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Opinions of Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Columnist: Gyate, Kojo

National Accreditation Board And Their Ruckus

*Kojo Gyate*

Ghana prides itself in the training of skilled labour in the West African sub region and in fact the world as a whole. Its educational institutions have for many years been a beacon of confidence in the sub region for a very long time.

Ghana’s secondary and tertiary educational institutions still remain robust in all areas of academic endeavour. Education reforms in the country a little more than a decade ago saw the expansion of secondary and tertiary education, enabling many more people gain access to tertiary education. This enterprise however, has not been without its challenges.

Dialogue on problems posed by the expansion of the educational system has been rife in “national life”. Decline in academic standards has been a subject matter for debate across the nation. That many students in tertiary educational institutions cannot either read or comprehend simple English. Primary education has been blamed for the deficit, thus affecting admissions into secondary and tertiary education.

Over the years, policy on education has been varied depending on which regime is in control. Various political convictions have contributed to the change in policy and this custom has been a dilemma to parents who invest in their children’s education. Number of years a child should spend in a secondary school has been gambled if not toyed with.

While for so many years secondary education in Ghana (touted as one of the best on the continent) lasted seven solid years, the new reform reduced it to less than half the period, thus allowing few to further their education because there were hitherto very few Universities in the country. Less time spent in preparing students for undergraduate work has brought untold consequences both to students and lecturers in tertiary institutions.

Private tertiary education has been and still is very expensive in Ghana today. Despite, this many parents have seen the wisdom in sending their wards to school to learn and earn a living.

Today there are more than 40 private universities in which parents have been the core investors despite economic hardships. Governments have turned deaf ears on calls to support private education making many bright students lose the chance of receiving instruction in tertiary institutions making Ghana lose potential talent of generations of youth.

As the Ghana educational establishment further becomes inflexible under the control of massive incestuous political machinery involving public sector bureaucrats and ideologues at the national level, any hope for salvaging the newer generations of prospective skilled work is slipping through the fingers. This constitutes neglect and the denial of the human rights of a good number of children who can be trained to become productive.

Losing sight of the beauty and dignity in educating the future generation represent the loss of human capital to any nation including Ghana.

As the prospects of a booming economy lingers in our minds with the discovery of oil and the revamping of the economy there is the need for government to offer the needed support in education to all without regard to policy that seek to isolate one group from another.

Yes, one agrees that there is a serious crisis on the employment market but that has little to do with education. Whether educated or not, one needs to work and it is better to have a knowledgeable population without work than to have uneducated lot with work. Today’s global thinking will not support the latter.

Ghana stands to lose its human capital if we continue to deny children the needed education because of their deficiency in numeracy and not because of literature. What if the economy were to revive itself by some miracle -- even under the current regime? Where would the skilled workers come from?

The problem is that the requirements for skilled jobs tend to change as the underlying technology changes (and this can happen in Ghana especially with the much anticipated economic upturn). One cannot train for a skilled job and expect the job to stay the same.

All of these problems add up, so that when a more buoyant economy finally falls into place, the nation at large has far fewer skills in place to take advantage of a new building phase, should it occur. The skills must be imported at a higher cost -- financially and socially because of loss of human capital.

For example, a solution to the hitherto dismal educational system in India has come in the form of sustainable investments in a vast network of private schools delivering standardized, high quality education at an affordable price to the low income mass market (base of the pyramid) customer.

The investments in schools in India would take the form of financial resources, organizational support and value-added services to help these schools become efficient and effective educational institutions. Ghana needs to take a note of this enterprise.

An OECD development centre working paper on “human capital and growth” established that “the relationship between investment in education and growth is very complex and cannot be reduced to a simple, public good argument.”

Educational authorities in Ghana must therefore take up the challenge of new thinking in the sector and have a more rational approach to fixing the problem at hand rather than applying the rules to the letter thereby defeating the purpose for which they have been entrusted.

Recently, more than 700 students were removed from a recognized university in Accra just because these undergraduates did not make the required credits in mathematics. New thinking is that the *D7 and E8 *tale must be revisited because the booting of these numbers from school raises not only ethical questions but poses a challenge to management, especially in the educational sector.

Authorities who have been entrusted with the management and the regulation of tertiary education are expected to manage crisis not make baloney of it. Is firing more than 700 learners the only option to these managers? Twenty-first century thinking disallows such ideological beliefs because mostly underprivileged parents and guardians would have thrown colossal sums of money down the drain.

Change in policy, regulation or procedures tied to critical thinking would tell us that permitting universities to continue a compulsory two-year math tutoring for those who do not have the preferred requirements would make it a justifiable for such rather ruthless judgments from the National Accreditation Board? Yes there are late learners.

Pupils who are not taking up courses that are not science-based need not attain extraordinary marks in math, given that critical thinking is not only based exclusively on the ability to calculate complex mathematical formulas but the ability to be rational. Literature and the expression in verbal communication is the emphasis in today’s dealings.

A pass therefore in math should be given appreciation it deserves for those who are not mathematically oriented. Many will agree with me that there are a lot of highly qualified lawyers, administrators and even doctors who fall into the kind I am describing, yet are doing excellent in their fields of endeavour.

The new thinking in the management of education should therefore be seen as a challenge by the supervisory body rather than tending to problems with such overbearing approach to demonstrate competence or lack of it.

Imagining the state of mind of a scholar at level 400 who has paid a minimum of a thousand Ghana cedis a semester asked to go home because they do not have a credit in math, more so a benefactor? Let me remind you that many of the people behind this impious decisions went to school ‘’free’’.

Yes, we know that Professor Azonto and Professor Obinim were the most excellent in Achimota School, Mfantsipim School and Wesley Girls High School. But we are not the same as these professors. We did not score ‘’nine ones’’ and ‘’As’’ in asterix because we did not come from homes with grand pianos or flush toilets.

‘’The old order changeth yielding place to new’’. And it has changed in many places and is still changing. Let us learn to change by adopting the contemporary trend of flexibility in management.

The paradox of globalization and the accelerated growth which goes with it is that more rather than less public funding should be made available for development schemes including education.