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Well-implemented inclusive education should address the learning needs of all children vulnerable to being marginalised and excluded from education. Inclusive approaches often do not take account of children who once had access to education, but have since dropped out of school. Research on the causes of dropout suggest that school-level factors – for example, poor teaching methods, persistent learning difficulties, poor attendance and corporal punishment – act singularly or in combination to produce dropout.

This article looks at inclusion in Ghana from the point of view of dropouts. To date, policy on inclusive education in Ghana has focused mainly on girls and/or children with physical disabilities. Yet, drop-out rates can be up to 15 percent at primary level, and 35 percent at junior high school level.

Researchers from the Consortium for Research on Education Access, Equity and Transitions (CREATE) tracked children in two communities in the Mfantseman municipality in southern Ghana for two years to understand issues around attendance, progression and dropout. They found that:


  • Many irregular attendees temporarily withdraw from school and ultimately drop out. 

  • Schools have no strategies to address the learning needs of irregular attendees and to reduce their vulnerability to dropping out. They are often silently excluded because teachers fail to respond to gaps in their learning. 

  • Irregular attendees often come from very low-income households and miss school for economic reasons, for instance frequently working in the fishing industry. 

  • Over-aged children are particularly vulnerable to dropping out. Many attend school only occasionally, and are given little attention when they attend. Often they have knowledge and skills from out-of-school economic activities, but these are not used as a meaningful part of classroom learning.

These findings have important implications for inclusive education policy in Ghana, including:


  • Strategies and policies which focus greater attention on the learning needs of irregular attendees are required. This includes identifying those at risk of dropping out and providing them with additional support. 

  • Schools must work more closely with local communities to adopt strategies that directly address factors which increase the risk of students dropping out.

Kwame Akyeampong and Eric Ananga
Centre for International Education,
University of Sussex, Brighton,
T +44 1273 877051

The Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE) is a five-year DFID-funded Research Programme Consortia around educational access to basic education, based at the Centre for International Education (CIE) at the University of Sussex.