For anyone who attended boarding school for their secondary education, one of the most dreaded times was inter-house inspections. Of course, if you were a Form One student, then endless scrubbing, dusting and sweeping in and around your dormitory became your portion. On top of this, every bed would have to be laid properly with pristine white sheets and pillow cases. Your uniform would be starched and ironed to crisp perfection. Your shoes would be polished until you could see your reflection in there as you stood nervously by your bed, stiff as a wawa board, waiting for the inspection team to stroll airily through the dormitory doors, their eagle eyes surveying every nook and cranny for specks of dust.

The dread of an imminent inspection, whether in schools, hotels, restaurants, barracks or health facilities, and the frantic preparations that come with it, is the whole point of the exercise, because it helps drive and maintain standards.

This week, my guest columnist is Dr. Haggar Hilda Ampadu, the Executive Secretary of the National Inspectorate Board (NIB), the education agency responsible for the pre-tertiary school inspectorate regime. She shares the NIB’s mandate, its activities so far and what the future holds for it.

 

BACKGROUND
The National Inspectorate Board (NIB) was established in 2011 under the Education Act 778 of 2008 Education reforms. The Act 778 mandates the Board to set up inspection panels to:

  • Undertake inspection of pre-tertiary schools
  • Evaluate the quality of teaching and learning periodically in pre-tertiary schools
  • Set and enforce quality standards in public and private pre-tertiary institutions in Ghana

In addition to the above functions, the NIB also registers and certifies all private and public pre-tertiary schools in Ghana. The Board has undergone significant changes in order to be able to discharge its mandate of enforcing standards and ensuring quality in pre-tertiary schools.

 

SCHOOL INSPECTION
Having previously piloted its new Inspection Evaluation Framework to inspect 87 schools in Ghana, the NIB until the onset of COVID-19 has used same to inspect a total of 794 schools (out of 2,381 across Ghana) in the Greater-Accra, Eastern, Ashanti, Volta and Oti Regions for the 2019/20 academic year. The schools inspected were selected using a statistical random sampling approach to enable the NIB generalise its findings on schools in Ghana.

Additionally, the Board has digitised its inspection approach. Thus, inspectors have moved from paper based (pen and paper) mode of data collection to the use of tablets installed with Kobocollect – an opensource database – which is more convenient and allows data to be sent back to the NIB headquarters in real time for a relatively easier data analysis process.

Furthermore, of the 794 schools inspected, the NIB has so far issued 199 descriptive and concise school level and an aggregate report on school inspections in the Greater Accra and Eastern Regions to its key stakeholders (e.g. schools, sister agencies, Private School Associations etc.). The school level reports which have been shrunk from about 48 pages to 10 pages, contain key findings and recommendations to enable decision makers and stakeholders (e.g. the MoE, Directors of Education and School Leadership) implement interventions as soon as possible to improve learning outcomes. The NIB also hosts an updated website where its inspection findings are published for the general public to have an idea of the level of performance of schools in the country.

 

SCHOOL CERTIFICATION AND LICENSING
The NIB is the MoE agency in charge of certifying and licensing all pre-tertiary schools in Ghana. To help with the process, the NIB developed a School Certification Protocol which looks at elements like Infrastructure & Facilities, Health & Safety, Documentation and Record Keeping, Curriculum & Planning, Resources, Environment, Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff, and School Management Committee/Board/Parent Teacher Association. Similar to our school inspections, the NIB has digitised the school certification process and thus collects information on these elements to prepare reports and issue certificates to deserving schools.

Currently, 1650 schools have been certified in the Greater Accra, Ashanti and Volta regions. Schools can apply for certification and licensing by visiting the NIB’s website on www.inspectorateboard.gov.gh.

 

POLICY DEVELOPMENT
Over the years, the NIB has carried out its mandate with the Education Act 2008 (Act Over the years, the NIB has carried out its mandate mainly with the Education Act 2008 (Act 778) and the Revised Handbook for the Inspection of Public and Private Pre-Tertiary Schools in Ghana (2018 & 2019) as guiding documents for its operations.

However, there is no overarching policy that clearly details the NIB’s activities in ensuring improved learning outcomes by enforcing quality standards. As such, the Act 778 and the Revised Handbook for the Inspection of Public and Private Pre-Tertiary Schools in Ghana (2019) although essential have not been able to support the Board effectively discharge its mandate. Thus, the Board beginning March 2020, set out key policy areas to be developed to strengthen its operations based on the Education Act 2008 (Act 778) and the Education Regulatory Bodies Bill 2019.

  1. School Establishment and Inspection Policy (SEaIP): This policy seeks to establish statutory guidelines that schools need to fulfil in order to establish themselves as educational facilities as stated in the Act 778 (Section 23, Subsection 1). Additionally, the policy will set out the processes and procedures of NIB in conducting school inspections and serve as a guide for schools to self-evaluate themselves towards improving the quality and learning outcomes. The policy is currently in its penultimate phase of development.
  2. School Certification and Licensing: The NIB seeks to develop a policy that will guide the school certification and licensing process. The policy upon its development will help the Board grant legal authority to pre-tertiary schools to operate in Ghana.
  3. Safeguarding Policy: The policy will set out a national approach by NIB on how to promote the welfare of learners and teachers in our schools and ensure they operate in a safe and sound environment devoid of abuse, violence, discrimination and harassment.

 

COVID-19 AND NIB’S RESPONSE
In the wake of COVID-19, the NIB has published the National E-learning Guidelines for Pre-tertiary Schools and Online Learning Standards in order to support efforts of schools using Learning Management Systems (LMSs) towards effective teaching and learning and the prevention of learning loss. The guidelines and standards clearly spell out what is required of school leadership, teachers, parents (and by extension learners) and the e-learning platforms to ensure quality teaching and learning takes place online.

To add to, the Board has held eight (8) mediation meetings and recently a consultative meeting with owners/school proprietors of private schools to address matters arising based on petitions received (especially on the absence of Parent-Teacher Associations and the demand for full payment of online school fees) from parent groups. Key decisions arrived at in these meetings have been sent to the relevant stakeholders for implementation and to ensure agitations between schools and parent groups end.
Additionally, the NIB is in the process of publishing guidelines to help pre-tertiary schools reopen when it is safe to do so and based on Presidential directives.

 

FUTURE OF THE NIB
Parliament on June 3, 2020 unanimously passed the Education Regulatory Bodies Bill 2019 to effectively regulate the Ghanaian education sector. The Bill will give NIB the much-needed enforcement powers. Upon assent, the NIB will be referred to as the “National Schools Inspectorate Authority”.

Ghana is making significant strides in seeking to improve education delivery outcomes; mainly learning outcomes, through improved access, curriculum reforms, teacher training reforms and quality assurance and accountability systems. In all of this, the NIB has a significant role to play through a robust school inspection regime to ensure every Ghanaian child receives quality education.
In bringing all these together, this country can look forward to improved education delivery outcomes to meet our development aspirations. The future certainly looks bright.