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25.03.2006 Education

Rejoinder: Towards A Solution-Oriented University Education

By Okyere Bonna

Ghana Must Learn From Singapore.

In his feature article of, March 16, 2006(www.ghanaweb.com) Godwin Yaw Agboka looked into the recent University of Ghana congregation and the future of these new graduates. According to Yaw Agboka the fate of the over four thousand graduates who will soon be knocking at the doors of the few companies in the country is not bright at all, especially when one looks at the courses these graduates have been studying through their two, three, or four years of tertiary education. Agboka puts it in perspective when he writes, “even if we want to produce a fake level of honesty, we have to say that this is only but one of the tertiary institutions whose graduates will be going to the job market.” Yes every graduate expects to be economically useful but would these graduates have this privilege in Ghana?

It is great to produce psychologists and philosophers but not when the country has any use for the thousands of them graduating each year. These graduates must eat; they must work to support their families and even pay back their student loans. It is a disservice to them to be pumped up at matriculation and get out from graduation with no hope of a future in their own land.Wouldn't it have been prudent on the part of government to restructure and reform our educational system such that Ghana can produce graduates who can easily find jobs? And not only finding any jobs but those that will help the nation's economy to grow. According to Professor J. Anamuah-Mensah, Vice Chancellor, University of Education, Winneba the current educational system does not respond to the country's needs, as it encourages and produces rote memorization and recall” (As cited by Agboka).

It may be argued that many of the courses being taught in our educational system do not have the capacity to solve Ghana's problems. Hence Ghana stands on the brink of economic starvation unless our educational system is reformed. First, the curriculum of the institutions must be geared towards products who will be able to address the deficits within the economy if not make them employable, not to talk about making them self-sufficient. What is the essence of a university education if it only succeeds in passing the test of gaining into the academy and mastering the grandeur of academic language without situating its products in the economic community in which their impacts should be felt? Our universities are filled to capacity but our students are not being offered the right courses that will make them marketable after graduation. How does Ghana produce say 1000 archeologists, 2000 philosophers, when the country can only benefit from 10 and 20 of them respectively in a given year? I must admit, not until I traveled outside Ghana I had no respect for the folks who were attending technical schools. I thought one was better off studying anything at all than enrolling in a technical school or polytechnic Stupid thinking indeed.This was the picture our government and the Ghana Education Service had imprinted on our minds. Ghana government and the society at large encourage people to go through our universities to learn subjects that only teach us to speak and use big words. As if the spoken word can feed us or make the economy any better. Ghana needs to grow up. Government has a job to do here. In this regard, I must admit Ghana has had very irresponsible governments who could not think outside the box.

How come Ghana government still does not pay any attention to our technical schools and the polytechnics when we know that these skills are what Ghana needs most (at least for now)? In placing more prominence on academic courses/and graduates over our technical graduates Ghana ends up wasting the precious time of these great brains giving the fact that they cannot be absorbed into the job market. It appears our government and leaders have a problem with change. Our leaders and government need a paradigm shift if Ghana can go far. Ghana is being left behind simply because our leaders or policies cannot change with the times. One of the emphasis in the struggle that spearheaded the establishment of the University College of the Gold Coast ( now University of Ghana) in 1948 was to among other functions produce graduates who would assist the colonial government in the administration of the colonies and the protectorates; thus emphasis on education was directed towards theory, to produce the manpower who could write and speak good English but in a technology age when nations would have to be competitive to meet the growing demands of globalization, or take advantage of education to solve their teething economic problems theory has little place in the economy. How many of our University faculties even in science departments have research based facilities? While students in other parts of the world begin research in elementary level, or primary school the Ghanaian student begins meaningful research only at graduate school. The government would say we don't have the funds yet we can afford $70,000 vehicles for MPs and ministers every other two or three years. This is a shame on Ghana and the Ministry of Educations; and an insult on our 49 years of independence.

Ghana government complains of brain drain and yet trains more graduates who have no portion in the work force or the immediate construction of their nation. Is it not absurd that at this year and age of Ghana's independence when the main employer of the country is the government and the government sector is already choked with employees over the years while the job sectors are not expanding Ghana will still be producing academicians who are only good for the civil service? Why would Ghana not encourage technical education when there is so much need of them? Most of Ghana's technicians come out of apprenticeship rather than the technical institutions. Hence they lack the academics to make decisions to enhance their trade. The sad thing is that Ghana government does not support our technical institutions enough to gain any respect from the public lest to attract the young brains. Thanks to the government's lack of meaningful support society at large also does not give our technicians any meaningful recognition or support. They are looked upon as disgruntled folks who could not make it to the university.

