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Tax, Education Privatisation and the Right to Education: Influencing Education Financing In Ghana


This report has been commissioned by ActionAid Ghana and its main purpose is to examine education financing and the promotion of the Rights to Education (RTE) in Ghana through the provision of adequate financing to the sector. The report concludes that this can only be achieved by government fulfilling its financing commitments, compelled by citizen activism.

The report outlines broader issues which must be addressed in order to achieve these rights, through legal accountability of central Government to education financing; improved quality of learning and increased resources for public schools. Ultimately, this report seeks to achieve, amongst other things, a better and fairer financing for free public education for all in Ghana.

Various education sector reforms, initiatives, policies, laws and international covenants have been initiated or ratified by the Government of Ghana. These include the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) Policy, Constitutional guarantees for free compulsory universal basic education and the right of children to education as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and many other such international and regional covenants. In particular, the ICESCR puts obligation on the State to adopt a plan of action to secure free compulsory primary education, as expressed in Articles 13 and 14 of the Covenant.

However, the FCUBE Policy seems to have failed in providing free primary education, when so many children are sent home for not being able to pay the direct and indirect fees currently being charged.

To confirm this, communities in three (3) Municipalities - Ga West, Ga East and the La Nkwantanang Municipalities of the Greater Accra Region were studied. Many respondents derided the effectiveness of the free compulsory education policy. The majority of respondents reported that the policy was not working for them.

The right to education of many children in communities is being curtailed by extra fees, with basic public schools paying an average of Ghc 677.5 per year and even twice as much for private schools at Ghc 1325.46 per year, which parents must pay before children can have access to education. Despite the FCUBE school policy, parents still pay hidden extra levies, such as PTA fees, examination fees, etc., per term, which hinders and in many cases blocks the access of many children to school in Ghana.

The Government’s funding for education as a percentage of total expenditure has been dwindling since 2014. In 2014, the Government allocated 20.5% of its budget to education. In 2015 this declined to 17.8%, further declining in 2016 to 13.5% based on 2017 national budget expenditure outturns. Also, through its own pronouncements and policies, there are indications of an increasing preference for commercial private provision of education.

The increasing pace of privatisation of education in Ghana can be seen in the education sector statistics. Between 2001 and 2014/15, private education in terms of number of schools as a ratio to public schools has increased by three (3) times in 2001 to almost 8 times more in 2015. This trend, supported by Government, is also widening the inequality gap because richer children get better access and quality education based on their purchasing power compared to the poor. The underlying assumption is that parents will go any length to finance the education of their children if they value education, but for the majority of poor parents, this option is non-existent.

The report examined the local context by comparing data and outcomes in the rest of the country to certain localities. It also examined disaggregated information on costs associated with both public and private education, budget tracking, school deficiencies and improvement plans, etc.

The study found that 18% of 150 respondents interviewed in the surveyed localities had a child out of school due to financial difficulties. This seems to confirm a high dropout rate considering the very low completion rate of 67.94% at the basic level and even worse at the Senior High Schools (SHS).

Although poor parents value education as much as rich parents, it is obvious that rich parents have a better choice to education in Ghana. However, a truly free and compulsory education policy should enable more poor people to have access and a better choice to education.

The perception of parents in the communities surveyed was that management is poor in public schools due to a lack of supervision. This is why private schools have been preferred even by some poor parents although they charge higher fees.

Gender discrimination did not feature as a major problem for many parents in the communities interviewed but girls and boys could get equal opportunities if their families can afford. This means girls are those that lose out when it comes to making a choice with the family’s scarce resources. In particular, large household sizes were noted as a hindrance to most families’ access to education, and this affects the female child more when family resources are stretched.

The report also examined national data on education financing and outcomes. It also considered educational financing possibilities through domestic resource mobilisation, especially progressive taxation and the abolishment of harmful tax incentives. The tax system and the national budget, especially Tax-to-GDP ratios and tax incentives were examined to see the possibility of tax savings to provide extra financing for education.

Taxation was observed as a potential area to increase government funding for education. For example, an ActionAid tax report published in 20143 estimates that Ghana loses close to $1.2 billion each year to tax incentives. If this revenue was collected and integrated into the national budget, 20% of it could be comfortably channelled to education to fund more than 600,000 extra places for children in schools or feed 6 million children annually, or employ extra 92,000 teachers. It could offer extra school places for the 319,000 children estimated to be out- of-school each year or pay for 10,000 extra teachers or provide free school meals for 557,892 children each year.

With the dramatic shift to private provision of education, government’s funding of education has been declining–from about 27.2% in 2012 to only 13.5% in 2016. This violates the ICESCR which enjoins Governments to take steps to ensure a progressively free compulsory primary education for all. Even if a State has financial difficulties, the burden of the proof that they are taking appropriate measures for the progressive realisation of this right falls on the State. The Government needs to demonstrate that it is dedicating the maximum available resources to meet the core obligation of providing free and compulsory primary education (CESCR GC11 and GC13; UNESCO, 2008).

The report recommends that:

  1. The Government promotes the Right to Free and Compulsory Universal Education as captured in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. The Government can do this if it curbs its over generous tax incentives as well as tax evasion and avoidance. This will enable government generate enough funding to provide free and quality public education for all children in Ghana.
  2. Metropolitan, Municipal and District assemblies (MMDAs) are enabled to support children of parents who cannot afford the cost of basic education.
  3. The Government, as enjoined by the 1992 Constitution and the ICESCR, creates an enabling environment for education. Parents and Teacher Associations, and School Management Committees should be supported to report any deficiencies and be provided with the necessary resources to contribute to the provision of quality education.
  4. Government reconsiders its education privatisation policy as the increasing role of private providers of education is exacerbating segregation and social and economic discrimination.
  5. Government ensures the operationalisation of the teacher qualification and licensing framework based on standards and requirements set by the National Teachers Council.
  6. Awareness and sensitisation workshops are regularly undertaken to help eliminate all forms of violence in schools. More female teachers should be employed in schools where they are the minority and;
  7. Girls clubs should be promoted so girls can discuss these issues and become more empowered. Pupils must be encouraged to identify and denounce abuses or violations of their rights in schools.
  8. Education is made more relevant to the needs of children and the country. This requires regular reviews of the school curriculum and school facilities to meet the needs of all children, including children with special needs or disabilities and implement to the letter, the Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) to ensure that disabled children are not unduly discriminated against.
  9. Student leadership systems are strengthened and extra school curricular activities used as avenues to encourage students’ participation in the governance of schools. This can help bridge the gap in school authority-student relationship and participatory decision making in schools.
  10. Civil society and NGO groups help to strengthen the voices of school management authorities and parents through an impartial media to play a critical role in dissecting bad and good policies in the education sector.
  11. Pupil/Student-to-teacher ratios, desk-to-pupil/Student ratios, textbook-to-pupil/student ratios be improved in the education system to enhance quality learning in schools.
  12. Ghana Statistical Service conducts regular national education expenditure tracking surveys to help monitor actual expenditure per capital and the extent of reach of resources to targeted beneficiaries.
  13. The Ghana Education Service considers reducing the number of out-of-classroom teachers to increase teacher availability and reduce absenteeism in the basic education sector.