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No, Ghana not removing English as language of instruction in schools

Is Ghana preparing to “eliminate English as medium of instruction in schools”?

According to a widely commented on and shared Facebook post from 31 August 2020, Ghana’s minister of education has announced just that.

We investigated whether this big change is planned for the Ghanaian education system.



Minister of education … until 2017


The Facebook post is copied word for word from a 2016 article in the Amsterdam News, a newspaper based in News York, USA. This raises questions about how recent the information in the post could be. 

The post, like the article, quotes “Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, the country’s minister of education”. According to Opoku-Agyemang’s CV, available on her website, she was minister of education from 2013 to 2017.

She is currently the running mate of former Ghanaian president John Mahama, who is seeking re-election in December 2020. She is also chair of the Forum for African Women Educationalists, among other roles.

During her time as minister of education, Opoku-Agyemang did not remove English as the official language of instruction. But she did speak about the subject publically. 

English-only instruction ‘draws children back’, said minister


The Facebook post claims that Opoku-Agyemang “announced the news” about a change to Ghana’s language of instruction “at the Shared Prosperity on Forum”.

The University of Ghana hosted a Shared Prosperity Forum panel in 2015. Opoku-Agyemang spoke after Jim Yong Kim, then president of the World Bank, recounted how his native South Korea had tackled poverty. 

The then-minister said: “Nothing stopped Korea from using their language.”

She went on to say “because we are teaching our children in a language they can’t even follow, we are drawing them back”, and promised to push through a language policy in Ghana to change this.

But she didn’t implement it. 

In 2019, education news periodical World Education News and Reviews reported that in Ghana English was “the formal language of instruction at all levels of education, although indigenous languages are also used in elementary school, depending on the region”.

Changes afoot, not official


There is nothing in Mahama’s election manifesto to suggest that changing Ghana’s official language of instruction is among his or Opoku-Agyemang’s policy goals. 

But in 2020, a group of researchers noted: “[Ghana] is implementing a policy to promote teaching pupils in kindergarten through primary grade 3 to read and write in their local language – one of 11 selected Ghanaian languages – while introducing them to spoken English, and by grade 2, to written English.”

Estimates of how many languages are spoken in Ghana range from 46, to 80, to over 100

But the official language of instruction in Ghana’s schools as of 2020 is still English. – Keegan Leech




 

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