The COVID-19 pandemic forced educators and students worldwide to rapidly shift to distance learning. As a result, governments, school systems, and educators worked to provide continuity in learning and services accessed through schools—such as school feeding programs—while trying to reconcile persistent equity gaps in access to technology and material and social resources. To date, global educational research has largely focused on how existing disparities and the social and economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 have undermined children’s learning. Much less data exist on how teachers fared during distance learning and the return to in-person schooling.
This brief leverages an ongoing longitudinal study on children, parents, and teachers in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Researchers conducted two rounds of phone surveys with 514 primary-school teachers from public and private schools to measure the pandemic’s repercussions on both children’s education and teacher well-being. Data were collected during school closures (October 2020) and when schools reopened (mid-January 2021) after ten months of distance learning.
The COVID 19 pandemic and the associated social and economic downturn are undermining children's educational and developmental outcomes, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Leveraging an on-going longitudinal study, researchers in Ghana conducted phone surveys and other research activities to measure the pandemic’s repercussions on children’s education and broader developmental outcomes. On average, private school students and students with high socioeconomic status had higher test scores at the end of the school closure period compared with their public- school counterparts, even when controlling of their previous scores. Additionally, 72 percent of public school children missed daily lunches that are received by the Ghana School Feeding Program and 30 percent of surveyed children claimed they experienced hunger during school closures.
Education in the 21st century has taken a new dimension with emphasis on modernization and technology. Over the last few years, the Government of Ghana has aimed to improve education sector performance through its education reform programmes to strengthen service delivery and ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes and future workforce development. Improving access and quality of education in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has made these eﬀorts more challenging. The Ministry of Education has therefore aimed to identify ways to ensure education targets are achievable and sustainable through innovations and eﬀective quality control systems for better planning, accountability, teaching, and learning.
The Evidence Summit, which forms part of the National Education Week (NEW), will bring together policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to: a) share rigorous evidence that has been collected about innovative approaches to improving access to STEM education and use of digital technology in learning, in Ghana and internationally; and b) identify ways to build resilience in the education system for quality education delivery.
We partnered with the Ghanaian government to evaluate four methods of increasing achievement in schools with low average but heterogeneous student achievement. All methods focused on teaching at the learning level of the child—a remedial pull-out program with a teaching assistant, a remedial after school program with an assistant, an assistant teaching half the students, or teachers focusing on homogeneous groups of learners. Despite imperfect implementation, student learning increased across all four more so for female students, and gains persisted after the program ended. Fidelity of implementation decreased over time for the assistants but increased for the teachers.
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) shifted its data collection efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to phone surveys. The IPA Ghana office developed and operationalized new study protocols in large research projects based on experiences implementing virtual phone banks and testing protocols during piloting. While it is important to re-write questionnaires, re-train enumerators, and overhaul data quality procedures for phone surveys, establishing effective protocols for building rapport and trust are vital to ensure that phone surveys produce high-quality data.
Professional advancement often depends on subjective performance reviews, especially in developing countries where objective data on performance may not be available. But subjective reviews may be susceptible to personal biases based on characteristics like gender. To better understand this in the education sector in Ghana, researchers compared both principals’ reviews and teacher self-assessments of effectiveness to an objective measure: increases in student test scores. Female teachers were objectively more effective based on increases in student test scores. However, principals were 11 percentage points less likely to rate a female teacher as effective compared to a male teacher. These findings contribute to the evidence on gender biases in subjective assessments and related barriers faced by women in labor markets in developing countries.