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Ghana's free senior high school policy

Morning Class at Gbimsi High School

Ghana's free senior high school policy

Project summary

Now that most countries in sub-Saharan Africa have made progress towards increasing enrolment in primary education, many governments see secondary education as the next frontier. Fee abolition is an increasingly popular policy to improve access to secondary schooling, and Ghana is one of the pioneers in this regard. The Government of Ghana abolished fees for Senior High School (SHS) as of the 2017-18 school year, in line with the ruling party's campaign promise. Under the new policy, the government covers all fees for students admitted to public senior and vocational high schools, including boarding fees, meals, textbooks and other charges. This major policy initiative provides a unique opportunity to study the impact and implementation of secondary school fee abolition in real time.

The project, which is jointly implemented by Associates for Change (Ghana) and the REAL Centre, consists of a rigorous, mixed-method evaluation of Ghana's Free SHS Policy, focussing on three research questions:

  • Who were the primary beneficiaries of the Free SHS policy? (Equitable access)
  • How can quality of educational provision be maintained and improved as enrolments rise? (Maintaining quality)
  • How can secondary school fee abolition be designed in a way that is both financially and operationally sustainable? (Sustainable implementation)

The evaluation will create relevant knowledge for Ghanaian policymakers as they monitor and adjust the implementation of the Free SHS policy. For each of the three research strands (equitable access, maintaining quality and sustainable implementation), the project aims to develop a set of concrete policy recommendations to maximise the impact of the Free SHS policy going forward. The project findings will also provide valuable insights for other low- and middle-income countries that are considering to expand secondary education through the abolition of fees, as well as to international aid organisations working in the field of secondary education.

Research Team

Principal Investigator: Dr Rob Gruijters
Co-Investigator: Dr Leslie Casely-Hayford
Research Associates: To be confirmed


March 2021 – February 2023


The British Academy


The intended and unintended effects of secondary school fee abolition: Evidence from Ghana's free senior high school policy
Casely-Hayford, L., Gruijters, R. J., Adjei, L. O. and Yeboah, V. A. April 2024 SocArXiv

Secondary school fee abolition in sub-Saharan Africa: Taking stock of the evidence
Gruijters, R., Abango, M.A. and Casely-Hayford, L. April 2023 SocArXiv


Free secondary education in African countries is on the rise - but is it the best policy? What the evidence says
Rob Gruijters, The Conversation, 31 May 2023