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Writer: Albert King Michayahu Anum-Odoom []


This paper discusses in detail the major educational reforms in Ghana since 1974. The year 1974 is a significant point in the history of education in Ghana because it marked the introduction of new reforms that were different in structure and content from the type of education Ghana had experienced since independence. The reforms that have been dealt with in this paper include the Dzobo Education Reforms of 1974, the Junior Secondary School Education (Evans-Anfom) Reforms of 1987 and the Junior High School and Senior High School Education (Anamuah-Mensah) Reforms of 2007. The work has given a general overview and historical background of the existing structure and content of education in Ghana during the post-colonial period prior to 1974. This puts what has been dealt with into a proper historical perspective. In discussing the main focus of the paper, emphasis has been placed on the reasons underlying the introduction of these reforms, the main features and contents of the reforms, the relevance of the reforms to national development, and the strengths and weaknesses of the reforms. The writer, after a thorough assessment of the educational reforms, has made suggestions and recommendations for the improvement of the current educational reforms being implemented.


The Ghanaian educational system before 1974 followed the structure that was left by the British Colonial Administration. The structure that was in operation before independence was still being followed strictly even on the attainment of independence. What might have changed was perhaps the management of the schools and some new curriculum content which have been included. The structure of the educational system was made up of a six-year Basic Primary Course followed by a four-year Middle School Course. Leavers then proceeded to pursue either a five-year Secondary/Secondary Technical School course or a two-year Teacher Training for Certificate B and another two-year Certificate A. Middle school leavers also had the alternative of attending Technical Institutes after which they can enter the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Secondary School leavers had the option of pursuing a two-year Sixth Form Course to enter the university or a two-year Certificate A teacher training course. Students from the Secondary Technical schools can either choose to enter the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology or pursue two-year Sixth Form Course to enter the University of Ghana. Holders of Teachers Certificate A could also pursue university education at the University of Ghana and later the University of Cape Coast.1

The structure of education in the country as described above made the provision for people to go through formal education by using several alternatives available to ultimately enter the university. This made the educational structure lengthier in terms of duration than subsequent reforms which were later introduced. The post-colonial period prior to September 1975 adhered to this structure of education. There was therefore a major departure from this structure as the recommendations of the 1974 Educational Review Committee were implemented.


In the early 1970s, the National Redemption Council (NRC) government of Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong established an Educational Review Committee to recommend reforms in the educational system of the country. The committee was chaired by Professor N. K. Dzobo of the Faculty of Education, University of Cape Coast.2

The reasons underlying the reforms were as follows. Firstly, it was argued that as a result of the colonial experience Ghana had inherited an educational system, which prepared people only to run an administration and an economy totally reliant on demands of other countries instead of that of Ghana. In view of this, it was strongly felt that there was the need for a new system of education that would teach Ghanaian youth to be reliant on their own resources for their rapid development. Secondly, the schooling provided by the colonial system inherited was a wrong type and that it did not equip people with skills that will enable them to secure appropriate employment. Thirdly, basic education needed to focus on how Ghanaians can deal with the problems of the environment, disease, deforestation and low agricultural productivity. It was therefore argued that the prevailing educational system did not address the socio-economic development needs of Ghana. Also, though it had been recognised long ago by previous governments that basic education should be free and compulsory, many children of school-going age were still not in school. There was the need, therefore, to develop a system that ensured that all children gained access to school. Lastly, there was the need to place emphasis on science and technological education which was not the case in the prevailing educational system.3

The main features of the 1974 Reforms which were to take effect from September 1975 included a Two-Year Kindergarten Education for children between the ages of four (4) and six (6) years which will be followed by a Nine-Year Basic First Cycle Education: six (6) years Primary for children between the ages of six (6) and twelve (12); and three (3) years Junior Secondary School (JSS) for children between twelve (12) and fifteen (15) years. From the Junior Secondary School, there would be selection into the following terminal courses, namely Two-Years Senior Secondary (Lower) course leading to the GCE ‘O’ Level, Three-Years Technical, Vocational and Commercial courses. Students from Senior Secondary (Lower) would then pursue another Two-Years Senior Secondary (Upper) course to obtain the GCE ‘A’ Level or enter the Teacher Training Colleges and the Polytechnics. Also, those from the Technical, Vocational and Commercial schools will enter the Polytechnics or Technical Teacher Training Colleges. Students from the Senior Secondary (Upper) will proceed to the University to pursue a three (3) year programme. Those from the other streams would eventually end up at the University level.4

