The 2013 National Education Assessment (NEA) report has established that majority of pupils in basic school cannot read to understand either in English or in any Ghanaian language.
It said in every language, at least 50 per cent, and often, more of the pupils assessed could not pronounce a single English or Ghanaian word correctly.
Forty-four per cent of pupils could read without understanding what they read, while only four per cent of pupils were able to read with some understanding, with only two per cent of them able to read fluently with understanding, the report said.
The report also revealed that pupils in urban schools performed better than children in rural schools, while pupils in private schools also did better than those in public schools.
Besides, children in hard-to-reach schools were among the lowest performers, especially in the three northern regions, where the pupils performed abysmally.
The report followed a survey carried out from July 9 to 11, 2013 that sampled a total of 19,458 pupils in primary three and 17,447 pupils in primary six with 550 public and private schools in 170 districts in Ghana.
The survey was carried out by the Assessment Services Unit (ASU) of the Ghana Education Service (GES) with support from the Research Triangle International RTI. The project was funded by the USAID.
The NEA report is a biennial nationally and regionally representative measure of pupils’ competency in Mathematics and English in primary three and six.
It aims at measuring pupils’ performance in the two subjects and intends to give the GES an indicator of the effectiveness of primary education system.
Presenting the report at the opening of a three-day national policy forum on the 2013 NEA and Early Grade Reading (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessments (EGMA) in Accra on Tuesday, an education researcher at Research Triangle International (RTI), Mr Aarnout Brombacher, stated that “school children also performed abysmally in Mathematics”.
The event, being held on the theme: ‘Ensuring quality literacy and numeracy through advocacy’, is being attended by various stakeholders in the education sector who will discuss 2013 NEA reports to come up with ways to improve pupils’ performance in the English language and Mathematics.
Mr Brombacher, who is also a Mathematics specialist stated that the NEA report, the fifth of its kind, tested the pupils’ oral passage reading, reading comprehension, letter sound knowledge, listening comprehension and non-word decoding, as well as their ability to solve mathematical questions.
Those skills, he stated, should be mastered in the early grades because without them, the ‘pupils will struggle, or even drop out in later years’.
All the English and Mathematics tests for primary three and six pupils used the same test score cut-points to indicate that a pupil had achieved minimum competency of 35 per cent or proficiency of 55 per cent.
Pupils who scored 35 per cent were classified as having minimum competency in the subject tested and pupils scoring 55 per cent or better were classified as having proficiency.
‘For English for primary three, only about 25 per cent of the pupils performed at the proficiency level and more than 40 per cent performed below minimum competency levels’, he said.
According to him, pupils were particularly challenged by primary six Mathematics tasks involving problem-solving even in private schools.
The Deputy Minister in charge of Pre-Tertiary Education, Mr Alex Kyeremeh, stated that over the years, the government had shown keen interest in providing the needed support to enhance teaching and learning at the basic level and called on stakeholders, particularly parents and teachers, to support efforts at improving pupils’ academic performance.
The acting Director of GES, Mr Charles Aheto-Tsegah, stated that currently, there was an ongoing evaluation of the country’s participation in the Trends in Mathematics and Science Studies as part of efforts to strengthen national capacity to determine learning and achievements of the basic school system.
Early grade education crucial
The Director of the USAID Programme Development Office, Mr Thomas Crubaugh, said pre-school and early education in particular formed the foundation for lifelong learning and ensured future success in primary school, senior high school and beyond.