Feature: Addressing The Crisis In Teaching Ghanaian Languages And French In Public Basic Schools

The education system is currently at a critical juncture, grappling with substantial challenges in the teaching and learning of Ghanaian languages and French in public basic schools.

Despite mandates requiring students to learn and be assessed in these subjects by the time they sit for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), many public primary schools face a severe shortage of qualified teachers in these areas. This situation raises serious concerns about the efficacy of the education system in equipping students with essential linguistic skills necessary for their academic and professional futures.

Numerous factors contribute to this predicament, including insufficient training programs for language teachers, inadequate incentives to attract qualified educators, and limited resources for effective language instruction. The gap between policy and implementation has resulted in students being inadequately prepared in these critical subjects, undermining their overall educational experience and proficiency.

While the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service have made concerted efforts over the years to bridge this gap, including initiatives to enhance teacher training and recruitment, the problem remains pervasive. The persistent nature of these challenges suggests a need for a more comprehensive and sustained approach to reform.

Without addressing these fundamental issues, the education system’s ability to provide a well-rounded, quality education to all students remains in question. Ensuring that every student has access to qualified language teachers is crucial for fostering linguistic competence and, by extension, enhancing national development.

 Current State of Language Education

In many public primary schools in our cities, the teaching of Ghanaian languages and French is either non-existent or grossly inadequate. The shortage of qualified teachers in these subjects is a significant contributing factor.

Many schools do not have dedicated teachers for Ghanaian languages, and the situation is even worse for French. Consequently, students receive little to no formal instruction in these languages until they reach Junior High School (JHS), which starts at Basic 7.

This compressed timeline for students to begin learning Ghanaian languages and French from Basic 7, with the expectation that they will be proficient enough to be assessed in these subjects by the time they take the BECE three years laterplaces immense pressure on both students and teachers, making it challenging to achieve the desired level of proficiency.

Challenges in Implementation:

The implementation of language education in public basic schools in our cities faces several hurdles:

Shortage of Qualified Teachers

There is a critical shortage of trained and qualified teachers for Ghanaian languages and French in Ghana. This shortage is particularly problematic because these subjects require specialized skills and a deep understanding of the language’s nuances, including grammar, pronunciation, and cultural context.

Without sufficient numbers of skilled educators, many students receive inadequate instruction, which significantly affects their performance in these subjects during the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).

The lack of qualified teachers means that even if students are willing and eager to learn, they are often not given the high-quality education they need to succeed. This shortage is exacerbated by limited incentives for teachers to specialize in these languages and by insufficient teacher training programs focused on these critical areas.

Resource Constraints

Many schools in Ghana face severe resource constraints, which significantly impact the teaching of Ghanaian languages and French. Essential teaching materials, such as textbooks, workbooks, and reference materials, are often in short supply. Furthermore, schools frequently lack audio-visual aids, which are crucial for effective language instruction as they can provide students with exposure to native speakers and proper pronunciation.

The absence of these resources makes it challenging for teachers to deliver engaging and comprehensive lessons. Additionally, inadequate infrastructure, such as poorly equipped classrooms and lack of language laboratories, further hampers the learning experience. These resource constraints create an environment where students struggle to achieve the required proficiency, ultimately affecting their overall academic performance.

Curriculum and Time Constraints

The current practice that introduces the study of Ghanaian languages and French at Basic 7, giving students only three years to learn and master these languages before taking the BECEin our citiesis a matter of prime concern. This time frame is insufficient for most students to achieve fluency, especially considering that language acquisition is a gradual process that ideally begins at a much earlier age.

The curriculum is often too condensed, trying to cover extensive material in a short period, which can overwhelm students. Additionally, students might not have had any prior exposure to these languages before Basic 7, making the learning curve even steeper. Without a solid foundation built over several years, many students struggle to grasp the complexities of these languages, leading to poor performance in examinations.

Variability in Home Language Use

Students in Ghana come from diverse linguistic backgrounds, which poses significant challenges in language education. Some students may speak a Ghanaian language at home, providing them with a certain level of familiarity and proficiency that can aid their learning process.

In contrast, others might not have any exposure to these languages outside the classroom, making it much harder for them to keep up with their peers. This variability means that teachers must address a wide range of proficiency levels within the same classroom, which can be incredibly challenging.

Tailoring lessons to meet the needs of all students is difficult, and those who are less familiar with the language often fall behind. This disparity in home language use creates an uneven playing field, complicating efforts to ensure all students achieve a satisfactory level of proficiency in these subjects.

Practicality of the Current Approach

The expectation that students can achieve proficiency in Ghanaian languages and French within three years is impractical for several reasons:

  • Language Acquisition Time: Language learning is a gradual process that requires time and consistent practice. Expecting students to become proficient in three years, starting from Basic 7, underestimates the time needed for language acquisition.
  • Prior Exposure: Many students have little to no prior exposure to these languages before Basic 7. Without a foundational understanding, jumping into language learning at this stage can be overwhelming and ineffective.
  • Educational Outcomes: The rushed approach often results in poor educational outcomes, with students failing to achieve the required proficiency levels, which negatively impacts their overall BECE performance.

Recommendations for Improvement

To address these challenges and enhance the teaching and learning of Ghanaian languages and French in public basic schools, several steps can be taken:

  1. Early Introduction of Languages: Introduce Ghanaian languages and French at the lower primary level, ensuring students have a longer period to develop proficiency. Starting language education early, ideally from Basic 1, allows for gradual and more effective learning.
  2. Recruitment and Training of Teachers: Invest in the recruitment and training of qualified teachers for these subjects. Establishing specialized training programs and offering incentives to attract and retain teachers in under served areas can help bridge the gap.
  3. Provision of Resources: Ensure that schools are equipped with the necessary teaching materials, including textbooks, audio-visual aids, and other resources. This support is crucial for effective language instruction.
  4. Curriculum Development: Revise the curriculum to incorporate continuous and progressive language learning throughout the basic education cycle. This approach allows for incremental learning, reinforcing language skills over a longer period.
  5. Parental and Community Involvement: Engage parents and the community in supporting language learning. Encouraging the use of Ghanaian languages at home and in the community can reinforce what is taught in schools.
  6. Monitoring and Evaluation: Implement a robust system for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of language instruction. Regular assessments and feedback mechanisms can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that educational standards are met.


The current state of language education in Ghana’s public basic schools especially in the cities highlights a critical need for reform. The shortage of qualified teachers, insufficient resources, and impractical curriculum timelines hinder students’ ability to learn and master Ghanaian languages and French effectively.

By introducing these languages earlier in the education cycle, investing in teacher training, providing adequate resources, and involving the community, we can create a more conducive environment for language learning. These steps will not only improve students’ proficiency and performance in the BECE but also enrich their cultural and linguistic heritage, fostering a more inclusive and educated society.

By Wisdom Koudjo Klu, Educationist/Columnist



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