The content of the reforms at the primary school included Ghanaian Languages, English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Elementary Science, Cultural Studies, Physical Education and Youth Programmes. At the Junior Secondary School level, the curriculum consisted of a Ghanaian Language, a second Ghanaian Language, Modern or Classical Language, English, French, Social Studies, Mathematics, General Science, Cultural Studies, Physical Education, Agricultural Science, Home Science and Youth Programmes. In addition to the above, students were to select at least two (2) from the following subjects: Woodwork, Masonry, Metalwork, Pottery, Technical Drawing, Crafts, Commercial Subjects, Marine Science (Fishing), Automobile Practice, Beauty Culture, Tailoring, Dressmaking and Catering. Students at the Senior Secondary (Lower) level were to be taken through the following courses: a Ghanaian Language, English Language, French, Modern/Classical Languages, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Literature, Agriculture, Home Science, Pre-nursing, Religious Knowledge, Music, Art, Cultural Studies, Youth Programmes and Commercial/Vocational/Technical subjects. The Senior Secondary (Upper) courses were to focus on specialisations in the Arts, Sciences and Business.5

Let us turn our attention to the relevance of the 1974 Reforms to national development. The reforms completely eliminated the four-year middle school system, which had become a major waste of resources. It introduced three (3) years of basic and comprehensive Junior Secondary education for all children of school-going age. It therefore shortened pre-university education from seventeen (17) to thirteen (13) years.6 This reduced the time spent by students in school and in turn reduced the net expenditure on students by the state. Again, the introduction technical and vocational courses were aimed at providing the manpower needs of the nation. These courses were to provide practical skills for school leavers to be self-employed or equip them with the requisite skills to seek employment in existing establishments.

The reforms had several strengths of which some are discussed in the subsequent paragraph. Firstly, the reforms placed emphasis on practical courses which was a departure from the pre-existing educational system which was the grammar type education. This was aimed at equipping school leavers with the needed skills to be employed in the productive sectors of the economy. Secondly, there was the provision of various courses to cater for the individual differences and interests of students. There were technical, vocational and commercial courses aside the grammar type education. This ensured that students who were not academically good in the arts find their way into technical, vocational and commercial schools. Again, there were various exit points in the educational system. This ensured that people who could not continue find something profitable doing. Leavers from the Junior Secondary School were to be equipped with some technical and vocational skills to enable them polish these skills through a few year of apprenticeship. Students from the Senior Secondary (Lower) and the Technical, Vocational and Commercial schools who did not pursue further education were expected to possess certain skills and knowledge to be employed in various sectors of the economy. Students from the Senior Secondary (Upper) who did not enter the university were to train for middle level professions in available institutions such as Polytechnics, Specialist and Teacher Training Colleges.7

In spite of the strengths of the reforms which have been enumerated above, there were weaknesses associated with its implementation. Some of these are discussed below. In the first place, the government did not have the political will to implement the programme nationwide. It established only 113 Junior Secondary Schools throughout the country. Secondly, the reform was implemented on a pilot basis. That is, it co-existed with the old system it was supposed to replace and reform. The middle schools continued to exist while the few pilot Junior Secondary Schools also existed side by side. Many parents continued to send their wards to the schools that operated the old system. Thirdly, the Junior Secondary School component of the reform was implemented in such a way that the entire initiative was defeatist in itself. Students from the Junior Secondary Schools were absorbed in the old system. That is, the Senior Secondary School component of the entire reform package, which should have absorbed students from the Junior Secondary Schools, was never implemented.8


