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Schools fail to educate

GHANA. GHANA is widely regarded as having one of the best education systems in Africa but new evidence shows that nine out of 10 children are leaving primary school unable to read, write or do simple sums.

Its experience underlines the UNICEF message - that countries rushing to push up enrolment rates should not forget that the quality of education is a "paramount concern".

The results of baseline tests, carried out with support from Britain's Department for International Development, have fuelled a sense of urgency among international donors supporting education reforms. They confirm earlier findings that children are not learning in school, despite Ghana's high enrolment rates and expenditure on education.

Ghana has been held up as a beacon of reform by the IMF and praised as a success story by President Clinton. Yet Ghana remains a low-income country struggling to recover from economic crisis. The government has set ambitious targets for the country to reach middle-income status by 2020 with education set to play a central role.

But,for the first time since independence, there has been a fall in the numbers entering school.The consensus is that deteriorating standards, combined with the rising costs of schooling lie behind the decline. An estimated 40 per cent of children still do not enter school in Ghana; in some districts the figures is 2 per cent. Although there are no fees, indirect costs such as uniforms and books are prohibitive for a third of Ghanaian families.

The baseline tests are part of the lead-in to a new Pounds 52m package of education support from the DFID for improving education over the next five years.

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