2011 Ghana: Evaluation of UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Programme with Focus on the Government of Netherlands Funding (2008-2010): Ghana Country Case Study Report
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As the first country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Republic of Ghana has a record of attention to children’s rights and development. More recently, the Government of Ghana has declared its commitment to addressing the developmental needs of children and achieving Millennium Development Goals through policies and plans including the National Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Policy, adopted in 2004. This policy provides a framework for government and other stakeholders to promote survival, development, and protection for children from birth to age 8, emphasizing integrated and coordinated services among other strategies for achieving this goal.
Key indicators have in recent years shown improvement in young children’s education, health, and social welfare status in Ghana. Increases in pre-primary education attendance have been substantial and have exceeded national goals. However, rates of maternal and child mortality, malnutrition, and lack of access to adequate water and sanitation remain high, and substantial disparities in these areas remain across income groups and geographic regions.
This report presents the results of a retrospective evaluation of policy and programmatic initiatives to promote early childhood development (ECD) in Ghana, with an emphasis on those supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the Government of Ghana (GoG). Ghana was selected as one of the 4 case study countries for the broader evaluation of the UNICEF-Government of Netherlands (GoN) Cooperation Programme on ECD which aimed to promote comprehensive approaches to ECD in 10 selected countries with a focus on sustainable policy development and partnerships to scale up successful interventions.
To explore the design, processes, and results of ECD programming, the evaluation team conducted a retrospective study employing qualitative analysis methods. The study focuses on initiatives that UNICEF has supported in cooperation with the government and other partners as expressed in a logical framework for ECD programming in Ghana developed for the study (presented in Appendix A). The analysis focuses largely on activities related to capacity building for intersectoral policy implementation and enhancement of preschool education, which were funded in part through the UNICEF-GoN Cooperation Programme and emphasized during the case study team’s country visit. The study explores the following topics and questions, which are based on the terms of reference for the evaluation of the UNICEF-GoN Cooperation Programme on ECD:
• Appropriateness and alignment of ECD programming with national priorities. Why were specific strategies adopted? How well aligned are they with national priorities as expressed in development plans and strategic documents?
• Planning, management, and coordination. How successful have planning and coordination for ECD programming been within and among UNICEF, the government, and development partners?
• Effectiveness in expanding coverage of ECD services. Have strategies to increase coverage contributed to changes in service availability or participation rates? If so, how?
• Effectiveness in building capacity for ECD. How successfully has programming increased the capacity of service providers, caregivers, and decision-makers to support ECD? What gaps in capacity exist?
• Effectiveness in generating knowledge for ECD. How successfully has programming promoted measurement of children’s development and family and community care and increased the knowledge base regarding the effectiveness of ECD interventions?
• Effectiveness in mainstreaming ECD into policies, plans, and services. How, if at all, has the level of national and subnational engagement and ownership of ECD changed? How has ECD been integrated into community-level services?
• Quality and efficiency of ECD services. What is the current quality of ECD services provided, and how, if at all, has it been enhanced through ECD programming? What is known about the costs and efficiency of ECD services?
• Sustainability and scalability of ECD services. What factors have supported or inhibited sustainability and scale-up of ECD services?
• Use of a human rights–based approach to programming, gender equity, and reaching the most disadvantaged. How successfully has programming involved key stakeholders in design and implementation? How has national and local context been taken into account in programme design and implementation? To what extent has programming promoted gender equity and access among marginalized groups?
• Lessons learned. What general lessons can be drawn from the strengths and weakness of the design and implementation of ECD programming in Ghana, as well as its results?
The study was guided by a case study matrix (presented in Appendix B) that details specific research questions and links them to relevant programming outputs or outcomes and indicators. Some elements of the case study matrix are directly aligned with those specified in the Government of Ghana–UNICEF Programme of Cooperation, while others are designed to addresses issues and results that are of importance to the broader evaluation of the Cooperation Programme on ECD.
Data for the case study were drawn from primary and secondary sources. In July 2010, a researcher from the evaluation team and a local consultant conducted primary data collection during a nine-day study visit to Ghana. This period included a field visit facilitated by UNICEF Ghana staff to locations where ECD projects are implemented in the Afram Plains district of the Eastern region. Data collection activities during the country visit comprised the following components:
• Interviews with key informants. The case study team interviewed members of the UNICEF Ghana CO staff, representatives of national ministries, representatives of regional- and district-level offices of the Ghana Education Service (GES), members of a regional multi-sectoral ECD team, school administrators and teachers, and a representative of a community-based NGO with experience in ECD programming.