In 1987, the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government of Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings implemented new educational reforms. The reforms were based the report of the Education Commission headed by Dr E. Evans-Anfom of the University of Education, Winneba. The Education Commission published its report in August, 1986, and it was to address the concerns and criticisms about the educational system, almost the same concerns and criticisms that necessitated the 1974 reforms.9

The main features of the reforms discussed in the succeeding paragraphs. Firstly, it changed the structure of the educational system from seventeen (17) years to twelve (12) years at the pre-university level. The new structure further reduced the Dzobo structure of 1974 by one extra year. Thus, instead of the six (6) years Primary, three (3) years Junior Secondary, two (2) years Senior Secondary (Lower) and two (2) years Senior Secondary (Upper) proposed by the Dzobo Report of 1974, the Evans-Anfom Report of 1986 recommended six (6) years Primary, three (3) years Junior Secondary and three (3) years Senior Secondary education.10

The reforms led to a total replacement of the old pre-university educational system. The middle schools were eliminated. The Common Entrance Examination (CEE) used for selection into Secondary Schools was replaced by the Basic Education Certificate Education (BECE). At the secondary level, the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary (‘O’) level and Advanced (‘A’) level were replaced by the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE).11

New curriculum contents were introduced by the reforms. The new curriculum was to familiarise students with science and technology, and various vacations were to be pursued. In this regard, agricultural science, pre-technical and pre-vocational courses were introduced. Ghanaian Languages, French, cultural studies, social and environmental studies, and health protection courses were also included in the curriculum. Emphasis was placed on skills acquisition, creativity and the arts of enquiry and problem solving.12

The reforms were relevant to national development in various ways. The 1987 reforms were aimed at providing broad-ranging manpower supply for the various sectors of the country’s economy. This included the training of people to engage in agriculture to provide the needed raw materials to feed the industries and provide adequate food for the nation. It was also intended to train people in science and technology for the advancement of science and technology in the Ghanaian society, protection and conservation of the environment and raising health standards.13

The 1987 Reforms had strengths as well as weaknesses. One of the strengths was that it provided a comprehensive basic education which improved access to education for more children of school-going age. Junior Secondary Schools were provided throughout the country and this helped to increase literacy levels. The reform also introduced Continuous Assessment which formed part of the final examination. This ensured that internal assessment in schools was included in the final examinations and this ended the single-shot examination existing in the old system.14

The reform had several weaknesses which included insufficient textbooks for all basic schools in the country, inadequate infrastructure and teaching-learning materials, inadequate trained teachers for the Junior Secondary Schools and these affected the quality of basic education in the country.15


On January 17, 2002, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government of John Agyekum Kufour inaugurated a Presidential Committee on Review of Education Reforms in Ghana. The committee was under the chairmanship of Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, Vice-Chancellor of University of Education, Winneba. It was tasked to review the entire educational system in the country with the view to making it responsive to current challenges.16 The committee presented its report in October 2002. The underlying factors for the introduction of the current Junior High and Senior High School reforms were to address the inadequacies and shortcomings in the previous reforms as discussed above. The reform was also introduced for the following: formation of human capital for industrial growth and for ensuring competitiveness in the global economy; ability to make use of recent developments in Science and Technology, especially Information and Communication Technology (ICT); radical transformation in the field of work and employment; and the preservation of cultural identity and traditional indigenous knowledge and creativity. The reform was intended to ensuring 100 percent access to basic education, placing high premium on technical/vocational education and training and improving the quality of instruction and making it flexible enough to accommodate diverse student abilities.17

The Anamuah-Mensah Report recommended similar structure of education just like the Evans-Anfom Report of 1986. The difference was the inclusion of two (2) years of Kindergarten education as part of Basic Education and Apprenticeship training for leavers of the Junior Secondary School who unable to or do not want to continue in the formal sector.18 Kindergarten was not an integral part of Basic Education and the reform incorporated it to prepare children between the ages of four (4) and six (6) years before they enter primary school. The Apprenticeship training was to formalise the training of school leavers in the various trades. The committee maintained the three (3) years Senior Secondary School but the government decided to increase it to four (4) years and rename the educational system Junior High School and Senior High School to replace the existing Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary Schools.19 The change from the three (3) years Senior Secondary School to the four (4) years Senior High School was to ensure that students have adequate time to prepare for the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). This was as a result of the large percentage of students who fail at the final examination. The new curriculum content that was introduced by the reform included French and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as core courses at the Junior High School and Senior High School levels.20

