Ghana: Campaign against privatisation and commercialisation of education

The multi- education union initiative aims to counter privatisation and its harmful impact on education

published 25 October 2022 updated 17 June 2024

Taking stock of results achieved, member organisations of the Campaign Against the Privatisation and Commercialisation of Education (CAPCOE) have deplored an expanding privatisation of education – especially at basic level – in Ghana’s remote areas, they welcomed the teacher’s higher level of training as well as the reduction of the student-teacher ratio. They have also reiterated their support to increased investment and improved quality of public basic education, as well as their will to discourage the resort to private education at basic level.

Working alongside the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT-Gh), and civil society organisations represented by the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC),

Education International’s national affiliates, i.e., the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Teachers and Educational Workers' Union (TEWU) have been playing an active role in CAPCOE since its inception in 2016. In partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) and Education International, CAPCOE has maintained a steadfast fight against privatisation with a focus on basic education. FES and EI provide financial and technical support.

CAPCOE’s advocacy

CAPCOE’s main objectives are to:

  • Create public awareness of the rapid increase in commercialisation of education and its dangers for society.
  • Advocate a halt in the expansion of Edu-business in Ghana.
  • Advocate for the review of policies and acts that undermine public education.
  • Demand the enforcement of policies and laws on private education by the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the metropolitan/municipal/district assemblies.
  • Urge government to invest more in public education, especially at basic level.
  • Promote professionalism among teachers and education workers, providing teaching and learning resources.
  • Ensure equitable access to quality public education.
  • Build an alliance to campaign against the privatisation and commercialisation of education in Ghana.

CAPCOE observed that the growing privatisation of basic education prevented low-income citizens from accessing basic education on grounds of cost or affordability, especially in urban Ghana, where there were very few public basic schools. It is concerned that such situations prevent the realisation of the constitutional right to free basic education – guaranteed by the national Constitution – and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals on Education in Ghana.

Over the past seven years, Ghana has witnessed a growth in low-fee for-profit schools (LFFPS) on the education landscape, especially in urban areas. The International Finance Corporation estimates that 40 per cent of Ghana's private basic schools are low fee in nature, operating in low-income areas within a complex regulatory environment and with little financing for education and trained teachers. In response, one of CAPCOE’s focus has been to campaign against the emergence and growth of LFFPS because they are makeshift in nature, provide low-quality education in poor infrastructures, and exclude the poor on the grounds of fees.

In 2022, CAPCOE commissioned Africa Education Watch Executive Director Kofi Asare to conduct an impact assessment on CAPCOE activities from 2015 to 2021. The research identifies gaps and provides recommendations to develop a new advocacy strategy to confront the challenges in public pre-tertiary education in Ghana.

Meeting on 26 July for a validation meeting, Asare presented the preliminary report to the CAPCOE technical working group.

CAPCOE’s successes and remaining challenges

The report acknowledges that CAPCOE remains a force in the anti-commercialisation and anti-privatisation struggle and advocacy for increased investments in public basic education in Ghana. CAPCOE's role in pushing away the Ghana Partnership Schools (GPS) project, through which the government sought to engage non-state actors to manage public basic schools, was a significant achievement in the anti-commercialisation campaign.

Despite its policy advocacy actions, LFFPS remain relevant in both urban and rural Ghana. The report observes that, during the seven years of CAPCOE's advocacy, while private schools grew by 60 per cent, public basic schools only grew by 12 per cent. Worryingly, LFFPS further grew at 17 per cent per year even in disadvantaged districts, thereby increasing their relevance nationwide. This is primarily due to the declining investment in public basic education, causing slow growth of public basic schools and limiting access, especially in urban and peri-urban areas, making LFFPS the only alternative to access basic education in underserved communities, Asare explained.

However, the researcher noted that CAPCOE's advocacy for improved training of teachers to achieve teacher quality, professionalism, and enhanced learning outcomes has yielded some dividends, with an increase in the average percentage of trained teachers in the public basic system from 62 per cent at kindergarten level to 92 per cent, with primary and junior high school increasing from 75 per cent and 88 per cent to 96 per cent and 97 per cent respectively.

The increased teacher training also led to the deployment of over 120,000 more teachers, reducing the student-teacher ratio from 35 to 27 at kindergarten level, from 34 to 26 at primary level and from 16 to 12 in junior high school. The impact of this increased teacher deployment was unfortunately not felt in urban classrooms where infrastructure remained stagnant. For instance, the average basic school class size in the Greater Accra region is 50 students, and the average class sizes in many districts range from 60 and above.

Asare underlined that the reliance on irregular activity-based financing and members' capacity gaps in appreciating emerging dynamics in the education commercialisation landscape remain key challenges that still need to be overcome for CAPCOE’s advocacy to make a greater impact.

The research therefore recommends:

  • The development of a new medium-term advocacy strategy and plans in line with emerging issues in the commercialisation landscape and the new medium development term-plan (2022-2025) of the Ministry of Education.
  • Regular project-based funding for the medium-term advocacy plan.
  • Capacity enhancement of members in emerging issues related to commercialisation in the education sector, while re-strategising media and partner engagement.