Education Project Topics

A Critical Evaluation of the Problem of Teachers Shortage in Ghana Primary Schools





The difficulty of finding adequate numbers of trained teachers to staff school classrooms is one of the most serious public policy concerns facing many countries. In the United States of America, it has become the practice of many states to declare teaching vacancies in counties every year by subject area, grade level, and geographical location. The scenario does not seem different in the United Kingdom, where it is claimed that the nation faces an uphill fight to fill all classes with trained instructors (Eurydice, 2002). (Eurydice, 2002). Generally, among member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), quantitative shortages of teachers are observed (OECD, 2005). (OECD, 2005). In the western world, then, the lack of teachers seems to be a matter of concern and inquiry on an ongoing basis.

Turning to the African continent, Nilsson (2003) reviewed different national reports submitted for the 2000 World Education Forum in Dakar, and found that many African countries suffer from major shortages of teachers, which hampers their efforts to attain universal primary education. He stated that to achieve EFA by 2015, African countries would need between an 18 percent (Angola) and an 84 percent (Malawi) increase in their current teacher supply, noting that the majority of primary teachers in most countries are unqualified according to the national requirements. In some countries, the lack of qualified and experienced teachers is due to the high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS: the number of primary teachers that died in 2000 in Zambia was equivalent to 45 percent of all teachers who were educated that year, and in Malawi, 30 percent of teachers were infected (World Bank, 2002). (World Bank, 2002). In Nigeria, Ladebo (2005) claims that elementary teachers quit the profession early due to bad working circumstances and the desire for upward mobility. According to him, the problem has reached such a degree that “maintaining appropriate levels of staffing and retention have been identified as significant areas of policy intervention for the primary education system in Nigeria” (Ladebo, 2005, p. 356). (Ladebo, 2005, p. 356).

The aforementioned foreign experiences are no less obvious in the Ghanaian context, where Cobbold (2010) connects the problem of teacher shortages to the history of educational growth in the country. In this context, Cobbold’s examination of occurrences in certain important eras of the nation’s history might assist in illuminating the situation. First is the time period beginning in the 1970s until the early 1980s. This was a trying period during which the country experienced a deteriorating economic climate caused by mismanagement of the domestic economy and external factors, including sharp increases in world petroleum prices and a sustained fall in the prices of the country’s major exports – cocoa, timber, and gold. As a result, the actual value of government spending on education decreased dramatically from 6.4 percent of GDP in 1976 to 1.4 percent by 1983. Consequently, teachers’ salaries remained low and were not paid quickly (Nti, 1997; World Bank, 1996). (Nti, 1997; World Bank, 1996). Many teachers left the profession to seek greener pastures in other countries, especially Nigeria, with the result that the percentage of teachers in first cycle schools dropped from 67.95 percent in 1978 to 59.49 percent in 1984. Those who left had to be replaced by untrained teachers, whose proportion in the teacher workforce also rose from 32.05 percent to 40.51 percent in the same period (Pecku, 1998). (Pecku, 1998). It was estimated that in the early 1980s, untrained teachers, as a fraction of the total, represented 51 percent of primary and 25 percent of middle school teachers (Coclough & Lewin, 1993). (Coclough & Lewin, 1993).

Another critical period was the time of the new education reform, which began in 1987. The reform brought a restructuring of the entire pre-tertiary education system into primary (Year 1-6), junior secondary (Year 7-9) and senior secondary (Year 10-12). (Year 10-12). The primary and junior secondary levels were designated Basic Education, which was supposed to be free and compulsory. Pecku (1998, p. 46) describes the nature of the problem which confronted the Ministry of Education at the time the new reform was launched:


The number of qualified teachers was inadequate, but the number of junior secondary schools had increased. The seriousness of the situation becomes clearer when one realises that the first three years of the secondary system, which had been transferred to the basic system, required a higher level of teaching than the middle schools. Worse still, the syllabuses were different from what the professors were used to. There were also concerns about the academic capability of the teachers themselves.

The problem that faced the National Planning Committee for the Implementation of the Reform was how to acquire enough instructors who possessed the depth of knowledge and pedagogical skills demanded by the new curriculum.

About a decade and a half after implementing the 1987 reform, a nationwide study was conducted as part of attempts to address “the challenge of making accessible an appropriate number of qualified teachers for teaching in schools” (Quansah, 2003, p. 1).  The research revealed an anticipated deficit of 40,000 certified instructors in the country’s public basic school system, with untrained teachers filling 24,000 of the openings. The government’s response to this discovery was the creation of a teacher preparation programme through distance. Dubbed “Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education” (UTDBE), the curriculum targeted untrained basic school teachers who studied via distance utilizing modules, with occasional face-to-face contacts with instructors to gain professional qualification for teaching in basic schools.

But the problem of inadequate teachers was not completely solved when another reform was launched. The 2007 reform renamed the junior secondary and senior secondary schools junior high school (JHS) and senior high school (SHS) accordingly, with the duration of the latter being four years. More major changes undertaken at the basic level include the official absorption of kindergarten education into the mainstream school system, the introduction of new courses, and incentives to sustain the free and obligatory nature of basic school. These incentives included the payment of capitation grants to schools for the provision of instructional resources, the introduction of a school feeding programme in remote and deprived schools, and the supply of school uniforms to such schools. The result of these new policies has been a massive increase in pupil enrolments, which requires a corresponding increase in teacher numbers.

