The 2008 Education Act defines inclusive education as ‘the value system, which holds that all persons, who attend an educational institution, are entitled to equal access to learning, achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their education, which transcend the idea of physical location, but incorporates the basic values that promote participation, friendship and interaction’ (Art. 5.4). The 2015 Inclusive Education Policy defines it as the approach of accommodating all children in schools ‘regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions.’ In particular, it includes children with disabilities; gifted, street and working children; children from remote or nomadic populations; children from linguistic, ethnic, gender or cultural minorities; and children from other disadvantaged or marginalized areas or groups.
Special education needs
The 2015 Inclusive Education Policy refers to learners with special education needs as pupils and students who experience barriers preventing them from achieving optimal progress in their learning and development.
As reaffirmed in the 2018–30 education strategic plan, inclusion for children with disabilities is promoted through both regular and special schools. The latter are planned to be transformed into resource centres to assist mainstream system access at all education levels.
Embracing inclusive education, access to regular schools is guaranteed to all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. However, if the assessment proves that the pupil cannot cope with the regular curriculum, he or she receives education in special units within regular schools or in special institutions.
Special schools still serve specific needs of deaf, blind and intellectually disabled children. Some private special schools provide education for specific groups, such as the Autism Training Centre, New Horizon Special School and Dzorwulu Special School.
The 2015 Inclusive Education Policy acknowledges the importance of special schools in the implementation of inclusive education. They are expected to cooperate with regular schools accommodating children with special education needs, to closely work with assessment centres for periodic screening and diagnosis and to ensure their personnel is trained in these centres.
The Ghana Education Service has planned to transform all special schools and all regional assessment centres into resource centres. With support from the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Disability Trust Fund, a framework for the transformation of special schools and assessment centres into inclusive education resource centres has been developed to operationalize the resource centre as a model assessment services centre integrating key services for children with disabilities and their parents and increasing community engagement.
Early intervention, screening and assessment
As regulated by the 2008 Education Act, screening of children on admission to education and regular medical examination is undertaken by the Education Service in collaboration with the Health Service and the ministry responsible for social welfare (Art. 6).
The Ghana Education Service and Ghana Health Service, under the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, respectively, have institutionalized annual health screening and referral mechanisms to promote early needs identification and provide adequate assistance. Developed with support from development partners including UNICEF, the joint draft School Health Medical Screening Policy is awaiting approval by the Cabinet.
The 1992 Constitution enshrines the right to free and compulsory education for all (Art. 25.1[a]) and to equal access to secondary and higher education ‘by the progressive introduction of free education’ (Art. 25.1[b] and [c]). It further provides the development of a school system ‘with adequate facilities at all levels’ (Art. 25.1[e]), as reiterated in the 2008 Education Act. The Constitution also contains non-discrimination provisions (Art. 12 and 17.2) ‘on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status’ and mandates the state to promote integration and prohibit any discrimination or prejudice (Art. 35.5). Non-discrimination in education access is reaffirmed in the 1998 Children’s Act (Art. 8).
The Inclusive Education Policy was adopted and launched in 2016 with the support of UNICEF. With the purpose of changing the education system and the community perceptions of persons with disability and their learning needs, the policy recognizes the diversity of learning processes and the need to address learning accordingly. Specific standards and guidelines for the practice of inclusive education provide assistance to education institutions for the safety, convenience, usability and participation of all learners in terms of physical environment, as well as of education content and staff attitudes. A 2015–19 implementation plan for the policy outlines actions and indicators to ensure a timely implementation of the policy objectives over the period.
Article 29 of the 1992 Constitution lays down the rights of persons with disabilities, including physical accessibility to public places (Art. 29.6). The 1998 Children’s Act enshrines their right to education and training ‘wherever possible’ (Art. 10.2), while the 2006 Persons with Disability Act enshrines the right to free education and further establishes special schools for persons with disabilities who are excluded from formal schools.
In the social policy sector, the 2000 National Disability Policy paved the way to the development of annual disability action plans to ensure disability access and inclusion across the public sector and services.
Informed by the principles of inclusive education and providing a general legal framework for the national education system, the 2008 Education Act focuses on the need for appropriate school infrastructure and design to accommodate children with special needs in education institutions. The country’s all-inclusive approach was formally endorsed in the 2010–20 education strategic plan and then in the 2015 Inclusive Education Policy and its 2015–19 implementation plan.
