DFID Research: Tracking the age of school enrolment in Ghana
Late enrolment in school in Ghana is linked to the failure of many children to complete their education
Many children in primary school in Ghana are over-age. The more over-age they are, the less likely they are to complete primary school successfully and the less likely they are to continue through secondary school. Girls are more at risk of non-completion than boys if they are over-age.
The Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE) has developed detailed profiles of children’s age in grade in 30 schools and is tracking their progress over several years. Secondary data at national and regional level is being analysed to produce a robust picture of statistical associations between age in grade and other characteristics of children and households.
Late enrolment has implications for how children are, or should be, taught. Over-age children are common in schools in Ghana and can sometimes be as much as 4 or 5 years over-age. But teaching methods are rarely adjusted to allow for the associated differences in development and maturity, and curricula are based on teaching children of the same age. This can compromise teaching (and learning) of older children. Reductions in the age range within teaching groups would make it easier to manage mixed ability and mixed maturity groups within the existing monograde curriculum, as well as reducing social and psychological problems arising from grouping older with younger children
CREATE is highlighting the magnitude of the over-age problem and is promoting awareness of the importance of enrolment at age 6 and progression in the appropriate grade for age. Fieldworkers are feeding back insights to schools and School Committees, and steps being considered to raise awareness of age-related progression include holding birthday celebrations in class, and listing children’s birthdates in classroom displays. Age in grade analyses are also being disseminated at conferences and university events, and to a national audience through TV interviews and radio talk shows.
Late enrolment problem getting worse
Over the last 10 years, the problem of late enrolment in Ghana appears to have become worse rather than better, and in 2005/6 nearly half of all Grade 1 children were over-age by 2 or more years. This can mean, for example, that girls may not reach the end of primary school before they reach the age of 14 and enter the marriage market. Girls generally make at least equal progress through the educational system to boys provided that they gain access and don’t drop out. However dropout rates over the age of 12 are greater than for boys, making it particularly important to promote enrolment at age 6 if girls are to complete school.
If current patterns of over-age enrolment in Ghana persist, as they have done over the last decade, the enrolment targets and gender parity goals of the MDGs and Dakar Targets are very unlikely to be met. By determining the scale and impacts of over-age entry to education, and raising awareness of the issue both at the community level and in the Ministry of Education, CREATE aims to improve both participation and completion rates in education.