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Opinion | Apr 26, 2016

Polytechnic Conversion Into Technical University Brouhaha; A Political Propaganda Or A Convenient Policy!

By Bright Baah Egyir

As tertiary institutions, the polytechnics in Ghana are relatively young, having been upgraded to tertiary status only in 1992. The polytechnic mandates has been strengthened and expanded under the polytechnic Act 2007(Act 745) to offer qualification in a wide range of applied arts and science disciplines at sub-degree, degree and post graduate degree levels.

The mission of the Act 745 was specifically to provide tertiary education in the fields of manufacturing, commerce, science and technology, applied social science, applied art and also to provide opportunities for skills development, applied research and publication of research findings.

Evidently, the Act 745 which is less than a decade ago looks like a worthless agenda and has rarely been free of controversies, what has happened to our policy implementation as a nation?!

During the state of the nation’s address in 2013, President Mahama announced that polytechnics will be converted to Technical Universities. Students in the Technical Universities will be trained to acquire high level technical skills to drive the country’s economic and national development agenda.

The proposed technical universities would supposedly contribute to raising the quality and competitiveness of the Ghanaian working force and would reduce the admission pressures on the traditional Universities. The conversion will provide progression avenues for technical and vocational students and curb the growing phenomenon of academic ‘top-up’ programmes for HND graduates, Be that as it may, haven’t these wrongs been redressed in the Act 745? Is that a Rebranding package for Polytechnics? Must it be one of the things we never get right as a country? Are we going to politize polytechnic education like we did with the Senior High Schools? Might I remind you that Ghana will attain 60 years of independence next year?

Currently, 60% of polytechnic student are enrolled in business and management programmes, where lies the argument of technical Universities not going to mimic traditional Universities. The crust of the problem can be traced back to Senior High schools were most known technical Institute have diversified into business and art related courses. Parent have psyched their kids to study and secure a good white collar job rather than taking a vocationally oriented courses.

Seemingly, there is no clear transformation strategy in the upgrading process. There are lessons from South Africa and United Kingdom that embarked on similar conversion and was not that successful because they did not develop the required curriculum to support the courses. Let take cue from that and stop the rush hour policies.

It’s regrettable to believe the conversion is rather commencing in some selected polytechnics leaving four institutions which can be located in the poorest regions in Ghana. The prevailing system draws the most unemployed being traced in these regions. Research on rural-urban migration has demonstrated chunk of student move down from the Northern part of Ghana to further their studies in the south, so one may want to conclude that conversion of polytechnic should start from these poor regions as a development policy. They should be supported with the requisite infrastructure and necessarily logistics to enhance training of student with these skills and increase agricultural content to have ripple benefits on the surrounding inhabitant in the region hence reducing migration to the south. Doing a cherry picking in the conversion could be a recipe for the collapse of those not selected because there is going to be a massive decline in enrollment.

Education broadly speaking is central to development and very essential in building self-reliance, creating and strengthening the capacity of people to participate in planning making decisions. It would be inconceivable to always associate education with the ‘School’. There is a contempt on manual work, soiling one’s hands, transmitted to the so ‘called educated’ by the colonial educational system and has proved particularly detrimental to our development. The system stresses the academic rather than vocational character of teaching and nothing significant has been done to change this pattern left behind by the colonial masters.

It is therefore appropriate and imperious for Ministry of education and National Council for Tertiary Education to take a critical look at the conversion process and procedure to bring the best out of that policy, I believe strongly the required curriculum must be developed to support the courses to make the policy effective.

Bright Baah Egyir
[email protected]

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