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Lessons from Ghana: A cost-effective way to train teachers

Kabira Namit's picture
Morning class in Kwame, Ghana © Global Partnership for Education
Nearly 8,000 young teachers from disadvantaged districts in Ghana were selected to receive the training designed to upgrade their skills. (Photo: Global Partnership for Education)

With inputs from Deborah Mikesell, Peter Darvas and Natasha Somji

In 2012, Ghana faced a daunting challenge. There was a wide disparity in the percentage of trained teachers and in learning outcomes, between the economically and educationally disadvantaged districts of Northern Ghana and the relatively more affluent non-disadvantaged districts further south. More than half the teachers in the disadvantaged districts were untrained and the Ministry of Education was growing increasingly concerned about the impact of this gap in teaching quality on students’ learning outcomes and life prospects.

Fortunately, at that time, Ghana was in the process of receiving a grant from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to improve basic education in the country, with The World Bank serving as the grant agency. The Ministry of Education decided to channel part of these resources into a teacher training program of their own design, which had recently been rolled-out in Northern Ghana.
Nearly 8,000 young teachers from disadvantaged districts were selected to receive training. Since they had been teaching in these districts for several years, they had roots within the communities. Trainings took place during the holiday season (summer break, Easter and Christmas) and through distance learning.
By keeping to this timetable, the Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) training program kept teachers teaching in their schools while simultaneously upgrading their skills. The training was conducted using the same curriculum as the three-year pre-service program (known as Diploma in Basic Education or DBE) but took place over a four-year period.
Four years later, how do the teachers compare?
Following the training, an impact evaluation found that teachers trained under the project and under the traditional pre-service program had comparable skillsets. About 400 of the UTDBE trainees and 185 of the pre-service training graduates were observed in a classroom setting and graded on lesson planning and preparation, classroom methodology and delivery, and class management and organization. The UTDBE trainees showed average scores similar to the pre-service training teachers.
UTDBE was more cost-effective than pre-service training. The cost to the government of providing training for one teacher under UTDBE was $2,130 compared to $3,409 under the pre-service training model. This means that training a student using the conventional mode of training is 60 percent more expensive than UTDBE. Thus, the UTDBE program proved to be more cost-effective while training teachers to achieve the same skills and certification at similar levels of attrition. 
Training UTDBE teachers has increased the percentage of trained teachers among students  in disadvantaged districts, increasing the opportunities for students to receive individual attention from qualified teachers. As the table below shows, while the proportion of trained teachers has increased nationwide during the duration of the project, the increase in disadvantaged districts has outpaced that of non-disadvantaged districts across all levels of basic education.

Improvements in percentage of trained teachers and Pupil Trained Teacher Ratios (PTTR) in Ghanaian public schools (2012 – 2016) (Source: Ghana’s Education Census (2015 – 16) and authors' estimates from the final number of successful UTDBE graduates)

The convergence in the percentage of trained teachers between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged districts is likely to remain persistent. Most UTDBE teachers had been teaching in disadvantaged districts for several years prior to being selected for the program and are willing to continue in the communities in which they teach. As an additional safeguard, UTDBE teachers are bonded to stay within the same school in disadvantaged areas for at least another two years after the successful completion of their training.


A note of caution: It is too early to assess if the skills gained by the UTDBE teachers will be sustained over time and whether the improved quality of teaching will increase learning outcomes in Northern Ghana. As the table above shows, though disadvantaged districts have shown improvements in completion rates, improvements in non-disadvantaged districts outpaced disadvantaged districts in primary completion rates and transition rates. A longer-term evaluation may be necessary to see if the skills are retained by the UTDBE teachers and whether non-disadvantaged districts show an additional improvement in learning outcomes that may be attributable to the improved quality of teaching.
More evidence on the efficacy of this program from other countries may help spread this Ghanaian innovation and make teacher training more cost-effective, while ensuring that teachers continue teaching while they study.
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Submitted by Innocent on

Very informative results and worthwhile intervention. Thanks Deborah,Peter and Natasha for sharing.