Ghana Government Must Take a Clue from Singapore

In 1965 the University of Singapore agreed to award degrees to the Polytechnic's professional engineering, architecture and accountancy graduates. In late 1968, the Government of Singapore decided that the Polytechnic should concentrate on technician training. Noteworthy was the introduction in 1969 of the new 2-year full time or 4-year part-time Industrial Technician Certificate (ITC).which provided basic engineering training to fit graduates into virtually any factory job requiring engineering knowledge and skills after some training in the company. New courses in industrial electronics, management studies and institutional management were introduced. In 1969 the Singapore Technical Institute was set up to provide 2-year full-time technician courses to bridge the gap between the trade courses offered by the vocational institutes and the 3-year technician courses offered by the Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Technical College. By 1975 the Polytechnic had produced 2,057 ITC graduates when responsibility for the course was transferred to the Industrial Training Board. In May 1968 the Government approved a grant of S$363,000 to start a Mechanical Engineering diploma course and another S$60,000 as recurrent expenditure for that year. Responsibility for apprenticeship schemes was transferred from the Ministry of Labor to the Technical Education Department of the Ministry of Education. The department sought to improve and expand apprenticeship training. It introduced a 3-year training framework for apprenticeship in selected trade areas. A total of 1,749 trainees were trained in skills like turning and fitting, sheet metalwork, plumbing and radio maintenance and repair. The other was the scheme to train welders in 1970 to meet an acute shortage of such workers.1,789 welders were trained from 1970 to June 1973. The critical shortage of welders was eased. Manpower training and skills development were stepped up.

Why would Ghana produce a thousand philosophers if their services will not be needed within a particular year of their coming out? And why would Ghana produce 1,500 archeologists if we will need only two hundred of them? Thousands of students graduate with degrees and diplomas in Philosophy, Psychology, Classical history and Civilization, or even History among others only to have their degrees to show for. What is in a diploma or certificate if it cannot empower its bearer to perform the functions it's required to undertake? Ghana only ends up producing students who are good at arguing about theories but very much deficient in applying whatever practice is needed on the job market. If Ghana Education Service would pursue this trend then let them build more law schools so that these philosophers and classical students can be assured of some immediate job and returns on their investments. Philosophy, Psychology, Classical history and Civilization are all great subjects, believe me, but in this age and time of Ghana's development they cannot stand out as a course of their own; they need to be integrated into the technical subjects. Our technical schools must adopt them as electives. Ghana should only produce the useful and limited number of Philosophers, Psychologists, Classical historians and Civilization graduates who would be useful immediately upon graduation. This would be in the best interest of our human capital while more demand is created for their services rather than making them feel they are on their way to elitism as university products and only end up being greeted with disappointment and frustration in their efforts to secure job opportunities. As it is now, until one gains graduate admissions and do further studies in these courses they cannot even compete in the market Without any further courses in addition to their –undergraduate psychology and philosophy and classical history at the universities they don't even have a chance even in Ghana since the only jobs available for them would be teaching. Why can't a degree make one self-sufficient? Why should one have to go through graduate school before one can be marketable when we don't even have that many graduate schools to train them in Ghana? They would have been hot cakes if they had pursued some technical courses in science and medicine. Let Ghana government reform our educational system to meet the needs of the current world economies. The colonial education is now history. “A good tertiary programme should be able to project how many of its products will graduate with what degrees and how many of them the economy can absorb. “If you are planning for a year sow rice; if you are planning for a decade plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people;” (A Chinese proverb, as cited by Godwin Yaw Agboka, March 2006) Why is Ghana government educating her youth for education sake without thinking about the economic implications and when they migrate after graduation the government starts complaining of brain drain? It just doesn't make sense. Just like Godwin Yaw Agboka writes, “Education must help its beneficiaries become self-sufficient; it must solve problems. If education adds to the myriad of problems the nations already has then did we go or did we come? I don't subscribe to the argument that undergraduate education, for instance should be the stepping stone for future educational engagements. I don't believe anyone should need a Master's degree to get a job. Such a view beats logic! We make nonsense of secondary education if we perpetuate such a view.” Wake up Ghana!. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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