• Observations of ECD services and activities. The case study team observed KG classrooms at four schools in the Afram Plains district. School locations were selected by UNICEF Ghana staff in collaboration with district education officials.
• Focus groups with parents. The case study team conducted two focus groups with parents of children enrolled in KG. Participants were recruited with the assistance of UNICEF Ghana and its local partners. UNICEF Ghana staff, district and school officials, and members of parent-teacher associations (PTAs) and school management committees participated in the discussions.
Appendix C presents details regarding primary data collection for the Ghana case study, specifically, a list of people interviewed and focus groups conducted. In addition to these primary data sources, the evaluation team reviewed a range of secondary sources, including reports and strategic plans, data from surveys and management information systems, and the results of external studies. A list of documents reviewed for the case study is also in Appendix C.
The evaluation team employed two main qualitative evaluation methods in analyzing case study data: (1) thematic framing, and (2) triangulation. Thematic framing involves the systematic review, sorting, and interpretation of data according to a specified structure. The evaluation team’s analysis was structured around the logical framework for ECD programming in Ghana and the questions, outcomes, and indicators specified in the case study matrix. The evaluation team used triangulation to confirm patterns or identify important discrepancies across data sources and respondents participating in interviews and focus groups.
Findings and Conclusions:
The report presents case study findings in nine areas.
Appropriateness and Alignment with National Goals and Priorities
ECD programming is appropriate for promoting holistic ECD through through capacity building related to policy implementation, but promotion of integrated services has not been consistently addressed. Current ECD activities have supported implementation of the National ECCD Policy through such activities as orientations to sensitize decision-makers on ECCD issues; capacity building for national, regional, and local ECCD committees; support for strategic planning and intersectoral communication at the national level; and a range of efforts to promote quality in early childhood services, especially KGs. Some steps have been taken toward more comprehensive, coordinated services in local areas—for instance, provision of hearing and vision screenings for KG students, which was observed in Afram Plains. However, it is not evident that ECD programming has consistently encouraged the development of integrated services. Other opportunities for service integration, such as inclusion of messages on young children’s psychosocial development in health and nutrition interventions, do not appear to have been pursued.
ECD programming under the Government of Ghana-UNICEF Programme of Cooperation is aligned with priorities for pre-primary education as expressed in national policies and development plans. Activities focusing on KG are in keeping with national priorities related to increasing the accessibility and quality of pre-primary education, as expressed in the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy for 2006-2009, the Education Strategic Plan, and national education reforms. Current programming does not appear to fully address priorities expressed in national strategies and plans related to inclusion and service access for marginalized populations, including orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), however.
Effectiveness: Increasing Access and Coverage
KG enrollment rates have risen substantially in the past four years and have surpassed national goals. KG enrollment among 4- and 5-year-olds has increased markedly in Ghana in recent years. The gross enrollment ratio (GER) grew nearly 12 percentage points between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, to 93 percent. Since 2003-2004, the GER has grown over 40 percentage points. The current net enrollment rate stands at 63 percent, according to data from UNICEF Ghana (2010a). The substantial increases in enrollment have surpassed the national goal for pre-primary enrollment established in the Education Sector Strategic Plan for 2003-2015: 75 percent by 2015. Respondents attributed these increases largely to policy changes. Specifically, education reforms that incorporated two years of KG into the free and compulsory basic education system and introduced capitation grants appear to have had a considerable influence on families’ decisions to send children to school. Comments from parents participating in focus groups suggest that many are aware of the potential benefits of KG in preparing children to enter primary school.
Increased access to pre-primary education has been facilitated by growth in the number of KGs, but insufficient availability and barriers to attendance remain problems in some areas. A key strategy for increasing access to KG in Ghana has been the government requirement that all primary schools have a KG attached. The pace of growth in the number of KGs was higher before 2006-2007 than after, possibly as the result of an early focus on rapid infrastructure development in more accessible areas. Although a count of the current number of primary schools with KGs attached is unavailable, 2008-2009 Education Management Information System (EMIS) data indicate that public KGs numbered 11,827, while public primary schools numbered 13,510—which suggests a gap of about 12 percent nationwide. Despite increases in the number of KGs, key informants noted that access remains difficult in some locations, particularly in rural or remote areas, where young children may have to travel long distances to attend school.