Submitted by Sarah on

Thank you for providing this data. It makes so much sense intuitively to keep teachers in their school and learn while doing, but the lack of a rigorous evidence base prevents more programs from doing this. Several years ago the World Bank was going to implement a similar impact study of a blended (ODL) pre-service training program for teachers in Malawi. Was that study ever completed and are the results available?

Submitted by Kabira Namit (author) on

Dear Sarah, many thanks for your comments. I will check with our Malawi colleagues and get back to you. I share your concern that the lack of measured successes through impact assessments prevent more countries from taking up such programs.

The Ministry of Education in Liberia is currently in the process of designing an in-service teacher training program that mirrors Ghana's UTDBE and we hope to conduct a rigorous assessment of its implementation.

Submitted by Nicole goldstein. on

Great to see the write up of this program. Please don't forget that DFID financed the curricular reform for this before it was adopted under the GPE program. Also the invaluable partnership with TED and Mr Asare enabled us all to colllaborate in supporting these teachers. I have two questions which were pertinent at the time and wonder how far the policy conversations have advanced: have these results been able to influence the 28 colleges of education to change the trainee program and secondly, what about using this type of approach for KG teachers for which there is a dearth.

Submitted by Dominic Bond on

Hi Nicole - I agree a 'UTDKG' would be a great initiative and I am sure there would be lots of pertinent lessons from this study for a UTDKG.
There is now increasing activity in the in-service KG training arena, with the new TED-UNICEF training modules, work undertaken by NNTTC & IPA in Accra (, Lively Minds' work with KG teachers and mother-volunteers in the Northern & Upper-East region, as well as some activities being piloted by Sabre Trust in the Western Region in response to the Mass Participation Training conceptualised in the GES KG Operational Plan.

Submitted by Kabira Namit (author) on

Dear Nicole,

It’s nice to hear from you! It’s been a while! Without question, the contribution of DFID and TED have contributed to the overall success of the program.

In response to your queries, we are currently in discussion with MoE, TED and the colleges of education regarding the future of UTDBE. Also, teachers at the KG level received training under GPEG. The percentage of trained teachers at the KG level rose from 34 percent to 65 percent in the disadvantaged districts from baseline to endline.

Submitted by Merilyn Winslade on

It will be very interesting to see if teachers retain the skills over time. I'm also wondering about the quality of the training itself. What type of methodologies are teachers being trained in? It is great that more teachers are being trained but the effectiveness of student learning will be related to the quality of the teacher training given.

Submitted by Kabira Namit (author) on

Dear Merilyn,

Thank you for your comments. Yes, I agree that student outcomes will depend on the quality of teacher training. The UTDBE program followed the same curriculum as Ghana’s prevailing pre-service teacher training program taught at the colleges of education. More details on the curriculum can be found in the impact evaluation report referred to in the blog. Revision of the curriculum was beyond the scope of the project.

Submitted by NMC on

Thanks for posting such a informative content.
I honestly find it shocking that education is not THE international development priority. Especially, when you consider just how much impact education aid can have for humanity as a whole. i wanted to understand why we give so much attention to some humanitarian crises, while neglecting global education.

Submitted by Hanne on

Very promising results from this initiative! Could you share a bit more on how the teachers were selected, and on the basis of which criteria? For example, did they need to have a certain level of secondary education results (e.g. O-levels). This is the case in many Southern African countries, where student teachers need to have 5 O-levels, including maths, to enrol for a diploma course. Many untrained teachers do not have these.

Submitted by Kabira Namit (author) on

Dear Hanne,

Many thanks for your question. In order to be selected for training, the teacher needed to be:

1. on the government payroll
2. teaching at a Ghanaian public school
3. not more than fifty years of age as of September 1, 2012 (we were worried that older teachers would retire at the end of their four-year training and students wouldn’t be able to benefit from the investment)
4. Possess any of the following academic qualifications -
• Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) - at least a pass in 4 subjects including English and Mathematics
• West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) - at least a pass in English and Mathematics and any other 2 subjects
• GCE ‘O’ Level - at least a pass in English and Mathematics and any other 2 subjects
• GCE ‘A’ Level
• City and Guilds

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