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29.02.2004 Feature Article

The Need For Research III

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A research-cultured society presents to us many opportunities for us to develop. It can become our key strategy by which we can stimulate our economy for development. We have been long left behind and most of the strategies we adopt seem to always have been handed down to us from foreign institutions. Furthermore, the key information and research used as basis to device these strategies are mostly done by foreign experts too. Will it not be more beneficial to have our government initiate its own research programs aimed at analysing and developing solutions for critical national issues and carried out by Ghanaian experts long before these institutions think of them? For sure, in the spirit of that, they would readily avail funds for these researches as well as have prompt and appropriate information for development assistance.

To do this, we need to create a research-cultured society as mentioned in parts 1 and 2. Thus I present the following recommendations to help achieve this. These recommendations are categorised according to the areas and/or players who form part of our national learning system. Recommendations for creating a research cultured society The Ghana Government

The government must recognise the need for research and the creation of a research-cultured society as a basis for evaluating, analysing and solving our problems and spearheading a sustainable development pattern. Thus policy making and public management should be centred on research findings. Each government institution must have its own research branch beginning with the office of the president. All the sector ministries, parliament and the judiciary should have a research branch of their own. All sub-sector institutions such as the Internal Revenue Service, Customs Excise and Preventive Service, Ghana Armed Forces, the Police Service, etc must have research branches of their own. These research branches should be created by established and constitutionally approved policies. The policies must charge the decision makers to implement the recommendations of a completed research and should defend itself if it is unable to do so. All these must be properly documented to facilitate the learning process. They must accordingly be given the budget and support to carry out research as is necessary to facilitate decision making.

Parliamentary committees who handle sector policy making should establish strong linkages with related research institutions and experts who can feed them with researched information to guide them. Parliament as a whole should also invite researchers from time to time to make presentations on critical findings.

Education

Our educational institutions must be reorganised to facilitate research. Academic curriculum must be redesigned with the Ghanaian societal needs as the drivers. Our academic curriculum need not be patterned after other countries' only but must have adequate injections of the issues that relate to the pressing needs of the society, particularly courses with professional inclinations. This implies that our mode of teaching and examining students must change. Projects and thesis writing must be strongly emphasised and used as an alternative to final written examinations where appropriate. In so doing, we make our students active participants in the research process since they provide the bulk of the manpower that is needed to do most of the activities. Much of the data collection, refinement, analysis and all could be done by students. As can be seen in other educational systems, the student's findings many times serve as a basis for more advanced research by, say, a major research institute or a firm.

A course in carpentry, for instance, must treat the nature of carpentry in Ghana in relation to different countries. The student must be familiar with all the different designs that were done in the past as well as those being done now. The students must understand the dynamics of the carpentry industry; know why it is failing, or stagnating and what areas need to be critically looked at. The students' knowledge of these, coupled with the general principles of carpentry, should equip them to be able to come up with other designs which will contribute to the body of designs.

In effect our students should not be examined on the basis of textbook principles only but also on the basis of having developed a new idea, design, policy, plan, model, etc through guided research. This should however not be limited to professional and tertiary courses only but even in our elementary schools too. Of course, to do this, research must be conducted by our historians, educators, psychologists, etc to facilitate and guide its development and implementation.

Every curriculum in every course must embrace the real world essence of the course. This helps in motivating the students and instils a sense of research in them. A student who enrols in a course he doesn't understand from the onset may become a good student but an incompetent or theoretically laden professional. Career guidance and counsellors must therefore be employed in all our educational institutions and schools to guide every student.

Medical education for instance must not be limited to international medical practices only but must strongly embrace medicine in the local context. If Ghana needs more medical doctors to treat Ghanaians then we need doctors who are trained to treat Ghanaian cases based on the current constraints and with local medicine too. As a matter of fact, any professional who is trained to carry out his profession based on hard local constraints is able to make noble discoveries as he puts his problem solving techniques at work.

Our teachers must do research and must be trained as such. Primary and secondary teachers must thus be given more attention since they play a crucial role in the formation stages of our young ones. Teacher training should emphasise more on problem solving techniques than coping techniques. A teacher should not just resort to lashing the students to get them to work or be smarter but must find and use other challenging ways to motivate them. Generally teachers play an important role as direct or indirect mentors of their students. Teachers who do research as such will likely disciple their students to follow likewise. Teachers must thus be mandated to further their education at least to a first degree be they primary or secondary teachers. It may even require that we upgrade our teacher training colleges to award first degrees in education. All in all, a culture of continuous improvement through education must be developed for all our teachers and educators.

