May 2, 2022

The Role of Education Reform in Ghana with Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh (video)

The former Minister for Education of Ghana shares his experience tackling issues in the country's education sector and how policy reform within it is paving the way for human flourishing.

By Templeton Staff with Luana DeBorst

This recording is a special guest seminar in a series of public seminars given by scholars lecturing at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford as part of the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) supported project, Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times (EPHF). EPHF explores new understandings of education, purpose, and human flourishing through annual convenes and publications.

In this video, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh points to specific policy initiatives and changes with the implementation of the Free Senior High School program, which he links to improvements in learning outcomes and higher retention rates across the board in Ghana. 


Dr. Prempeh begins by laying out the context under which he came to office as the Education Minister in 2016. He points out that:

  • Typically education ministers stay in office for only 2 years, turning education into a “football match”, given that policy changes so continuously and therefore achieves very little of significance.
  • This ad hoc decision-making and lack of accountability or agency were all contributing factors in the country's poor learning outcomes. (In PISA 2015, Ghana ranked last in the world). 

When he entered office in 2016 under the slogan “creating prosperity and equal opportunity for all”, Dr. Prempeh attempted to tackle these issues. 


The policy reform Dr. Prempeh and his team set out proposed a systems approach to improving learning outcomes. It focused on five key areas: 1) high-quality teachers; 2) quality teaching resources; 3) objectives-based curriculum and assessment, 4) effective school leadership (through leadership training); and 5) Technical Vocational Training Reform.

Free SHS 

Dr. Prempeh points to the Free Senior High School (Free SHS) initiative as one of great success during his ministry. The program, which gave free access to secondary boarding schools to students who passed the entrance examinations, expanded access to schooling across the country. Initially, Dr. Prempeh admits, there was a lack of sufficient infrastructure to absorb the high influx of students when Free SHS was first implemented. To address this, a double-track system of two admission rounds run every year was implemented to increase absorption capacity. 


Dr. Prempeh suggests that the initiative ultimately expanded access to education across the board, and pointed to other educational improvements including:

  • Integration and socialization as students are placed in boarding schools around the country
  • Gender parity (reduced previously high - 40% - dropout rates for women in high school)
  • Improved capacity in regions of the country that could not previously support large numbers of students
  • Higher learning outcomes as indicated by international examinations

Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, (former Education Minister) is currently the Minister for Energy and Member of Parliament (MP) for the Manhyia South constituency in the Ashanti Region. A doctor by training—he obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Human Biology and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MB,ChB) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST); an M.Sc in Clinical Epidemiology in 1998 at the Erasmus University in The Netherlands; and becoming a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow—Dr. Prempeh returned to Ghana to pursue a career in business and politics. He is also a Harvard Scholar and an alumnus of the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program.

Dr. David Johnson, Junior Proctor, University of Oxford, Reader in Comparative and International Education, and Fiona Gatty, DPhil., Research Project Coordinator and TWCF Fellow in Comparative Education, are Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator of the EPHF ProjectLuana DeBorst, Research Assistant, University of Oxford, assists with the project.