Peer tutoring programs strengthen primary education in Ghana

Exponential Education“Do you get this,” asked Charles, a high school tutor to six Junior Secondary students (JSS) rapidly writing notes and paying attention to his instruction on a Wednesday afternoon in Kumasi, Ghana. But this was no typical afternoon for students at New Asafo B Junior Secondary School. While most of their classmates had closed from classes one hour earlier, these students stayed behind for free math and English tutoring from high school students from Kumasi’s Anglican Senior High School. As I watched Charles patiently teach the laws of exponents and square roots, I sat amazed at the transformation in his personality. Moments earlier I met Charles in the courtyard of his high school, and he bubbled with energy as he chatted about the upcoming vacation from school. Yet within the five-minute journey from Charles’ high school to the JSS, the giddy high school student I met had vanished. Instead, standing in front of me was not a senior high school student but a polished teacher with detailed lesson plans, a respectful demeanor, and attentive students.

Twice weekly Charles and three of his classmates tutor JSS students as a part of Exponential Education’s flagship tutoring program, in which senior high school students across Ghana, Sudan, and India are paid to tutor 7-8 JSS students in math and English for one school semester. At the end of the semester, one of the high school tutors is chosen by Exponential Education staff to receive a scholarship for tertiary education. As the name implies, Exponential Education is driven by the belief that a group of students together can have a greater impact on education in their community through tutoring and mentoring others then they could have alone. Weekly, every tutor teaches 7-8 students totaling 30 or more JSS students who have improved English and mathematical skills by the end of the semester. In turn these JSS students are more likely to pass the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), the exit exam for JSS and entry exam for Senior High School (SHS) in Ghana, continue onto high school, and become Expo tutors.

In more than one way, the math is on our side. In Ghana, the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and a variety of donors have poured millions of dollars into achieving the Education for All goals of universal primary education as mandated by Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 2. As the 2015 deadline rapidly approaches to achieving this goal, the education community is looking for new ways to increase primary student enrollment. Unfortunately as BECE pass rates in the past years have shown, high enrollment of students does not equal learning. Though more students are enrolled in Junior Secondary School than ever before, less than 50% of students in 2011 passed the exam in order to enter SHS (My Joyonline). Thus, there is a great need for quality teaching for students across the country to ensure that they are prepared for and able to enter high school.

Exponential’s tutoring programs are meeting this need. Each week, struggling students receive after school tutoring from older peers in math and English. With an input of $500, six SHS students receive a stipend to help pay their SHS tuition, 30 plus JSS students receive free after school tutoring, and one SHS tutor receives a  $300 scholarship to university.

My understanding of the laws of exponents was rusty, and thanks to Charles’ instruction, I was reminded that an a number to the exponent of 0 is 1, and any number to an exponent greater than zero yields a larger product. Alone we can impact ourselves but together we can impact a community of JSS and SHS students in Ghana.

In August, I am proud to join the team of Exponential Education as the Managing Director of Exponential Education Services (a for profit venture) and Director Development for Exponential Education. Join me by sponsoring an Exponential program today. Together, we can achieve exponential growth in education in Ghana.

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