Coverage levels of KGs that meet quality standards are unknown. The quality KG model supported under the Government of Ghana-UNICEF Programme of Cooperation is in a pilot phase in two districts and has not been fully implemented nationwide (although some training opportunities and materials have been offered outside the pilot districts). It is unknown what percentage of KGs nationwide currently can be considered of good quality, or whether changes have occurred in coverage of quality services. This appears to be a result of unclear standards and limited capacity to collect relevant data. The Ministry of Education (MOE) does gather information related to some aspects of education quality, such as the percentage of formally trained teachers in schools and pupil-teacher ratio. However, comprehensive standards for KGs have yet to be developed or assessed systematically, which makes determining coverage levels for quality KG difficult.
Most KGs have access to drinking water, but access to sanitation is less extensive. In 9 of Ghana’s 10 regions, the majority of KGs have access to drinking water, according to EMIS data. (In the Upper West region, just 42 percent of KGs have access.) Toilets are found less commonly in KGs, however: in only 5 regions do over half of KGs have toilets. These data suggest that WASH programming has been more successful in enhancing access to drinking water than to sanitation facilities among KGs. One possible reason for this gap is that sources of clean water may be shared between primary schools and attached KGs, while KGs are likely to require dedicated toilet facilities because of students’ relatively young ages.
Effectiveness: Building Capacity for ECD
Stakeholders report that capacity for implementing National ECCD Policy has grown. Members of the national ECCD coordinating committee noted that infrastructure and skills for implementing intersectoral policy has grown since the adoption of the National ECCD Policy in 2004. Among the specific accomplishments highlighted in interviews and documents are an increase in the number of ECCD teams at the district level from 37 pilot teams to 130 (of a total of 138 districts), implementation of annual review meetings and interagency meetings on ECCD, and increased skills for six individual members of the committee who have attended the Early Childhood Virtual University Programme of the University of Victoria.
The strength of the institutional framework for coordination on ECCD at the regional and district levels varies. The evaluation team interviewed one regional ECCD committee, which appeared to be operating successfully. Members indicated that the committee had created annual work plans, initiated public education campaigns targeting parents, and conducted monitoring of early childhood centers for children aged 0 to 3. Information from other key informants suggests that the accomplishments and functioning of committees at the regional and district levels vary widely, despite the provision of training at all levels. The presence of people who can take active leadership of the committees was reported to be a key factor in their successful operation.
Capacity within MOE/Ghana Education Service (GES) for planning related to pre-primary education appears to have been enhanced at national and district levels. The activities and knowledge of MOE/GES administrators interviewed at the national and district levels suggest that capacity for planning on pre-primary education has increased since the announcement and implementation of education reforms in the past three to six years. The ECD Unit and the Curriculum Research and Development Division have initiated and managed efforts to enhance KG quality and produced curricula, training, and assessment materials as part of this undertaking. In addition, national strategy documents on education reflect detailed work plans related to expansion of access to KG. In the district visited by the evaluation team, GES administrators were well informed on issues of KG coverage and gaps related to infrastructure and teacher training. It appears likely that UNICEF’s ongoing collaboration with MOE/GES officials at the national and local levels has contributed to increased capability for planning and implementing KG services.
Some KG teachers report increases in skills related to specific teaching methods, but weaknesses exist in processes for comprehensive in-service training at the school level. Teachers noted that their ability to use teaching and learning materials (TLMs)—poster books and visual aids—for lessons in their classrooms had improved after they received training and TLMs. Some teachers have also received training in conducting child assessments, although use of the assessment tool remains in the pilot phase. In general, in-service training sessions for teachers tend to focus on narrow methodological topics or specific resources, according to key informants. This may be because there is no comprehensive in-service training agenda or syllabus for KG teachers. It could also be related to weaknesses in training followup.
Institutions for teacher training have been established, but only a small proportion of teachers are formally trained. A supportive environment for ECCD has helped promote the establishment of formal programmes for training early childhood educators. The University of Education, Winneba, offers the opportunity to obtain a degree in early childhood education. Seven Colleges of Education also offer a diploma in basic education focusing on early childhood. Students can take courses on early childhood education at the University of Cape Coast as part of their education degree. Furthermore, the National Nursery Teacher Training Center organizes an eight-week in-service training programme that offers a certificate of participation. However, less than a third of teachers in public KGs nationwide (31 percent) have received any type of formal training in education, according to 2008-2009 EMIS data.
It is not known whether parents’ caregiving practices have been enhanced through ECD programming. The evaluation team did not identify clear evidence of improvements in parents’ caregiving practices, particularly those related to psychosocial development. KG parents participating in focus groups reported infrequent individual interaction with teachers; therefore, opportunities for addressing parenting practices in this context may be rare. In addition, parents did not report specific changes in caregiving practices that may have resulted from exposure to other services for families with young children. Some information on child development has been delivered to parents through radio and public information campaigns, according to key informants, but the effects of these campaigns have not been measured.
