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Opinions of Monday, 20 September 2004

Columnist: Folson, Ako

Managing Our Future Through a Shift in ...

... Our Educational Approach and Thinking

When one looks at how certain countries have risen up the ladder, or sustained their enviable positions in the world economic order, one can identify a basic approach, regardless of the region or continent.

It starts with its children and youth, and it is a systematic approach to ensure that national objectives are achieved in a more systematic fashion as outlined and planned for. They are long range in nature, well thought out and executed with passion and tenacity.

Can we say that of all the pronouncements that come from our government today, with respect to a national development policy? One always comes across great rhetoric, and especially at this time, with elections looming, we hear fantasies from all political camps as well.

The good people of Ghana know what is right for them today, their children and grandchildren, in the future. The unfortunate situation is that those who know how to make this happen are not always the people who are in the position to make this happen.

This situation is not an isolated case, in terms of Ghana, but like many parts of Africa, our national policies seem to still border on politics instead of addressing true needs, and engaging those with the intellectual capacity, and professional track records, to plan, implement and lead in the execution of the principles and strategies needed to reach our national objectives, be it economic or social, and for the long-term.

Those in authority really need to look deep within themselves to ask if their actions today, and each day, in a professional sense, takes the nation closer to its goals, especially with respect to long term goals (those that go beyond ones political life)? Are they even clear in terms of these goals, and to what extent does the general public share these goals?

The dialogue between folks and those in power must continue, especially before, but most importantly, between elections. The government must find it as its paramount duty, especially based on where we find ourselves now, as a nation, to continuously engage the masses in its efforts to shape the future of our nation. It is not always about top-down information flow. A two approach is always good for our young democracy.

In our development agenda, the nation as whole must be adequately informed. A random selected sample of the people should identify in clear sound terms, our national priorities at any specific time, if government has done its job well. If not, it is an opportunity for government to really get the masses closer to its policies.

As our future must be focused on the youth, our educational system and institutional capacity must shift. The development of the youth must shift to reflect our specific needs as a nation now and the future, and must take into account global trends (as we are not shielded from this) in terms of trade, labor, education, and employment, if we are to create a bright and promising future for our youth.

Educating for domestic consumption, for lack of a better term, is very important in reducing unemployment in the long-term, create hope and boost the morale of the youth. How we educate them today and tomorrow must take from our own experiences as a nation, and utilize what is in line with world standards as well, since education must ultimately impact our local economy immensely. We cannot make this case in absolute terms today, with respect to the impact of education on our national economy.

An example of the shift we need, with respect to thinking and education, comes from the current efforts being made to bring the sub-region closer. What have we done to educate our youth and prepare them for this regional transformation or integration? What cross-cultural exposure do they have to interact with their brothers and sisters from other countries with the respect needed? What have we done as a nation to have a competitive edge when all this comes together? What values and skills do they need to succeed in that environment? Even the most important issue of language, which is part of one?s culture, has not been adequately addressed. How can we say we are giving the youth a bright future?

It is without a doubt that our educational system, as we know it now, and the mindset about education is flawed. We have people pursuing university studies in disciplines that have even no place in our economy today or even tomorrow, and we also have parents exerting pressure on the youth to take up courses that will not provide them with any gainful employment locally, unless they migrate. Obviously government has not set the tone, and even when they do, can they be trusted?

Our economy, being so small, cannot absorb the many graduates we turn out, but the government, parents, students and educators have not made the radical decisions needed to shift our educational system to one that makes technical and vocational education, more acceptable and the priority in terms of an educational policy and national development.

Technical and vocational institutes should not be considered as a place for those who cannot go to the university. It should be a place for the youth simply seeking to enter the work force with skills that can be utilized immediately by business. Once people pursue undergraduate degrees, they must understand that they are only specialized by way of work experience or further graduate studies.

In Ghana, we still have ?kids? who aspire to be nothing but university graduates, without even the slightest idea of its impact on their lives after they graduate and the contribution they will make in the society in which they live.

Government must play its role, in terms of leadership in this shift. Society needs government?s guidance, and government must make it a point to continuously provide future employment statistics and outlooks, directed to parents, educators, business, and students alike, so as to help them make informed choices on reality and not perception.

No nation has turned its economy around without embarking on a long-term strategy, which involves its youth and the people?s acceptance of change. Ghana should not be any different.

Education and information should be key with respect to our national development strategies. Government must appropriate the necessary budget needs for this to happen and from their leadership platform create the framework for both private and public sector to pursue strategies that lead to successful goals and results, in terms of our national objectives. Of course controls must be in place to keep this on course. It cannot be on ?auto-pilot?

There is no question that Ghana will see success one day, because its people will not accept anything else. However, when and how it happens is always the question. The involvement of all stakeholders, especially government, parents, the youth, and the institutions that develop them, are the key in everything we do to create a brighter future Ghana.

We need to keep them all engaged and involved in the process if we truly want to see a brighter future for all our youth. Effective change management needs for all the stakeholders to be equally and fully informed, to allow the process to be managed effectively.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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