The World Bank Public Sector Expenditure Review (PER) has shown that the high wage bill in the education sector, which has left little for capital investment, has serious implications for the quality of education in Ghana.
According to the PER report, the overall budget execution rate rose from 114.8 percent in 2014 to 119.6 percent in 2015.
The personnel spending increased from 116.6 percent of allocated resources in 2014 to 120.3 percent in 2015.
Execution for Goods and Services, on the other hand, was only 19.20 percent while execution for assets (capital expenditures) stood at zero percent in 2015.
Ms. Eunice Ackwerh, Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank, who presented the education sector findings of the report at the second day of the validation workshop on the Ghana Public Expenditure Review, said due to the implementation of the Single-Spine Salary Structure, execution of compensation for public sector workers, including teachers, had gone beyond the amounts allocated.
This, she explained, meant the excess was taken from the allocations for non-salary expenses, which constrained the ability to provide other services.
She noted that the implications of this situation were that government employed and paid teachers but did not provide the other tools and services needed to make them effective.
“It means that all the other things, other than paying salaries, such as provision of transport and fuel for supervision of teachers, will not be enough,” she said.
The study also found that for the period between 2014 and 2015, per-student spending increased significantly at the Junior and Senior High schools and the tertiary levels, while it decreased at pre-primary, primary and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) levels, with the highest increase at tertiary level and the largest decrease in TVET spending.
This trend, according to Ms Ackwerh, was worrying considering the importance of the investment in the foundational levels of education.
“This trend has important policy implications, as it reflects the regressive distribution of educational spending,” the report noted, as due to enrolment rates drops at each level, a very small share of students, mostly those from wealthy households were able to benefit from rising tertiary educations spending.
It noted that shifting resources to primary, secondary and TVET education would enhance the distributional equity of spending in education, expand access to higher levels of education for primary students and reduce systemic disparities that undermine service quality in the sector.
It also highlighted disparities in learning outcomes, especially between rural and urban areas.
Students in primary school and JHS tend to perform poorly on standardised test, especially in the poor rural districts.
Results of 2013 Early Grade Reading Assessment showed that most students in lower grade were not learning to read and lacked pre and early reading skills.
This was attributed to unequal allocation of educational resources, and qualified teachers, which drives disparities in outcomes, as confirmed by BECE result patterns, where students from Greater Accra outperformed all other regions in mathematics, integrated science and social studies. Scores were lowest in the Upper West and East Regions.
Policy options recommended included enhancing budget management to expand educational sector fiscal space, addressing the regional disparities by putting in place incentive programs and adopting stricter penalties for teachers who failed to report to their posts.
It also stressed the need for government to focus on developing TVET as a higher education option.
Ms. Ackwerh reiterated the Bank’s commitment to support government with analytical work to help improve the sector.