Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 31, November 2002 


Publishing for secondary education in Ghana: a policy review*

Kwasi Darko-Ampem
Kwasi Darko-Ampem is Senior Librarian at the University of Botswana, PO Box 70312, Gaborone, Botswana. +267 3554235(tel), +267 357291(fax), email:

The main theme of this paper is the new government of Ghana policy aimed at private sector participation in the growth and development of the country, and the recent announcement that the Ministry of Education (MoE) has ceased to publish textbooks, leaving this to the publishing industry. The context of this change and its effect on the local publishing scene are discussed. The paper recommends a holistic approach to the development of the local publishing industry beyond the provision of school textbooks.

Book publishing policy

Pernille Askerud defines a national book policy as ‘a coherent set of regulations and development indicators formulated and supported by a national authority to govern the development, printing and dissemination of books and other printed materials with the aim of promoting a culture of reading’.1 By implication, the highest authority in the country must support the formulation of a book policy in order for the policy to gain national recognition and acceptance. In another sense, a national book policy is a plan or course of action directed at a sound approach towards the development of books and the promotion of a healthy national book industry.

A national book policy therefore helps to define the confines within which book development can take place, and should be able to address such areas as language and educational policies, access to books by all segments of the society, and provide the framework for the creation, production, distribution and promotion of books of all categories. A national book policy aims at removing the constraints which impede the development of endogenous authorship and publishing, especially in national languages; identifying book gaps in the country and stating intentions in this regard; and developing a strong library network.

Publishing in Ghana

State involvement in publishing in Ghana followed the activities of European missionaries and traders and the colonial government. A key element in the development of publishing in post-independence Ghana includes the Free Textbook Scheme passed by the Government in 1961 which attempted to supply every school pupil with basic textbooks. This policy, however, eroded any book-buying culture that was left with Ghanaians after independence, resulting in the near collapse of bookshops.2 The cumulative effect of the 1951 Accelerated Development Plan of Education and the Government Free Textbook Scheme was publishing responsibilities, which could not be carried out by the missionary presses and the Government printer. Hence, in 1965, the Ghana Publishing Corporation (GPC) was established with the objective of publishing educational and scholarly works, while promoting and interpreting Ghanaian culture.

Writing on the GPC, Brown argued that ‘the picture in Ghana before 1965 showed an entire absence of foreign or indigenous publishing houses, and a heavy dependence on the importation of books and educational materials’.3 The GPC is reputed to be one of the largest state publishing enterprises in Africa, comprising publishing, printing and distribution divisions. By 1973 it had published 119 titles out of the 298 manuscripts it had received since 1968. While some commentators saw the establishment of the GPC as stifling the local publishing industry, Cabutey-Adodoadji saw it had many great benefits and that ‘it opened up avenues for indigenous publishers through training opportunities and contacts with foreign publishing companies’.4 Brown admitted, however, that most agreements with foreign companies were skewed in favour of the latter and that the local press house was always worse off.5

Most of the local publishing houses, if not all, evolved around seasoned author-publishers and former personnel of multinational publishing firms. Among them were Anowuo and Moxon, which folded after a brief success. Well-established local firms include Afram, Sedco, Halco’s Educational Press, Adwinsa, and Illen, all of which have been in business for more than 15 years. Both Educational Press and Sedco won the coveted Noma Award for African publishing in 1981 and 1983 respectively.

The Ghana Book Publishers Association (GBPA), founded in 1976, was strengthened in 1991 with institutional support from CODE (the Canadian Organization for Development through Education). Today it has 56 members. Among its successes are the negotiated waiver of 15 per cent sales tax on imported printing goods, and the participation of its members in a programme for the publication of post-literacy materials in 15 local languages co-ordinated by the Non-Formal Education Division of the Ministry of Education and funded by the World Bank. It has also negotiated the printing of about 40 titles of senior secondary school textbooks, and the purchase of books by The Ghana Book Trust (a CODE-funded NGO) from its registered members for distribution to district libraries.

The continued involvement of the Curriculum Research and Development Division of the Ministry of Education in the writing of school textbooks is a bone of contention between the GBPA and the Ministry. The simple reason is that government involvement in book publishing stifles the local publishing industry and reduces its professionalism. The country does not have an official book policy, even though the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC) and the GBPA are reviving attempts to establish one.

Hasan reported that, after co-organizing two successful workshops just after its establishment in 1977, the GBDC initiated the process for the establishment of the book industry degree course at the University of Science & Technology, Kumasi.6 The course has been running since October 1984.

The context of the new policy

A recent report on the standard of education at basic school level emphasizes the link between publishing and education. Serious concerns have been raised over the written and spoken English of students who leave the junior and senior secondary schools in Ghana. Tracing the cause to primary level, the Ministry of Education decided in 1998 to purchase supplementary readers for all primary schools in the country. Some four million books were bought, including one million local language books. Sixty per cent of these books came from foreign publishers and 40 per cent from local publishers. Although this ratio is a significant improvement on past purchases, it shows that publishing is still dominated by foreign commercial publishers, and there is room for growth in the local industry.