Acknowledging the low attendance and completion rates among children with disabilities, the 2018–30 education strategic plan gives priority to improving physical infrastructure and providing appropriate teaching and learning materials, including assistive devices. The inclusion of children with disabilities into regular schools is planned to be further supported by transforming special education institutions into resource centres.
Development partners, including UNICEF and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), are working with civil society and non-government organizations to increase awareness through the dissemination of the Inclusive Education Policy and its provisions. The Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations and Inclusion Ghana have been supported by UNICEF in mapping and implementing a directory for national inclusive education services in order to increase awareness and strengthen citizen engagement. As part of promoting inclusion in schools and Ghanaian society, a harmonized Ghanaian Sign Language dictionary has been developed and distributed to all relevant stakeholders.
Gender equality in education has been recently reaffirmed in the 2010–20 education strategic plan, the 2018–30 education strategic plan and the 2015 National Gender Policy. The latter complements social protection strategies and ensures that women and men and marginalized and vulnerable groups participate in and benefit equally from the national social protection system.
Ensuring equal opportunities is one of the priorities of the 2015 Inclusive Education Policy through the involvement of the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection.
The 2009 National Adolescent Health and Development Policy and Strategy, as revised in 2015, provides multisectoral support for the provision of age- and sex-appropriate information and counselling. It also addresses teenage pregnancy, adolescent sexuality, early marriage, family planning and sex education. The 2014–17 Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda aims to create girl-friendly schools, addressing girls’ special hygiene needs. The 2018–30 education strategic plan reiterates the need to provide gender-friendly environments, guidance and counselling in regions reporting large gender disparities.
Ghana has endorsed the global Safe to Learn campaign and is exploring developing an evidence-informed comprehensive gender and safeguarding policy. Preparatory work for promoting safe schools through sport and physical education has been implemented, including formative research to inform design and development of teaching and training content. As part of eliminating all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, corporal punishment and bullying/cyber bullying, a Safe Schools Resource Package has been developed for all schools, including special schools.
Since 2017, the government has committed to ensuring free tuition, teaching and learning materials, boarding and meals as part of the Free Senior High School Policy with the aim to eradicate barriers to education.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The 1992 Constitution enshrines the right to maintain and promote any culture, language or tradition (Art. 26.1). Since 2002, English has been the language of instruction beginning in primary education, while Ghanaian languages are studied as subjects. However, the 2018–30 education strategic plan recognizes that the national language of instruction policy is neither clear nor effectively implemented.
Poverty and people living in rural or remote areas
In 2005, the Ghana School Feeding Programme was launched to provide children in public primary schools and kindergartens with one hot nutritious meal per day. Ghana has promoted other programmes to foster education access, such as the Free School Uniform and Exercise Book Programme, free bus rides for schoolchildren and capitation grants supporting access to primary education.
Since 1996, the Shepherd School Programme has been providing non-formal education in seven pastoral communities in northern Ghana, reaching isolated and marginalized communities.
With support from USAID and the UK DFID, rural children aged between 8 and 14 who could not attend schools because of poverty, family conditions or distance have benefited from second-chance education opportunities in 17 districts within the complementary basic education programme. The government has committed to continuing financing the initiative and to taking on the leadership of the programme, focusing on out-of-school children aged 6 to 14.
Cooperation across sectors
The Inclusive Education Policy is the outcome of an interministerial cooperation exercise that involved the Ministry of Education, the Ghana Education Service, the Ministry of Health, the National Council for Persons with Disability and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Chaired by the deputy director general of the Ghana Education Service, a national multisectoral steering committee was set up to oversee the implementation of inclusive education. It consists of representatives from the Ghana Health Service, disabled persons’ organizations (including the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations, Ghana Blind Union and Inclusion Ghana), the Department of Children, the National Council for Persons with Disability, the National Teaching Council, the Teacher Union, the Ghana Journalism Association, UNICEF, the Special Education Division, the Basic Education Division, academia, the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition and Perkins International. It includes sub-committees that focus on different programming (including capacity building, sensitization and advocacy, resource mobilization, planning and coordination, monitoring and evaluation, and screening and assessment) to support the implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy.
As regards implementation, the policy calls on the Ministry of Education to take the leading role and to liaise with the different sectors, in particular with:
- The Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service for early assessment processes, the provision of facilities for early detection and assessment and management of children with disabilities from ages 0 to 6 with the help of education as well as medical professionals.
- The Ministry of Transport to set aside 5% of the road-sector fund annually towards implementation of inclusive education.
- The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development for adequate school infrastructure.
- The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for gender and social justice promotion. The Department of Gender is responsible for the implementation of programmes and projects related to women’s rights and empowerment.
