Play-based teaching improves early childhood education in Ghana

By supporting teachers to adopt play-based teaching methods endorsed by the government, Sabre Education is enriching children's school experiences and creating a learning landscape that nurtures the full potential of every child in Ghana.

August 30, 2023 by Tony Dogbe, Sabre Education
4 minutes read
Sabre Education staff welcome Ghana's Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, to Aburi Presby 'B' Kindergarten, a Sabre-supported school in Akuapim South, Eastern Region.
Sabre Education staff welcome Ghana's Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, to Aburi Presby 'B' Kindergarten, a Sabre-supported school in Akuapim South, Eastern Region.
Credit: Sabre Education

This is the 3rd blog in our series showcasing the winners of the African Union ‘Innovating Education in Africa’ program.

The first five years of a child’s life are crucial for development, with 90% of brain development taking place during this period (TheirWorld, 2017). Hands-on education in these early years through playful activities in classrooms has been shown to improve children’s learning outcomes, and yet most kindergarten (KG) teachers in Ghana have not been trained to teach in this way.

Sabre Education is committed to supporting Ghana to achieve SDG 4.2—universal access to quality early childhood education—and has a 19-year successful track record of promoting early childhood education (ECE) by supporting teachers to adopt play-based teaching methods endorsed by the government.

Our approach focuses on three key areas:

  1. Influencing ECE policy and practice.
  2. Training teachers and school officials in quality ECE practices.
  3. Transforming learning environments to facilitate positive play-based learning.

Sabre’s scalable play-based teacher training has had significant impact, with 4,655 teachers, headteachers and student teachers directly reached so far.

Sabre projects are estimated to positively affect the lives of over 288,500 children in just 5 years.

In July 2023, the Ghanaian Ministry of Education officially launched its new play-based kindergarten teacher training content developed in collaboration with Sabre and partners. The play-based approach signifies a move away from rote repetition towards a more child-centred pedagogy that promotes children’s critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity.

Once scaled nationally, this teaching innovation will change the face of KG education for over 60,000 teachers and 1.6 million kindergarten children in public and private schools across Ghana.

Sabre’s approach to changing ECE practice stems from the education context and challenges faced in Ghana. In 2007, Ghana was one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce two years of compulsory kindergarten education, and by 2012, Ghana had achieved a gross enrolment rate of 99.4%. This reflected the government’s commitment to improving access to early education.

However, for a number of reasons, equivalent gains were not made in the quality of education children receive, as reported by the Ghanaian Ministry of Education (Educational Management Information System (EMIS), 2018/2019):

  • Learning materials are in short supply, with one workbook for every six children.
  • KG classrooms are often overcrowded, with an average of 52 students per class.
  • 4,197 Ghanaian kindergarten classrooms were identified as in need of major repair.
  • Learning also largely remains rote-based, with minimal play-based activities and minimal teacher training in play-based learning.

Shifting pedagogic practice: A train-the-trainer model

Sabre uses a sustainable, ‘train-the-trainer’ model in partnership with government which involves coaching a group of trainers from the Ghana Education Service who then deliver multi-day training workshops to teachers, headteachers and other Ghana Education Service officers at the district level.

Teachers learn how to implement the play-based KG curriculum, while headteachers and Ghana Education Service officers are supported to sustain quality teaching practice in KG schools through mentoring, coaching and assessment.

At the national level, approximately 90 Master Trainers have also received these train-the-trainer workshops alongside partners Right To Play and Innovations for Poverty Action. These new national trainers are now certified by the Ghana Education Service to deliver play-based teacher training anywhere across the country.

Sabre also works to improve the quality of teaching in the pre-service sector by working with five tertiary institutions to date, including the University of Education, Winneba, which deliver the Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Education. Sabre supports these institutions by strengthening their students’ practicum placement experience in nearby schools.

These enhanced learning environments are called ‘Model Practice Classrooms’, and Sabre has established over 400 such classrooms to date.

In addition, Sabre has supported the creation of two demonstration KG classrooms, as well as three ECE Resource Centers in five colleges of education across Ghana. These provide a space where the next generation of teachers are able to practice their new teaching skills and learn to create innovative and engaging resources for play-based learning.

Sustaining government partnerships

Since 2013, Sabre has provided technical assistance to government in the piloting, testing and replication of nationwide programs and tools. One example is an assessment tool, the Teacher Monitoring Checklist.

In the area of strengthening play-based classroom environments, Sabre has built 19 cutting-edge, sustainable kindergarten schools in Ghana, and is currently collaborating with the Ministry of Education to co-design a scalable KG school design template for national use.

Sabre is also supporting a number of schools to make low-cost, high-impact renovations to existing classroom infrastructures to better enable quality play-based learning.

Being shortlisted for the AU Innovation Expo prize in 2022 has been a great honor and boosted Sabre's recognition and confidence to scale its work as well as leverage impactful partnerships with the Ghanaian government and non-governmental organizations, both national and international.

Over the next 12 months, Sabre Education will continue to support Ghana’s Ministry of Education in developing a cost-effective, evidence-based national scaling plan for in-service KG teacher training. This will ensure that the play-based methodology forms the foundation of learning across all KG classrooms in Ghana.

Ghana’s kindergarten teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the lives of the country’s children, laying the groundwork for their educational journey. By empowering educators, Sabre Education aims to enrich Ghanaian children's school experiences and to create a learning landscape that nurtures the full potential of every child.


Read other blogs in this series

Sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana

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