Feature Article of Thursday, 16 February 2012

Columnist: Mutaka, Alolo A

The problems with our educational system!

In today's fast developing world, one has to be strategic to keep up with the rapid changes in technology and the needs of the society. Education is key to the development of any nation. Unfortunately, the current educational system in Ghana (from Primary-Tertiary), in my opinion, is in serious jeopardy. Education has become a tool for campaigning by politicians, and when they are voted into power they alter the already existing system to score cheap political points. Much as changes need to be made to advance in technology, there is also the need to be consistent in our educational system for its success and effectiveness. Our politicians seem to be playing games with our Senior and Junior High school systems. Over the years we have experienced changes to the duration of the SHS system under different political parties. Have these changes ever been justified? What is the rationale behind these changes? It is unclear whether these unnecessary changes are made to enhance the effectiveness of the system or just to gain cheap political popularity.
The computer placement system which was introduced some few years ago was meant to replace the inefficient and corrupt method of placing Junior high school students into senior secondary schools. Sadly, the new computerized system is riddled with the same inefficiencies and corruption and causing nightmares for students and their parents. In my opinion, the educational system should be an autonomous system which does not allow any political party in power to easily amend it for the purpose of gaining political popularity. It should be independent of all political associations.

Another area worthy of mention is our university system , what amazes me most is the way public universities in their own power literally make the choice of courses of which prospective students should offer rather than making the students pursue courses of their own interest. Employers always complain about relative incompetence of our university graduates and their inability to perform on the jobs. I however believe the blame should not be put squarely on the graduates but rather the prevailing university systems. Especially our public universities. Time and resources are wasted in training students in areas that are of negligible relevance to the job market instead of courses that will adequately equip them for the job market.
In the University of Ghana for instance, majority of the students are reading the Arts, offering courses such as theatre arts, dance, religion, languages, and many more, these courses have little practical relevance to business and technology, which are the main drivers of development in today’s modern society. Most of these students graduate and seek to work in the business environment but lack the necessary training. Considerable number of these students did not apply for the courses they are offering and do not have interest in reading them but have to do so anyway since they have no choice if they want to be in a public university.
Little attention is paid to the fact that every student has a unique field of interest thus it would be much more appropriate if students are allowed to read courses of their own interest. Considering that the university is an intellectual society manned by academicians, It is indeed surprising that Universities are not accommodative to the choice of students when it comes to pursuing their programmes of interest Most often, Students with interest in other disciplines like business or medicine are forced to undertake courses like drama, dance, languages etc. After graduation, some of these students may be fortunate to secure employment with financial institutions, insurance firms, and other business establishments.. Obviously due to the fact that those graduates do not have the theoretical knowledge in their current field of work, it would take a longer time for them to be more efficient and competent on the job as compared to those with the initial theoretical background. This makes their career path much longer for them than would have been necessary .The question is, why not invest in training students to meet the growing business environment in Ghana? Is it not possible for stakeholders to invest and expand the business, the sciences and technical schools to accommodate the demand rather than invest in areas that students and the job market have no interest in. Students have different preference with regards to courses and should therefore be allowed to make their choice regarding the course they want to offer in the university provided they are qualified. It is fascinating sometimes the amounts of money students are willing to pay just to study their field of interest but yet they do not gain admission into our public universities even though they have excellent grades. In the University of Ghana Business School for instance, the cut –off point for the 2011 admissions were 7A’s for males and 6A’sfor females. Do we call it fair when a student who had 5 A’s, which is an excellent grade by all standards is not allowed to read administration but is rather given a combination of Art courses that he has no interest in? Not all parents can afford private schools thus majority of students are left with no choice but to take up courses where they have no interest thereby compromising the future careers of many.
The job market for arts courses are limited in our country and in my opinion, the arts, should be reserved for students who are interested in pursuing them.
Gaining admission into our public universities for a Master’s program is also another fascinating issue. A considerable number of Ghanaians travel out of the country after their first degrees to pay huge sums of money to undertake masters programs in their various fields of interest. This would definitely not be the case if they could have the same or a comparable quality of education right here in the country, Ghana as a nation can do better than the current status quo. Ghana’s economy and development could experience substantive growth if the necessary steps are taken to solve the systematic problems plaguing our educational system. And perhaps more Ghanaian students will pursue graduate studies right at home as well attract more foreign students like other developed nations. Ghana can do better! Irrespective of political, ethical and religious affiliations let us rise as Ghanaians and demand better policies that will strategically position our country for the better. .

Long Live Ghana!
Alolo A Mutaka (PhD candidate).
@aloloakamu on twitter