school lasts 40 weeks in Primary school and SHS, and 45 weeks in JHS.

Basic Education

The Basic Education of Ghana lasts eleven (11) years. The curriculum is free and compulsory (age 4 – 15) and is defined as “the minimum period of schooling needed to ensure that children acquire basic literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills as well as skills for creativity and healthy living”. It is divided into Kindergarten, Primary school and Junior High School (JHS), which ends on the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).

Kindergarten lasts two years (ages 4-6). The program is divided into six core areas: Languages and Literacy (Language Development), Creative Activities (Drawing and Writing), Mathematics (Number Work), Environmental Studies, Movement and Drama (Music and Dance), and Physical Development (Physical Education).

Primary school lasts six (6) years (ages 6 – 11). The courses taught at the primary or basic school level include English, Ghanaian languages and Ghanaian culture, ICT, mathematics, environmental science, pre-vocational skills and pre-technical skills, religious and moral education, and physical activities such as Ghanaian music and dance, physical education. There no certificate of completion at the end of primary school.

Junior High School (JHS) lasts three (3) years (ages 12 – 15). The Junior High School ends on the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), which covers the following subjects: English Language, Ghanaian Language and Culture, Social Studies, Integrated Science, Mathematics, Basic, Design and Technology, Information and Communication Technology, French (optional), Religious and Moral Education.

Secondary Cycle

Students who pass the BECE can proceed into secondary education, general or vocational.

The secondary general education is assumed by the Senior High School (SHS). The SHS curriculum is composed of core subjects, completed by elective subjects (chosen by the students). The core subjects are the English language, mathematics, integrated science (including science, ICT, and environmental studies) and social studies (economics, geography, history, and government). The students then choose 3 or 4 elective subjects from 5 available programs: agriculture program, general program (divided into 2 options: arts or science), business program, vocational, and technical program.

The Senior high school's curriculum lasts three (3) years, as a result of numerous reforms: Originally a three-year curriculum, it was extended to four (4) years in 2007. However, in early 2009 this reform returned SHS to a three-year curriculum and technical program.

The SHS ends on final exams called the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), formerly called Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) before 2007. An SHS ranking is established every year by the Statistics, Research, Information, Management and Public Relations (SRIMPR) division of the Ministry of Education, based on the WASSCE results.

Vocational and Technical Education (also called “TVET”) take different forms. After obtaining the BECE, students who wish to pursue in vocational Education have two main possibilities: Following the vocational and technical programs as elective courses in the SHS or joining a technical and vocational institute (TVI). SHS students follow the usual SHS three-year curriculum. They can then provide sufficient results at the WASSCE, join a university or polytechnic program. TVI students usually follow the four-year curriculum, divided into two cycles of two years, leading to "awards from City & Guides, the Royal Society of Arts or the West African Examinations Council”. They can then pursue a polytechnic program. The state of vocational education sector remains however obscure in Ghana: 90% of the vocational education is still informal, taking the form of apprenticeship. The offer of formal vocational education within the private sector is also hard to define and the Ministry of Education recognizes its incapacity to give a clear overview of the public vocational education, many ministries having their own programs.

Tertiary Education

Tertiary education in Ghana has been notably growing during the last twenty years, both in terms of enrollment and infrastructures. A substantial part of this development comes from the private sector.

Universities (10 publics and 49 private institutions) offer academic education, from bachelor to Ph.D. Students are admitted based on their performance at the WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate Examination"): A maximum of 24 points is generally required in order to apply to a Bachelor degree program. A bachelor degree is usually completed after four years of majoring in a specific field of interest. Master degrees are of two sorts: A one-year program concluded with a final paper based on a literature study, or two-year program concluded with a final paper based on one year of independent research. Both can lead to a Ph.D., usually achieved in three years within a doctoral program.

Polytechnics (10 institutions) offer vocational education. They propose three-year curricula, leading to a Higher National Diploma (HND). The students have then the possibility to follow a special 18-month program to achieve a Bachelor of Technology degree.

Ghana also possesses many colleges of education, public or private. They are usually specialized in one field (colleges of agriculture) or in one work-training (Nursing training colleges, teacher training colleges)

New tertiary education graduates have to serve one year within the National Service. Participants can serve in one of the eight following sector: Agriculture, Health, Education, Local Government, Rural Development, Military, and Youth Programmes.

Grading System

Ghana’s grading system is different at every point in education. Through the kindergarten to the junior high, every grade a student gains are written in terms of numbers instead of alphabets. There is no system of pluses and minuses (no “1+” s or “6+” s as grades).

Senior High School

Until 2007, Senior secondary High school ended with the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE). Its grading system went from A to E. In 2007, the SSSCE was replaced by the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The WASSCE grading system adds numbers to the letters, offering a larger scale of evaluation. In both systems, each grade refers to a certain number of points. In order to join a Bachelor’s degree program, applicants are usually asked not to exceed 24 points at their WASSCE/SSSCE.

Senior Secondary High School grading system

Tertiary Education

The grading system varies from institution to institution. Almost all the tertiary institutions are based on the Grade Point Average (G.P.A) as a way of assessing whether a student is failing or passing. But individual schools have their own way of calculating GPA’s, because of their individualized marking schemes. For example, a mark of 80 may be an A in a school but may be an A+ in another school.

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