Capabilities regarding ECD programming appear to be high within the UNICEF CO, but conceptualization of ECD as a cross-sectoral issue remains a challenge. Key UNICEF Ghana staff members demonstrated knowledge and expertise regarding ECD and a commitment to supporting the National ECCD Policy. Some staff members, however, expressed uncertainty regarding the organization’s definition and priorities in this area. Staff members also indicated, for example, that ECD tends to be construed narrowly within the CO as an education issue. This narrow conceptualization of ECD among some staff members may inhibit coordination among various components of the country programme to advance holistic ECD and integration of services.
Effectiveness: Generating Knowledge for ECD
Systems for gathering national and local data on pre-primary education are established, and this information is used in planning. EMIS data collected by MOE provide longitudinal information on enrollment at all levels of the basic education system, including KG, and have been collected since the late 1980s. The range of data elements collected currently also addresses such areas as teachers formally trained, presence of drinking water and toilets in schools, pupil-teacher ratios, and availability of textbooks and classroom furniture. Plans exist to enhance data collected on KGs to reflect additional areas of interest, such as the type of play equipment available and whether teachers have received training in early education. However, current EMIS data provide limited visibility regarding KG enrollment among disadvantaged groups, such as OVC, as enrollment data are not sufficiently disaggregated.
Early learning and development standards (ELDS) for 4- and 5-year-olds have been created and applied. Ghana’s ELDS and indicators were successfully developed over several years after adoption of the National ECCD policy. MOE/GES has applied the ELDS in revision of the KG curriculum and creation of assessment tools for KG students, so that these resources are aligned.
Data on children’s developmental progress and rigorous evidence on the effects of KG participation are unavailable. Although standards for early learning and development have been defined for 4- and 5-year-olds, data on developmental indicators have not been collected to determine whether children are meeting these standards. This gap limits the ability of planners to assess whether current ECD interventions are having the desired results. Some progress toward data collection on developmental indicators has been accomplished through the creation of student assessment tools for use in KG classrooms; these tools might be employed in gathering data on developmental progress. However, resources for training all teachers in use of the assessment tools and planning and conducting systematic data collection do not appear to be available at present. In addition, evidence of the effects of KG on child outcomes is unavailable.
Gaps remain in knowledge regarding the costs and financing of ECD services. Studies have not been conducted of the fixed and recurrent costs of providing quality KG, and only limited guidance appears to be available to support ministry budgeting for ECD services. In addition, the overall level of government and donor spending for ECD across sectors in Ghana, as well as changes in this spending over time, remains unknown.
Effectiveness: Mainstreaming ECD in National Policies and Services
Progress toward ECD mainstreaming is evident in intersectoral policy, education policy, and local governance. The content and implementation of the National ECCD Policy and education policies offer the clearest evidence of ECD mainstreaming in Ghana. Within the framework established by the National ECCD Policy, roles and responsibilities of a range of ministries, departments, and agencies have been established at the national, regional, and local levels, and structures for cross-sectoral communication and coordination have been established. Mainstreaming of ECD has also been achieved in the education sector, which has implemented planning and scaled-up services focused on 4- and 5-year-olds. Finally, strategic planning and budgeting undertaken by district assemblies address ECD, particularly as it relates to financing for education infrastructure.
Current policy and plans related to OVC note the importance of ECD but do not specify strategies for addressing the developmental needs of young disadvantaged children. The National Plan of Action for OVC, for example, includes statements regarding the need for protection and care of disadvantaged children, including those with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS). It also acknowledges that “specific attention to children 0-8 infected or affected by HIV/AIDS is rather minimal” in current services and supports (Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare and UNICEF 2010). However, the plan does not outline goals or strategies that specifically address the developmental needs of young children. Similarly, the National Policy Guidelines on OVC do not present implementation strategies that appear to be tailored to young children and ECD.
ECD services targeting parents and children 0 to 3 are limited. Parents of children below the age of 4 do not appear to be reached consistently with services addressing ECD. A small proportion of children 0 to 3 years old—about 8 percent—were enrolled in crèches or nurseries in 2008-2009, according to EMIS data; it is not known whether care provided in this context supports holistic ECD. Some families are also reached by High Impact Rapid Delivery (HIRD) interventions that focus on maternal and child health, although these interventions do not address psychosocial development. (HIRD coverage data were not available to the study team.) In general, ECD-related support for parents of children at this age seems to be scarce and short-lived. Parents participating in focus groups reported, for example, that their interactions with pediatric health care workers tended to decline after children finished sequences of initial immunizations at age 1.
