Ghanaian School: Overview

 In Ghana

In order to understand Ghanaian high school, one must understand that the goal here is to pass the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The goal isn’t to learn practical knowledge for use in the real world, rather to pass the examination  required to graduate, receive your diploma, and go to university.

Picking Classes: When in Ghanaian high school, class ‘groupings’ are picked, rather than the individual classes. For example, as I am in ‘Arts 4’, which is composed of economics, history, government, and literature. I had to do all four of those classes – no picking and choosing. The main sections of the school are arts, science, and vocational studies. Other classes include French, Bible studies, chorus, food and nutrition, chemistry etc.

Teachers Changing Classes: This is proving to be one of the most difficult aspects to get used to in Ghanaian schools – the fact that you sit in the same classroom all day with the same people, while the teachers go from class to class. Besides our 30 minute break in the middle of the day, there’s little opportunity for movement, you’re sitting in terribly comfy desks (see below) and you’re with the same students all day.

Teaching Styles: Ghanaian education is done ‘textbook-style.’ When teachers teach terms, many of them read definitions straight from the book, and you are expected to know the textbook definition and nothing else. If you add or forget words to the textbook definition it is considered wrong, despite the fact that you’re pretty much saying the same thing that’s in the book. Another thing is that teachers in America lead you to discover knowledge, by getting you to interact with the textbook with worksheets, powerpoints, etc. Here, the teacher stands in front of a class “like a God” (as my history teacher says), and teaches you exactly how things are. There’s no debate, and what the teacher says is taken for the absolute truth.

Taking Notes: In America, notes are taken so that you can study them later on. Notes here are periodically inspected/collected by the teacher, and you’re expected to write ‘word for word’ what the instructor says. It’s rather difficult for me, seeing as in America shorthand is what I write everything (excluding essays) in. ‘
For instance, let’s say I have to copy the sentence: ‘Biology is the science of life and of living organisms.

A Ghanaian would take a full minute to copy it word for word.
I would take 5 seconds to write ‘Bio = sci of live organ.’

Teachers seem to be puzzled when they read my notes, but I have no intentions of switching to the Ghanaian style.

Teachers not Showing Up: At Achimota, one of the premier schools in Ghana, the class prefects are held accountable for the teachers’ attendance – and mark the times they arrive/leave, as well as the lesson taught, etc. However, in most schools across Ghana, teachers will continue to be paid regardless of whether they show up or not. I’m not 100% sure how it works –something to do with the government corruption. Nonetheless, even at Achimota, I’ve already had several teachers not show up due to the fact that my class is one of the ‘more rowdy’ ones in the school. Sometimes they leave notes to be read/copied, other times they give no notice. Either way, it’s not likely to have any effect on their job security.


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Showing 9 comments
  • Zach

    Great update, thanks for keeping us in the loop! Hope you’re having a great time. The memories will surely last a lifetime.

  • Debbie Doyle

    Your description of the way the school operates remind me of the one described to us by a German exchange student thirty years ago. I’ll be anxious to read all your blogs as the year goes on.

    Debbie Doyle

  • Michael

    Very insightful

  • Cathy

    Feel like I was right there with you! Although with the size of the desk chair glad I am not 🙂 Hope you still have a smile on your face!

  • obibinibruni

    If the point in the program is to open your eyes to a new way of doing things, would it not be beneficial to change the way you do things to actually experience the new way of doing things?

    • Avery

      Hi Allie,
      Thank you for your comment. It certainly is best to try doing things in new manners, which I did fully (besides taking notes). One of my favorite travel mottos is that, “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.” That’s what I try to hold myself to – even as I discuss cultural differences, I do not judge for better or worse. Some things Ghana could learn from the world, but a lot of things the world could learn from Ghana.

      • obibinibruni

        I appreciate that kind of thinking and I did get that from the way you wrote this post. I just feel as though you would have gotten more out of the program by making those changes while in Ghana. That being said, I also understand that that can also increase the amount of stress caused by culture shock.

        • Avery

          I definitely agree with you. I was a young (and pretty stubborn) 17 year old when I moved to Ghana for a year. While I really enjoyed it, I can certainly say that I look back on it with even more fondness every year.

          • obibinibruni

            Haha yeah, I can understand that. I was 22 my first time, not quite the same thing 🙂

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