Every two years, the Jacobs Foundation awards the Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prizes to trailblazers seeking evidence-based solutions to education’s biggest challenges. In this series, Annie Brookman-Byrne meets with the finalists of the 2022 awards. In part 7, Annie talks to Tony Dogbe from Sabre Education who are partnering with Right To Play Ghana.

Annie Brookman-Byrne: What are the biggest challenges for early childhood education in Ghana?

Tony Dogbe: The biggest challenge is a lack of teachers who are well trained in play-based, child-centred instruction. There is strong agreement within the early childhood education sector that well-trained teachers are the key to providing high-quality education to young learners.

Play-based learning in the early years is seen as the most effective approach for a child’s brain development. But how can we expect teachers to implement this style of teaching without any training? Teachers resort to teaching as they themselves were taught at school, through rote learning – learning through memorisation and repetition, with little meaningful understanding.  

As a result, we are seeing generations of Ghanaians falling short of achieving their full potential. For example, after four years of compulsory education only 2% of pupils meet the recognised standards for literacy.

“Play-based learning in the early years is seen as the most effective approach for a child’s brain development.”

TD: The partnership between these two organisations is supporting the Ghanaian government in providing high-quality, play-based teacher training for every kindergarten teacher in Ghana. Together, Sabre and Right To Play have been leaders in creating uniform national teacher training content, working with other organisations devoted to education in the early years. The government has approved this kindergarten teacher training model and would like to scale it up nationally. This is a really positive step. It will ensure that all 1.6 million kindergarten children across the country have access to quality early years education.

The development of this content marks a move away from the current piecemeal approach to kindergarten teacher training, in which NGOs implement their own initiatives in different areas of the country. Whilst these are all fantastic individual projects, this approach will not result in improved learning outcomes for children at scale. I am really excited about the potential of this teacher training initiative to start benefitting all children in Ghana.

ABB: What other solutions are needed?

TD: Continued government support for this approach is crucial to its success. Its approval of our teacher training content strongly demonstrates a commitment to improving the quality of early years education, but the government must continue to expand its capacity to support the rollout of the training.

Technology will play a key role in training kindergarten teachers at scale in Ghana. Taking advantage of the power of technology will enable us to train many more teachers cost-effectively and sustainably. There is, however, work to be done to ensure that technology can be used effectively in Ghana, where internet connectivity issues are a barrier to success.

Whilst the work of Sabre and Right To Play targets practicing kindergarten teachers, it is also essential to prioritise the delivery of quality, play-based teacher training to aspiring teachers at colleges of education and universities across Ghana, ensuring that the next generation of teachers will be capable of implementing this approach.

ABB: What is your vision for the future of early childhood education in Ghana?

TD: Our ultimate goal is to support Ghana in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 4.2, ensuring that all children have access to quality early years education. We want all 61,751 kindergarten teachers in Ghana to be trained in play-based early years teaching.

As a result of this work, when you walk into a trained teacher’s classroom you will see a colourful, inspiring, and educational environment. Teachers will have made their own teaching and learning materials using recycled materials. You will see a classroom full of activity and laughter. Most important, you will see an environment in which children are learning through play and exploration.

“As a result of this work, when you walk into a trained teacher’s classroom you will see a colourful, inspiring, and educational environment.”

ABB: What would you like to learn from the other Best Practice Prize finalists?

TD: At Sabre and Right To Play, we pride ourselves on being learning organisations. Although we are proud of what we have already achieved, we know that we do not have all the answers. Being a Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize finalist represents a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from leading education organisations around the world.

As we look to scale up our work across Ghana, there is much we can learn from the other finalists about government partnerships and influencing education policy. We’d like to learn how we can ensure that the education system in Ghana is able to scale up play-based teacher training throughout the country, and how technology can support education interventions and create robust monitoring and evaluation systems.


Tony Dzidzinyo Dogbe joined Sabre in January 2020. He has had a longstanding relationship with Sabre since 2012, when he was the lead consultant for the development of the Kindergarten Operational Plan for the Ministry of Education, which Sabre supported.

Tony is an advocate for the rights and wellbeing of children and has worked on issues surrounding child protection.

Tony is a co-founder of Participatory Development Associates Ltd and its former Managing Director. He is a seasoned social development practitioner, manager, trainer, and social entrepreneur who has completed over 65 consultancy assignments while also serving as full-time executive director of two companies.

Website: Right to Play

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