In the midst of the crisis is a “revolving door” (Ingersoll, 2001, 2002) in that whereas only 9,000 teachers come out of the colleges of education every year, about 10,000 teachers also leave the classroom for various reasons, and many more intend to leave teaching before they retire (GNAT/TEWU, 2010). The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that after graduating from college and teaching for only three years, many basic school teachers take advantage of the study leave with pay facility offered by the GES and upgrade their certificate qualifications to diploma and degree levels at universities through full-time study on full salary. Unfortunately, the majority (about 70 percent) of such teachers do not return to the classroom after their studies (Cobbold, 2010; Sam, Effah & Osei-Owusu, 2014).

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Successive governments have put in place various interventions, consisting mainly of recruiting and training more teachers through traditional (residential college and university training) and non-traditional (distance and sandwich courses) (distance and sandwich courses). Up to the present, the need for professionally trained teachers has never been met by these interventions. Policy makers are still struggling to understand the nature of the country’s teacher shortages. The issue commonly raised is, “Should we continue to create more and more educated teachers or is something else needed to shore up the teaching workforce?” Educators have learnt that boosting teacher supply is a necessary, but not sufficient, prerequisite for meeting our teacher labor requirements. It must also be noted that teacher shortages are less a function of how many teachers are produced than of how many are lost each year through turnover and early attrition, thus suggesting a focus on retention. Cobbold’s (2010) qualitative analysis of teacher retention policies in Ghana found commendable objectives behind the regulations but inadequate execution techniques. These lessons of experience suggest a shift from emphasis on recruitment and retention to something else.

This article intends to contribute to the quest for answers to the teacher shortage situation in Ghana. The article takes the position that before education policy makers consider whether to recruit additional teachers or retain existing teachers, it is vital that they properly comprehend the complicated nature of the problem of teacher shortages. The study, therefore, seeks to elucidate the phenomenon of teacher shortages by disentangling and explicating their constituent factors. The goal is to create a framework for assessing the problem of teacher shortages in a more critical approach so that any solutions will be more focused and targeted. The article begins by characterising ‘teacher shortage’ through a definition-what a teacher shortage is, the many forms it adopts, how it is connected to teacher demand and supply, and how it is measured. Finally, the paper discusses some policy options for addressing teacher shortages, pointing out their implications for teaching quality and teacher status.


Education is one of the main instruments in most developing countries. Currently, there is a growth in secondary school education in which many community secondary schools are still created at ward levels in order to accommodate the huge number of standard seven leavers who pass the Primary Schools leaving test.

Effective execution of the school curriculum depends on a number of elements, such as the teaching and learning facilities, teachers and the teaching and learning techniques, community support for school and the background of learners. It is stated by a number of experts that, among the above variables, instructors and teaching learning techniques are important towards the implementation of the curriculum (Babyegeya 2007; Megginson et al 2005; Darlin 1998).

The development of secondary education in Ghana through community secondary schools has fallen short of going hand in hand with the increase in the leaching force. According to the organization, a single instructor was expected to teach 24 classes of 40 minutes each week. Apart from the number of classes the instructor needs to teach, he/she should teach subjects from his/her field of expertise. Not only that, each instructor is expected to handle no more than 45 kids in a class. It is anticipated that by sticking to these proportions, the school curriculum will be properly executed.

Furthermore, in order for any secondary school to implement the planned curriculum, a number of elements need to be put in place, including the infrastructure such as classrooms and labs, teaching and learning materials, competent students and teachers (teachers and students) are basic. Under such situations of acute scarcity of teachers, one would like to explore the extent to which the execution of the secondary school curriculum is affected. Therefore, this study is very interested in investigating subjects that were not taught or partially taught, the extent to which the discipline of students in these schools was affected and how school communities were affected by the situation of students going to schools without being attended simply because teachers were not enough.


The primary objective of this study is critically evaluate the problem of teachers shortage in Ghana primary schools. Other specific objectives are:

1.        To examine the effect of scarcity of teachers on students in Ghana primary schools

2.        To investigate how the scarcity of teachers impacts interactions in primary schools in Ghana.

3.        To analyze the efficacy of the methods implemented by the school management to mitigate the impact of the teachers shortage in Ghana’s primary schools.


The following research questions guide this study:

1.        What is the effect of teacher scarcity on students in Ghana primary?

2.        How has the scarcity of teachers impacted interactions in primary schools in Ghana?

3.        How efficient are the methods implemented by the school management to mitigate the impact of the teachers shortage in Ghana’s primary schools?


The study will help education managers, government education officers, and other stakeholders to understand in-depth the effects of the teachers’ shortage on curriculum implementation in community secondary schools in Ghana. The findings will serve as a reference for educational planners and decision makers to invest more and more in teacher training and allocation of enough teachers so as to promote the provision of quality education in primary schools in Ghana. The findings will assist appropriate authorities, such as the teachers’ services. The Department which is the legal entity responsible for the welfare of teachers, identifies the best means of keeping teachers and enticing teachers to enter the profession so as to decrease the shortages of instructors. This study will further add to existing literature on this study domain and as well serve as a reference material to scholars, researchers and students who may want to carry out further research on this topic or related area in the future.


Basically, the study was carried out in Tema Municipal among the community primary schools in Tema Municipal.


The study was limited to six community primary schools out of all community primary schools, which were selected randomly. Therefore, the findings and conclusions will be generalized to other areas of Tema Municipality.


A Teacher Shortage: A teacher shortage occurs when there are not enough teachers in key subject areas, which has been partly caused by years of teacher layoffs during the Great Recession, a growing student population and fewer people entering teacher preparation programs, according to the Learning Policy Institute.



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