Efficiency and Quality of ECD Services
KGs observed during the country visit were affected by quality problems related to overcrowding, poor infrastructure, and an insufficient number of teachers with training in early education. Many teachers observed by the evaluation team during school visits demonstrated an ability to engage students, work interactively with them, and develop lessons based on the KG curriculum and teaching guides. However, they faced formidable obstacles to providing quality pre-primary education in the form of large class sizes and poor classroom conditions. In addition, observed classrooms were generally poorly ventilated and lit, and their limited teaching materials were rarely accessible to children. (Teachers expressed concern that giving children access to the restricted supply of poster books would result in damage to the materials.) An additional obstacle to provision of quality KG education in the district visited by the evaluation team was the small proportion of formally trained KG teachers.
The efficiency of KGs may be diminished by problems with targeting enrollment to right-age children. The national GER for KG is substantially higher than the net enrollment rate (NER) in Ghana: 93 percent compared to 64 percent, according to 2008-2009 EMIS data. It is not known whether underage or overage children are more likely to be enrolled, but the difference between the GER and the NER suggests that nearly a third of children in KG are not in the expected age range. This circumstance presents a challenge to the efficiency of the KG system, as resources are diverted to children outside the target group.
Processes for Programme Planning, Management, and Coordination
Expected results for key elements of ECD programming have been defined. However, current monitoring processes do not address all stated indicators. The Government of Ghana-UNICEF Country Programme Action Plan for 2006-2010 specifies targets to be achieved by 2010 for activities related to KG quality enhancement: (1) 70 percent GER/50 percent NER for KG, (2) 70 percent of primary schools with preschools attached, (3) 70 percent of KGs meeting nationally accepted standards, (4) 80 percent of children showing development in line with national standards, (5) 100 percent of KG teachers trained, and (6) 100 percent of districts with an up-to-date database on preschools. EMIS data provide information on many of these indicators. However, processes for measuring achievement of KG standards and child development goals have not been implemented.
Within the UNICEF Ghana CO, coordination on ECD across sections appears to be narrowly focused. Interviews with UNICEF staff indicated recognition of the need to address ECD but also suggested that it has been conceptualized largely as an educational intervention. There was some evidence of ECD-related collaboration across sections—for instance, WASH efforts to improve school facilities and hygiene, and the participation of nutrition staff in supporting the ELDS development process. However, no evidence was found of systematic efforts or processes to coordinate programming or consistently promote integrated approaches to ECD. In addition, it was noted that funding for programming related to intersectoral coordination on ECD was generally perceived to be the responsibility of the Education section, since the preschool programme operates within it.
Incorporation of a Human Rights–Based Approach to Programming and Strategies to Improve Equity and Participation of the Disadvantaged and Marginalized
ECD activities have been inclusive of parents and other local stakeholders. ECD activities have emphasized participation in planning and service delivery among a range of stakeholders. Capacity building has been provided to Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) and School Management Committees (SMCs) to encourage parent support for KGs and involvement in school planning. District-level ECCD committees have received support to promote their role in bringing local-level stakeholders together for planning and communication related to ECCD policy services. In general, it appears that UNICEF has attempted to be responsive to local priorities in working with district-level officials to implement ECD projects at that level.
At the national level, gender parity in KG enrollment has been achieved. Half of students enrolled in KG nationwide are girls, according to EMIS data for 2008-2009. Across regions, the percentage of enrolled female students in public KGs ranged from 49 percent in the Northern region to 51 percent in the Upper West region.
Women hold key national policymaking positions related to ECD but appear to be less represented in such positions at the local level. Although the case study team did not identify independent data sources on the representation of women in government positions in Ghana, the team observed that at the national level, women occupy several key leadership roles related to implementation of the ECCD policy, KG planning and curriculum development, and education administration more generally. Positions occupied by women include (at the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs) Director of the Department of Children and National ECCD Coordinator and (at GES) ECD Unit National Coordinator and Director of the Curriculum Research and Development Division. At the district level, on the other hand, most policymakers interviewed were male.
Available data indicate that the poorest families do not have equitable access to ECD services, and there is no evidence for access among OVC. Data from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey show that the poorest children in Ghana are less likely to enroll in KG than children from higher-income families. The absence of coverage data disaggregated by population group makes it difficult
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