The implementation of the Anamuah-Mensah Reforms began in September 2007, and it was faced with initial problems. These problems included delay in the supply of syllabuses and textbooks for the smooth take-off of the programme, and teachers were not adequately prepared in terms of training to implement the reforms. These problems were later dealt with as the implementation of the reforms progressed. The next major problem being anticipated is the inadequate classrooms and other facilities as students will enter the fourth year of Senior High School in September 2010.


All the educational reforms implemented in Ghana since September 1975, (the beginning of the implementation of the Dzobo Education Reforms of 1974), were aimed at providing well trained citizens to fit well into the national economy. This involved the acquisition of the requisite skills and knowledge needed to meet the needs of the nation. There had been problems with the implementation of all these reforms. The current reform, the Anamuah-Mensah Reforms, is facing certain challenges that need to be surmounted. The greatest of them as have been stated above is the provision of infrastructure such as classrooms and accommodation facilities. These need to be addressed urgently to make the reforms succeed. The current duration of the Senior High School should be maintained while attempts are made to provide the needed teaching and learning materials to ensure smooth teaching and learning in the various schools.

  1. McWilliam, H. O. A. and Kwamena-Poh, M. A., The Development of Education in Ghana, Longman Group Limited, London, 1975, p. 139.
  2. Centre for Continuing Education of the University of Cape Coast (CCEUCC), Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education, Catholic Mission Press, Cape Coast, 2002, p. 195.
  3. Ibid., p. 194.
  4. Ministry of Education, Report of the Education Advisory Committee on the Proposed New Structure and Content of Education for Ghana (Dzobo Report), Ministry of Education, Accra, 1974, p. 2.
  5. CCEUCC, op. cit., pp. 197-198.
  6. McWilliam and Kwamena-Poh, op. cit., p. 140.
  7. Ministry of Education, op. cit.
  8. CCEUCC, op. cit., p. 198.
  9. Ibid., p. 199.
  10. Ministry of Education, Report of the Education Commission on Basic Education (Evans-Anfom Report), Ministry of Education, Accra, 1986, p. 58.
  11. Ibid., p. 36.
  12. Ibid., pp. 17-19.
  13. Ibid., pp. 13-15.
  14. CCEUCC, op. cit., p. 200.
  15. Ibid., p. 201.
  16. Ministry of Education, Report of the President’s Committee on Review of Education Reforms in Ghana (Anamuah-Mensah Report), Ministry of Education, Accra, 2002, pp. 1,3.
  17. Ibid., pp. 10,11.
  18. Ibid., pp. 23,82.
  19. “Education Reform 2007 at a Glance” accessed on 24th March, 2009, at 13:08 hrs.
  20. Ministry of Education, Report of the President’s Committee on Review of Education, op. cit. pp. 55, 68, 69.
  1. Centre for Continuing Education of the University of Cape Coast (CCEUCC), Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education, Catholic Mission Press, Cape Coast, 2002.
  2. McWilliam, H. O. A. and Kwamena-Poh, M. A., The Development of Education in Ghana, Longman Group Limited, London, 1975.
  3. Ministry of Education, Report of the Education Advisory Committee on the Proposed New Structure and Content of Education for Ghana (Dzobo Report), Ministry of Education, Accra, 1975.
  4. Ministry of Education, Report of the Education Commission on Basic Education (Evans-Anfom Report), Ministry of Education, Accra, 1986.
  5. Ministry of Education, Report of the President’s Committee on Review of Education Reforms in Ghana (Anamuah-Mensah Report), Ministry of Education, Accra, 2002.