- The National Council for Persons with Disabilities, which plays an advocacy role to ensure implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy and for adequate budget provision.
- Many non-state actors, such as the Ghana Blind Union, the Ghana Federation of the Disabled, the Ghana National Education Coalition Campaign, and the World Education and International Council for Education of people with Visual Impairment, which were also involved in the design of the Inclusive Education Policy,.
The importance of an intersectoral approach to inclusion, in particular of children with disabilities, has been reaffirmed in the 2018–30 education strategic plan. Education institutions as well as social protection, health and community-based rehabilitation services are called on to cooperate to enhance the child-friendly environment in schools and to ensure that teachers are trained to practice inclusive education.
Cooperation across government levels
The Ministry of Education holds the responsibility for the design and implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy at national level. A separate division of the ministry, the Ghana Education Service ensures its implementation throughout the country. It acts as advisory body and provides technical assistance to decentralized entities. Metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) are involved in the implementation of the policy at the local and school level. The 2018–30 education strategic plan recognizes the key role of MMDAs in the provision of services and in allocation of funding. The plan also addresses critical bottlenecks in both system capacity and financing, identified by the completed education sector analysis of inclusive education, including the need to develop results-oriented planning and monitoring and to set priorities based on resource availability.
Parent and teacher associations and school management committees also play an advocacy role for the rights of all children with special education needs and collaborate to raise awareness on disability issues.
Ensuring the accessibility of the physical infrastructure of existing and new schools is among the objectives of the Inclusive Education Policy. The Ministry of Education holds responsibility in this area together with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
The Inclusive Education Policy aims to introduce an inclusive education curriculum which takes into account learners’ cultural, family and community background and values. The policy endorses the Universal Design for Learning approach, aimed at ensuring participation and responding to the needs of all learners.
Efforts have been made to ensure gender sensitivity in role representation in textbooks. Likewise, curricula have been revised to eliminate gendered stereotypes.
ICT and learning materials
ICT is considered fundamental to promote inclusive education by addressing inequalities in gender, language and disability. Not only does the 2015 ICT in Education Policy establish the use of ICT to meet the needs, interests and learning styles of individual students, including the gifted and those with special needs, but it also calls for the development of appropriate hardware and software to train teachers to handle the special needs of learners with disabilities.
Professional teacher development consists of pre-service and in-service training and continuous professional development for teachers as well as orientation and modular courses for other education personnel and related administrators at both district and regional levels.
With the adoption of the 2015 Inclusive Education Policy, the curriculum of pre-service training was expected to be reviewed to align with inclusive education practice. Teachers need to be trained in the initial assessment of learning difficulties and in contributing to the creation of an enabling environment. The policy specifies that the training of all school personnel needs to be inclusion oriented.
With this purpose, Ghana has started a reform process to ensure that the pre-tertiary curriculum and pre-service teacher education curriculum are both relevant and responsive to children’s diverse learning needs, anchored in gender and inclusion; in the interim, relevant modules have been adopted to support inclusive in-service teacher education from kindergarten to junior high completion. In support of in-service teacher training in schools, an inclusive education INSET (In-Service Education of Teachers) module has been developed. The module discusses topics including awareness about inclusive education and Ghana’s inclusive education policy, support for learners in schools, and identification and referral of children with special needs.
The 2006 Persons with Disability Act establishes that in each region, a public technical, vocational and teacher training institution should be established to include in its curricula special education in sign language and Braille writing and reading.
Within the six-year government programme Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL), gender and inclusion components have been integrated into the national teacher education programmes in 46 public colleges of education. These colleges have developed gender-responsive improvement plans to enhance gender awareness, responsiveness and inclusion. Gender-sensitive education aims to train teachers to implement strategies to address gender barriers and to encourage women and girls to undertake traditionally male-dominated careers and studies. With the purpose of strengthening pre-service teacher education, gender and inclusion have also become part of the new Bachelor in Education curriculum, with support from UNICEF.
Ghana provides a regular education performance report.
Data on children with disabilities, disaggregated by type of impairment, is reported both by Ghana’s education management information system and by Ghana’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.
With the adoption of the Inclusive Education Policy, an inclusive education monitoring tool has been developed to assess inclusiveness in mainstream schools. Based on 25 indicators and 15 statistical items, it collects disaggregated data by type of disability, special needs category, needed support and services, assistive devices, special learning materials or support, and guidance and counselling, among other categories. The collected information is then incorporated into school performance improvement plans and school performance appraisal meetings.