Since textbooks and other instruction materials have direct impact on what is taught in schools and how it is taught, curriculum development and curriculum materials are sensitive matters which are of great political importance. This is why the book sector in industrialized countries receives both direct and indirect subsidies. There is always a need for a mechanism to review and control the quality of learning materials with regard to relevance, content, educational approach and efficacy, as well as to ensure that the provision of learning materials reflects government policies. Textbooks form the largest single market in any developing country; in Ghana, for instance, they are virtually the only viable part of the publishing industry because this sector is the lucrative one for the publisher and bookseller. The situation is compounded when only the government's textbook is prescribed and all others get only the ‘recommended textbook’ tag, even though the prescribed textbook may not necessarily be the best.

In the absence of a national book policy, certain developments continue to take place which affect the book industry. Ofei reported that: ‘Quite recently the government inaugurated the Educational Reform Committee, which sadly had no representative from the GBPA. The MoE was informed about the omission but when the invitation finally came, the committee had finished its report.’7

Free compulsory universal basic education (FCUBE), which seeks free and compulsory schooling from basic stage 1 through 9 for all school-age children by 2005, is now a constitutional requirement. It is a publishing-oriented activity, yet policy makers only consult the GBPA for their input when there is a problem. Before the new textbook policy initiative, the MoE was to strengthen its Curriculum Research and Development Division (CRDD) to undertake certain key roles such as curriculum review and development, and the writing of syllabuses, teachers’ handbooks and textbooks. The MoE used to assemble teachers to undertake textbook writing and pay them an honorarium. Apart from lacking training and experience in course writing, the authors might have been dissatisfied with not receiving royalties and would not have been likely to give of their best.

At some point, questions were raised as to why the government preached privatization and divestiture of its share in parastatals as a whole, but increased its involvement in book publishing. Books must be allowed to compete amongst themselves so that high standards of production and content relevance may be attained. The GBPA considers that the CRDD's role should be limited to the writing of syllabuses and to facilitating the involvement of publishers in the writing and production of textbooks and teachers’ handbooks. Employees of the CRDD are not publishing professionals, and that is why the GBPA would like to be involved in the decision-making, implementation and review process of the FCUBE programme.
In the mid-1970s, Ghana had one of the best public library networks in Africa but, due to under-funding and neglect, services of this network have deteriorated completely. Ghana's 110 districts do not all have libraries. Recent efforts at revamping the service have been through funding by the Carnegie Year 2000 Public Library Revitilization Programme which covered seven African countries, including Ghana. The case for school libraries is more deplorable. In some countries, eg. Botswana, school library provision is part of the educational policy, and by law must be provided in all schools;8 in addition, school library services have been put under the management of the country's public library service. These provisions do not exist in Ghana.

The new policy to privatize educational publishing was announced in December 2001, at the 25th Annual Ghana Book Awards ceremony in Accra organized by GBDC to honour deserving members of the industry for their contributions. It was sponsored by six local publishers: Afram Publications, Buck Press, Compuprint, EPP Books Services, Minerva Books and Stationary Supplies and Unimax Macmillan. With this policy change, the Ministry of Education has ceased to be publisher and distributor of its own textbooks in consonance with the policy of the government to make the private sector the engine of growth of the economy. The policy is expected to be the Ministry's blueprint for streamlining the procurement of textbooks and accompanying guides and manuals for the basic schools, to be implemented in collaboration with publishers as producers of the textbooks, and the Ministry as the purchasers.

Secondary education and book provision

The state education administrative body of today is a large and increasingly decentralized structure. The Ministry of Education is responsible for formulating educational policy, while the Ghana Education Service (GES) is responsible for its implementation at the pre-tertiary level (including secondary schools). The National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) implements policies at the tertiary level, and the Non-Formal Education Division (NFED) implements non-formal education policy. The GES is represented in all ten regions and in all 110 districts of Ghana. Current priority issues in secondary education are to:

• de-emphasize pure academic courses in the curriculum and to promote the acquisition of vocational and technical skills
• promote the establishment of community secondary schools based in rural communities. The purpose of this is to create a shift from boarding schools to day schools. This will eventually make it unnecessary for people to send their children to boarding schools far away from home
• emphasize the importance of science and technology. The establishment of Science Resource Centres in every district is in fulfilment of this policy. Almost all the districts in the country now have resource centres
• review the curriculum and link it up with courses and subjects in tertiary institutions and other institutions of higher learning.

