A study of primary teachers' views about their work in the context of the FCUBE reform in a disadvantaged district of Ghana
Despite almost 50 years of independence and millions of dollars of aid funds designed to improve education, the situation in the schools in Ghana today has major problems. Over these 50 years there has been a succession of reform efforts aimed at developing and improving the education system in the country. However, it appears that these reforms have not succeeded in achieving hoped for results, particularly in the rural and disadvantaged schools in the country. This thesis describes a study of primary teachers' views of their professional situation and, in particular, their views of a major reform effort, the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) reforms, initiated in 1996 with the goal of improving the quality of teaching and learning in schools. The research consisted of two small-scale and exploratory studies, which combined quantitative and qualitative methods. The first study was a questionnaire study of a sample of primary teachers in a predominantly rural district of Ghana, Navrongo district. The second study comprised two in-depth interview studies. These studies were complemented by the use of documentary analysis and field notes. From the data it was possible to see some differences between teachers (according to gender and age, and therefore route of teacher training) in their experiences and views of teaching. All the teachers appeared to find teaching stressful and, already over worked, they perceived additional demands created by the reforms. Although much of the literature suggests that teachers themselves should be central players in the implementation of school reform, about one third of this sample had not even heard of the FCUBE reform and of those that had there was a variety of understanding. All teachers suffered from the poor conditions and lack of infrastructure in the schools in Ghana. The data suggest that teachers' experiences and understanding of policy change in the Ghanaian context are influenced by the context in which they work, and that teachers are more likely to work better where 2 there is an approach that supports them in their continued professional development, and good systems of communication and support. The major strength of the study is that the district clearly has many unique features as an example of a disadvantaged district in Ghana, and that the local in-depth study focused on the perspectives of primary teachers from these disadvantaged schools at a time of a major educational reform in an attempt to understand their professional situation and to learn from them. The study therefore portrays 'what it is like' to be a teacher working in a disadvantaged district like Navrongo, explaining the reality on the ground and providing thick descriptions of teachers' lived experiences of, thoughts about and feeling for, their work situation at this time of policy change. The exploratory case study has, therefore, helped to develop an in-depth situated knowledge that is both unique to the particular context (i.e. primary teachers in a disadvantaged district in Ghana) but nevertheless enables some lessons to be learned which may be applied across the district as a whole and indeed the wider education system both within Ghana and in other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recommendations are made based on the findings and it is suggested that there is a clear need both for policy to be adapted to the local context and for local stakeholders such as teachers to be involved in the development and implementation of that policy.