History of Education in Ghana


Ghana is endowed with a good education system. a statement made by BBC News Monitoring Department.

The History of education in Ghana dates back to 1592. Over the centuries education has had different goals, from spreading the Gospel to creating an elite group to run the colony. After Ghana gained its independence in 1957 the education system, then modelled on the British system, has undergone a series of reforms.

Especially the reforms in the 1980.s geared the education system away from purely academic to more in tune with the nations manpower needs.

The present structure of education, which starts at about age of 6 years, consists of 6 years of primary education, 3 years of Junior Secondary School, 3 years of Senior Secondary School and 4 years University or courses at other tertiary institutions

The first 9 years form the basic education and are free and compulsory


Early History

The earliest history of formal, western-style education in Ghana is directly associated with the history of European activities on the Gold Coast.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive at the Guinea coast in 1471. Their intention to establish schools was expressed in imperial instructions that, in 1529, encouraged the Governor of the Portuguese Castle at Elmina to teach reading, writing, and the Catholic religion to the people.

While there is no evidence to demonstrate their success, it is amply proven that Dutch, Danish, and English companies operated schools on the Gold Coast, and that instruction in reading, writing, and religious education took place within the castle walls.

As was the case in many colonies during the early colonial period, the main goal of education was to “Make civilization march hand-in-hand with evangelization”


This statement gives a clear description of how education in Ghana was implemented.

Initially it was the Danish, Dutch and English merchants who set up schools in their

Forts (the best known Castle Schools on the Gold Coast included the one operated by the Dutch at the former Portuguese fortress at Elmina, the British school at Cape Coast Castle, and the Danish school at Christiansborg, near Accra.) to educate their mulatto children by native women.


These schools produced some brilliant native scholars such as Anthony William Amo of Axim, Christian Protten of Accra and Phillip Quacoe of Cape Coast.

These men continued their education in Europe, financed by the merchant companies, and served as role models for others upon their return home.

Unmistakably linked to the implementation of formal education in Ghana were the

Christian Missionaries, who realized that in order to spread the word of God they needed well-educated local assistants.

John Von Richelieu, one of the Danish Governors to Ghana, approached the Basel Mission Society of Switzerland in 1828.

They played an important role in establishing an education network in Ghana. Representatives of this organization were able to convince the Chiefs of Ghana in 1832 to send their children to the Government School at Osu.


Thus creating acceptance for formal education. They also concentrated on the interior of Ghana, away from the European influences on the coast.

Besides reading, writing and arithmetic, workshops were organized for students to acquire practical skills. Carpentry, masonry, blacksmithing, shoemaking and sewing for girls were taught, as well as practical agriculture and medical and health education.


One of the greatest achievements of the Basel Mission Society was the transcription of local languages (Twi, Ewe and Ga languages) to facilitate education and the spreading of the Gospel.

By 1894, 62 years after their arrival in Ghana, they had established a Training College, 3 grammar schools, seven boarding schools for boys and girls and 98-day schools.




Government attempts to increase educational activities on the Gold Coast began with the signing of the Bond of 1844. This was a political, military agreement between the British and a number of coastal Fanti chiefs.

In the agreement, the British were allowed to intervene in criminal cases, provide military protection for the region, and, above all, to collaborate with the chiefs to “mould the customs” of the coastal peoples along lines of the “general principles of English law.”

It was in accordance with the spirit of the bond that Governor Hill proposed his 1852 Ordinance. This recommended that a poll tax be imposed to finance the general improvement of the territories—including the provision of education that could lead to the establishment of a better educated class of African.

Following the consolidation of the coastal region as the British Gold Coast Colony, the administration became more aggressive in pursuit of its educational policy.

This was precipitated by the British purchase of the Danish property at Christiansborg in 1850 and the Dutch Elmina Castle in 1872. To help redress problems faced by the mission schools—such as training local teachers and improving the quality of education—the administration made grants to both the Wesleyan and Basel missions in 1874

By 1874 when the British Government assumed colonial authority of the Gold Coast colony, significant progress had been made in the educational sector and it was still expanding with the majority of the Basel and Wesleyan Mission schools scattered widely over the interior. Most of the teaching was done in the vernacular languages.

By 1881 there were 139 schools. Of these, one in Cape Coast and two in Accra were under direct government management. The Basel Mission had 47 schools, the Wesleyans 84, the Bremen Mission 4 and the Roman Catholic Church, one. However, it was observed that the system of education adopted by the various missions differed widely, and so in 1882, the Government drew the first plans to guide the development of education.

The missions co-operated whole-heartedly with the new policy. The plan called for the establishment of a General Board of Education, and for the formation of local boards to study and report on existing conditions.

The Board was also to ascertain that the conditions upon which grants were awarded were fulfilled and to grant certificates to teachers. To improve on the former, an updated ordinance was passed in 1887 which remained in force until 1925.

The administration’s desire in the 1880s to provide funds in support of education was interesting, since at the same time it rejected calls to contribute to the construction of rail lines to the gold mines that made the Gold Coast Colony a worthy territory.

The support for education must have received an indirect boost from the General Act of the Berlin Conference on Africa, in which education was described as an important European civilizing mission to Africa. Even more important was the fact that the conference gave international recognition to British colonies in Africa, including the Gold Coast.

Like other Europeans that had consolidated parts of the African coast, aggressive expansion into the hinterlands was also defined as natural by the Neutrality Articles of the Berlin agreement. The government’s renewed interest in education in the colony should therefore be evaluated in relation to the perceived benefits to be derived from the colony in the future.

Thus, in an Education Ordinance of 1887, the government called for improvements in the school curriculum, teacher certification, and practical education for pupils.

It also set the standards by which private schools might qualify for assistance. In F. Wright’s 1905 essay on the “System of Education in the Gold Coast,” a total of 132 mission schools were said to be in existence by 1901

In 1920, the Phelps-Stokes Fund of America sent a mission of investigation into African education. One of the members of this mission was the great Ghanaian scholar Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, who at that time was teaching in America.

The mission’s report made the British Government realize how great the need for education in the Gold Coast was. In the same year, the Gold Coast Government appointed a local committee to deliberate on the major requirements of education.

The committee recommended that three new institutions should be built: a secondary school, a new Government training college for male teachers to replace the existing buildings of the college which had been founded in 1909, and a training college for female teachers.

The issue was taken a step further by Sir Gordon Guggisberg, who had become the new Governor of the Gold Coast in 1919. He demonstrated a keen interest in the educational sector and was convinced that the Gold Coast needed above everything, education of a first-rate quality. In fact, only a few months after his arrival, the governor presented a 10-year development plan for the Gold Coast. Among other things, funding was aggressively sought for postelementary education for boys and girls

Guggisberg set up the ‘1922 Committee’, chaired by the Director of Education, Mr. J.D. Oman, to debate further on education in the Gold Coast. He suggested that the three separate institutions recommended by the 1920 Committee could not be afforded by the Government, and should therefore be combined into one comprehensive institution.

The Committee recommended that the site chosen at Achimota, in Accra, should provide general secondary education, teacher training, and technical education for male students.


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