Conditions under which secondary school education has been organized include the use of textbooks, which in most cases are not available, and libraries that are not well stocked or contain outdated material. Acquisition of books for libraries is erratic, and if the need arises for budget cuts to be made, library funds are the first to go. Unfortunately, the four priorities do not include a review of the textbook situation, which is said to be inadequate, neither is there any mention of school libraries, two of the most important pillars on which all the priorities must be based.

The mechanism for achieving the desired pupil/textbook ratio has been grossly overlooked. This is where the GBPA cries foul when they are left out of the plans of MoE’s FCUBE programme. If targets are to be achieved for the secondary school student population of almost 600,000, the MoE will need approximately 1,800,000 volumes for English, mathematics and science. At the rate of 2:1 in the 'other subject' areas, this translates to 1,500,000 volumes, assuming there are five other subjects chosen by each student. These figures are significant for the publishing industry, especially when the requirements for additional reading books and textbooks for primary pupils are added. One only hopes that the US$70 million textbook project will be used to recapitalize the private sector industry to produce the needed books, rather than import them. The results may not be that fast, but at least the grounds for a strong local industry would have been consolidated.


Economic liberalization and decreasing government involvement in book publishing have created opportunities for publishers, especially the local industry in Africa. As we have seen in Ghana, trends in education policies and management in recent years also raise new issues and areas that can be tapped by publishers and book development actors. On the one hand, policies emerging from a liberalized set-up have allowed local publishers to participate in, for instance, the World Bank’s new policy of competitive bidding in the provision of textbooks in its projects. On the other hand, the continued inability of local publishers to access credit financing, and the high rates of interest on borrowing have combined to frustrate attempts at fully exploiting these opportunities. As Crabbe points out: ‘What could catalyze the success of local publishing would be the clear articulation and implementation of national book policies that would address some of these problems?’9

Adequate book provision at an affordable and sustainable price will depend on a proper sectorial analysis that will precede project plans. The sectorial analysis should cover textbooks, library books, and supplementary materials at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels including technical and vocational, and adult literacy. Questions such as authorship capacity, publishing, production control and techniques, finance and managerial skills, manufacturing and binding, raw materials, copyright, and trade policy (including protectionism) remain vital for study.

Equally important are government policies that promote the culture of reading for pleasure, and that expand and improve public library networks. For instance, the Ghana Library Board, which is responsible for the provision of public library services, is heavily centralized (in the name of management of resources and staff) in Accra. This calls for some element of decentralization and autonomy in the regions and further in the districts, alongside increased funding to ensure improvement of services. Conventional or traditional public libraries should be supplemented by community information services as proposed by Stilwell: 'services that really change the lives of their users through the provision of survival information such as those related to health, housing, income, legal protection, economic opportunity, and political rights'.10 Integrated into library support programmes, the buy-back model of Tanzania would ensure that part of the publisher's print run is bought for libraries, thus guaranteeing partial or even full recovery of the printing costs.11

Notes and references

1. Askerud, Pernille (1998) ‘Educational publishing and book provision’. In Altbach, Philip & Damtew Teferra (eds.) Publishing and Development: a book of readings. Chestnut Hill: Bellagio Publishing Network, pp 91-109. Bellagio Studies in Publishing, 9.
2. Dekutsey (1993); Ofei, Eric (1997) ‘The state of publishing in Ghana today’ Bellagio Publishing Network Newsletter, no. 20, pp 14-17.
3. Brown, A.K., (1975) ‘State publishing in Ghana: has it benefitted Ghana?’ In: Oluwasanmi, E et. al. (eds.) Publishing in Africa in the 1970’s. Ile-Ife: University of Ife Press, pp 113-127.
4. Cabutey-Adodoadji, E (1984) ‘Book development and publishing in Ghana: an appraisal’. Libri, vol. 34 no. 2, pp130-155.
5. Brown (1975)
6. Hasan (1993)
7 Ofei (1997:14)
8. Darko-Ampem, Kwasi (2000) ‘Revitalization of the public library system in Botswana: the Botswana Library Association as a team player.’ Paper presented at the Consultative Seminar of Stakeholders, 11-14 December 2000. Boipuso Hall, Gaborone, Botswana.
9. Crabbe, Richard (2000), ‘Market trends in the African book industry.’ In African Publishing Review, vol 9, no. 4, pp 4-5.
10. Stilwell, Christine (2001) ‘Community resource centres’. In: Stilwell, Christine, Athol Leach, and Simon Burton (eds.) Knowledge, Information and Development: an African perspective. Peitermarizburg: School of Human and Social Studies, pp 200-214.
11. Bgoya, Walter (1999) ‘Publishing in Africa: culture and development.’ In: Gibbs, J & J Mapanje (eds.) The African Writers' Handbook. Oxford: African Books Collective, pp 59-84.

*This is an abridged version of a longer annotated paper presented at the International Standing Conference for the History of Education (ISCHE) in Paris on July 10-13, 2002.
[end] [BPN, no 31, 2002, p. 19.]

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