Centres of Excellence

Centres of Excellence (COE) must be established in all our tertiary intuitions. A centre of Excellence is a research and industrial institute attached to a university which is deemed as the hub of knowledge in a particular field of study or profession. It is the place where the government or nation as a whole seeks expert knowledge and/or information for decision making purposes. Thus the government allocates special funds for research and development projects as well as the training of the centres' personnel and associates to the highest possible levels. President J. A. Kufuor on Nov. 22, 2003 made an important call on our universities, charging them to be at the forefront to solve productivity problems in the country. He said, "I submit that the universities should be in the front line for solving the riddle because they must be the crucibles for testing and refining ideas for transforming society's economies". Thus the creation of these COEs will be in the right order. These COEs will be responsible for research in specific areas of study depending on the quality of education in that area in the university. For instance, a COE in Pharmacy could be established at KNUST. Thus funds will be accorded to the pharmacy department to develop its personnel and carry out various researches from which the government and public can always tap for expert and new information. A COE in Economics could be established in the University of Ghana and so forth. Each area of study must have a COE and must be associated with a particular university or tertiary institution be they private or public. The critical areas for development must be given the highest priorities in their establishment and the mechanics for doing this should be designed based on research.

Libraries

Our national libraries must be renovated and redesigned with a new management system. The government must establish libraries in each district and metropolis. These libraries should be equipped with all the books, journals, CDROMs, etc that are critical for general learnings and research. Companies and institutions in the particular district or metropolis could donate books and materials to these libraries. They must also be equipped with seminar rooms where presentations and workshops could be done to facilitate research and information disseminations.

Homes

Our homes are the next and most important place to build a research-cultured society. Past traditions have taught us to keep our children far from knowledge, because they could only learn with age. It is very common for a child who keeps asking questions to be silenced by his older siblings and/or parents. We do a lot in suppressing the ideas of the child in our homes. A child who is not able to freely ask questions will grow up not having enough confidence about himself. In much the same way, he would not be confident in what he does and any other things that have to do with his identity. Thus, his ability to think critically and imagine things will be suppressed. Our parents therefore need to adopt new ways to encourage their children to ask questions about issues, read widely (technical and non-technical), go on safe adventures and pay a lot of attention to their interests and hobbies. These and many others as is recommended by psychologist and sociologists will help our children to dream big and dare to see their dreams come to pass. They would no longer dream of being seamen, 'mates', drivers, bookmen, galamsey, etc. They would rather dream of being navigators, engineers, astronauts, entrepreneurs, fleet managers, etc. We must register them at libraries so they can have the opportunity to access several books some of which the parents cannot afford. Parents must also take high interest in their career aspirations, school work and assist them as such.

Business Organisations

Our businesses must be encouraged to establish research arms. These arms will carry out the necessary research and development projects that are crucial to the growth of the business. Where the business is operated on a small scale, it can outsource its research to other qualified firms or institutions. Managers should also be encouraged to seek expert knowledge and consultations with the Centres of Excellence (COE). Personnel development through continious learning must be strongly embraced by our business leaders. Just as technology is rapidly changing, new skills and methods are being developed to meet future challenges. Workshops and seminars must therefore be organised to train the personnel in our business organsations from time to time to keep them abreast with these skills.

Media

Finally, our media needs to take a new perspective in their work. Focus must be shifted from the day-to-day politicising of issues to more research and knowledge enhancement issues. In this wise they would help to diffuse most of the tensions that surround issues and projects in the society. It would be no longer 'who did it' but 'how it was done'. Most social projects can then be evaluated from a neutral and result oriented perspective. This will in turn cause our leaders and government agencies to strive to do things well. Having experts neutrally comment on issues will also improve public learnings on the issue at stake.

The media must also encourage and present programs on documentaries which look at 'what', 'why' 'where' and 'how' some things are done. More documentary programs which look into our culture and related issues will stir up a lot of learnings indeed. The media can also be a major partner in information dissemination in that they could help bring lots of research findings to the public. Ghanaians in general show good interest in what the media presents and as such the media can play a crucial role in educating the public and establishing the awareness of research and its significance to national development.

Having presented these, the next and final part will present the conclusion and an implementation plan on how these recommendations could be achieved. Jojoe Yartey Industrial Engineer Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Jojoe Yartey
Jojoe Yartey, © 2004

The author has 4 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JojoeYartey

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