Arguably, Ghana is increasingly becoming a banana republic due to the country’s lip service to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes over the ages leading to very low level of industrialization. A country is described as a banana republic when it is politically unstable as a result of the domination of its economy by single or few export controlled by foreign capital.
Indeed, Ghana trumpets and takes pride in its political independence from the British colonial master since March 1957 but even after six and half decades after gaining political independence, Ghana is still colonized economically. Routinely over the years, the government of Ghana keeps sourcing huge foreign loans and mismanaging them due to corrupt practices. As if this is not enough, several educational reforms only led to poor attention to TVET which to us, is the cornerstone of industrialization within any economy.
Mindful of its low level of industrialization and poor commitment to technical and vocational education over the years coupled with pretentious management of the economy, the Government of Ghana continuously depends on the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monitoring Fund (IMF) for financial support to run the economy. Put blatantly, Ghana has been a perpetual beggar that always seeks for financial assistance beyond its jurisdiction even though the country is endowed with many natural resources that can be a blessing through industrialization.
For example, since 1957 when it obtained political independence from Britain, Ghana had fallen on the IMF for support 17 times, and it is about going again. One may blame the Ghana-IMF marriage on the country’s lack of commitment to technical and vocational education. Ghana’s educational system is more theoretically than practically grounded hence people graduate from schools and have no jobs to do in the absence of white colour or office jobs.
Various empirical studies found strong relationship between TVET and industrialization within any economy. It was equally found through scientific research that general secondary education, on the other hand, had a negative effect on industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa.
To this end, experts usually recommend that there is the need for a complete overhaul and revision of Ghana’s educational system with more emphasis on TVET and commitment to same in order to meet the required labour demand for industrial needs to make the economy a manufacturing rather than an excessively import-based one.
Ghana is making the attempt once again to revamp TVET but if care is not taken, it will end up again to be another bookish adventure. Regarding Ghana’s current TVET adventure, the Daily Graphic reported in the editorial of its July 21, 2022, edition that one major challenge with TVET in Ghana has been the general notion that technical and vocational education is meant for school dropouts. The Paper cautioned that such a perception deviates from the vision of making TVET an opportunity for employment and development.
The Daily Graphic thus called on Government to provide the necessary resources to boost technical training and vocational skills acquisition and at the same time, TVET policies and TVET Curricula must be reviewed and effectively implemented in tandem with technological advancement of the world.
Perhaps the Government of Ghana must not be oblivious of the reality that structural transformation spins positively on advancement in TVET in many developed economies. Structural transformation is viewed as an indispensable pathway to sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
The classical meaning of structural transformation is the shift of population and economic activity from agriculture to industry, and later to services (Kanbur, 2017). This is because productivity is higher in manufacturing than in agriculture, hence the shift of resources to this sector would normally provide the basis for higher rates of growth induced by the productivity difference (Oyelaran-Oyeyinka & Lal, 2016). It was in this regard that Chandra (2003) defined industrialization as the increase in the value added of the manufacturing sector as a percentage of GDP. In this regard, the achievement of industrialization implies a faster growth registered in the manufacturing sector relative to other sectors.
Unfortunately, Ghana keeps paying lip service to technical and vocational education coupled with poor commitment to industrialization leading to economic instability. Certificates rather than skillsets are the epitome of qualification in the formal sector of Ghana. Largely, a person is usually employed and paid in the public sector based on his or her level of education and number of academic certificates acquired regardless of the skills that person requires to perform the duties of the position offered and his or her actual output.
The Government of Ghana through various political administrations has toyed with the country’s educational system over the years for vote winning purposes devoid of developmental agenda. In the 1980s, for example, Ghana replaced the GCE O’ and A’ level systems with the Junior Secondary School (JSS) concept with emphasis on technical and vocational skills acquisition. Consequently, courses such as Life Skills, Technical Skills and Technical Drawing among others were introduced at the JSS level. Even at the time, the schools lacked the technical tools and equipment they required to impart the technical and vocational skills to the learners.
There was a huge euphoria surrounding the introduction of the JSS educational system, culminating into the composition of various patriotic songs sung in schools. The lyrics of one of such songs go, “Children of the land, gather courage. J S S has come, to save all. Only handle the tools with care and psychomotor skills shall flow. Children of the land, gather courage. J S S has come, to save all.”
In no time, the JSS system deviated from its intended technical and vocational direction because it was miserably retrogressed to theoretical knowledge acquisition regimes where learners only memorize lessons thought, write exams, and forget what was taught. It is often called” chewed, pass and forget.”
The topnotch political leaders in Ghana usually care less about the country’s educational system, not to talk of commitment to technical and vocational training because such cynical leaders send their children and wards to better schools outside the jurisdiction.
Most technical schools in the country are not functioning properly whereas some of them have been changed to secondary technical schools with more emphasis on theoretical or book knowledge acquisition than on technical and vocational knowledge acquisition.
It was to the sad extent that even the Polytechniques which were meant for technical and vocational education at the tertiary level have been changed to technical universities and most of the courses they offer have nothing technical about them. Most graduates of such technical universities can only boast of theoretical knowledge devoid of the technical and vocational skills required to transform the Ghanaian economy through industrialization.
Laughably, some electrical engineering graduates in Ghana still depend on the skills of less educated electricians to wire their homes for connection to the national electricity grid. Similar examples abound.
To achieve its industrialization goals and have the necessary workforce to do so, Ghana must improve the pedagogy and teacher training for TVET to provide the quality TVET needed to properly prepare young people for the entrepreneurial education experience. In addition to this, the government should accelerate the establishment of entrepreneurship development centres in all junior and secondary schools by providing a special intervention for this purpose.
Conclusively, it is our ardent hope that public education policy-makers will find our submission herein necessary for appropriate strategic directions that make TVET a sustainable success and not a mirage.
Philip Afeti Korto, Health Service Administrator, [email protected]
Adelaide Setordji, Health Service Administrator, [email protected]