The two major political parties are considering to have a policy on Free Tertiary. The implementation of the Free Senior High School has laid a foundation for the delivery of free educational services to the higher levels. The tertiary level of education is broader than the basic school level. The cost to be absorbed will be higher than the cost of the Free Senior High School.
The returns on the investments in education will be earned in the long term. Therefore, such a choice must target areas that are productive in nature, which will possibly produce maximum outputs. The outcomes of such a choice should impact deeply on the economic performance of the country in areas such as Agriculture, Oil and Gas, Financial sector, Health sector, Manufacturing and Construction. The policy should be skewed to targeted areas or sectors of the economy. Free Tertiary will relieve financial burdens on parents if implemented eventually.
On the contrary, the political parties must not pursue policies that put much pressure on the state’s coffers. The demand to have quality man-power or human resource is not in Free Tertiary Education. Training and developing quality human resource can be done without the pursuit of a Free Tertiary Education. There are many factors that will challenge the pursuit of a Free Tertiary Education: unemployment, increasing the debt levels of the country, sustainability of the programme and others.
Even if it is the desire of a government to implement Free Tertiary Education, it should be targeted at scientiﬁc and technical learning and not general training in the humanities. Scientific and technical learning, vocational education, engineering and training and development of the human resource in other modern fields should be the concern of the political parties.
Instead of a Free Tertiary Education, the political parties should consider giving subsidies. The challenge currently is employment, which is not guaranteed after the completion of a University programme. Policies that give subsidies to reduce the financial burden on parents and students are the preferred choices. School fees should be reduced to the lowest possible levels. If all the tertiary institutions charge lower fees, tertiary education will be accessible to everyone. Unemployment issues should be the focus of the political parties.
For instance, if tertiary students can share the cost of training them with the government, it will open more opportunities to the poor to access tertiary education and reduce poverty levels. The policy desires of the political parties should be changed to lean towards cost-sharing in education than full-cost absorption. The country has other challenging issues to address.
The major political parties in Ghana should make it a determined effort to end the provision of public good in education at the basic and secondary levels and begin the development of a model that favours cost-sharing. Though the constitution charges the state to make higher education accessible, by progressive introduction of free education, the political parties should not hastily undertake such a programme. The use of cost-sharing strategies to properly develop the human capital will ensure adequate availability of financial resources to solve other problems.
Considerable number of people have had their training in the humanities. There is over-supply of the services needed in the humanities. Accountants, Economists, HR Managers, Financial experts etc. are in abundant supply. There is a deficit in the applied sciences: the country needs more surveyors, engineers, microbiologists, biologists, chemists, geologists etc. These areas constitute the applied sciences. It is imperative the country develop more of its human capital in these areas.
In Ghana and in many other African countries, the public sector creates jobs and this demand will continue to exist for every government. Governments are expected to employ the graduates churned out from the private and public Universities. Other challenging issues must be addressed too. There are a combination of possible alternative policies that can be rolled out or pursued with regard to the human capital development of the country.
The state can use cost-sharing strategies to partially relieve parents of the burden of paying the full cost of education. It will ensure the availability of resources to cater for the needs of the other sectors of the economy. The financial burden on the government is already high.
Policies that target specific applied science areas which directly impact on the real sectors of the economy and have the capacities to spur growth as well as generate employment should be the concerns of the political parties and governments.
Governments are expected to create job opportunities for the young graduates who complete their programmes every year. There is a financial burden on the government to create jobs and perform other functions excellently. The use of the cost-sharing strategy will help the government generate enough revenue to pursue other programmes. Therefore, developing the human capital of the country does not depend on the implementation of a Free Tertiary Education. It is about targeting some specific areas that impact deeply on the economy by training people in those fields.
Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, A growing Activist, and A Religion Enthusiast.