Among the issues that that were brought to bear at the recent Golden Jubilee anniversary and 14th General Conference of the Association of African Universities on June 5th, was the issue of graduate unemployment. The President raised a litany of salient concerns on the situation, including a call on African Universities to learn from best practices, initiating a relentless pursuit for solutions to the educational challenges that face the African continent, among others.
Ghana as a country, in the last decade has experienced a dangerous rise in graduate unemployment. This is a situation which deserves a multi-faceted approach if we are to make any progress in addressing it, but we need to make sober reflections on our educational system, and channel a lot of energy and resources into its consolidation. It is therefore worthy that the President has initiated such a critical debate at this time.
There are a swarming number of university graduates who possess the needed academic qualifications but lack the requisite professional competencies and skills that are required for success in various positions. The current tertiary level of education places too much emphasis on the theoretical aspect of educational pursuit which leaves little space for the development of the practical skills for success in professional life.
In order to arrest the situation, I would recommend a massive overhaul of our educational system, starting from the basic level. The government, together with all other stakeholders of education should be committed to ensuring that we do not only invest resources in the training of teachers to be abreast with 21st century practices both inside and outside the classrooms, but that the required supervisory checks and systems are also put in place to ensure that teachers actually put these modern methodologies into practice.
The Ghanaian classroom of the 21st century should also open its doors to the use of technology which has not only transformed modern working conditions into more efficient and conducive ones, but has also ensured that we can now execute professional tasks within the shortest time possible, in the most worker – friendly conditions and requiring the least human effort possible. The average Ghanaian student should therefore be equipped with these technological competencies that have become basic requirements for standard job performance.
Unless our government and policy makers make real time commitments in this direction, the integration of IT in education will remain but a clichéd fantasy. As President Akuffo Addo has already pointed out, there should be an active liaison between academia and industry to ensure that the transfer of knowledge, skills and attitudes gained in the classroom to real working situations.
Even though some of our Universities, especially the private ones are a step ahead of their colleagues in the Public institutions, needless to mention names, we need to systematize these practices. Internships should not be oriented at passive observation but should be more of active participation. In fact, the president couldn’t have captured it any better when he emphasized that Ghana’s problem of a skills – job mismatch among the teeming number of graduates was the result of a lack of collaboration between academia and industry.
Every citizen of Ghana must positively respond to the president’s call to action, especially if they share in the hope for a better generation of Ghanaians who are more oriented to problem solving through strategic positive action. We can create a better nation for all of us if we all support this agenda in every little way we can to ensure that more graduates are placed in job positions.
However, Mr. President, the biggest onus in this regard lies with the Ministry of Education as well as the Ghana Education Service who have it as part of their mandate to formulate sound educational policies that meet the needs of the students as well as the requirements of the modern job market. Mr. President, those agencies are under your administration. Therefore, you have to see to it that the reformulation of the curriculum is optimally executed.
The president’s call to action is not out of place. However, a policy framework that spells out both the process and product of this curriculum redesigning has to be provided. Of course, the relevance of the curriculum to the skills needs of the job market goes without saying, but the question has always been how to achieve this target.
Quite lamentably, successive governments have not done enough to enhance the effectiveness of our educational system. It is not the aim of this write up to dispense culpability, but the point here is that since the World Bank, which has been one of the biggest partners to Ghana on education, especially with regards to funding, advised its beneficiary countries to Africa to redirect their focus away from the tertiary educational level and place more emphasis on basic and secondary education in 1960, the former has witnessed a staggering decline.
Ghana as a country has outlived the justification for this World Bank directive, thus, the desperate need for basic education in African countries at the time.
It is high time the policy makers in education allocated tertiary education as much focus as is given to basic and secondary educational institutions to ensure that these institutions are able to meet global standards. The short term approach to problems, especially those pertaining to education, must be replaced with one that has a long term focus and that is tailored at providing solutions to educational challenges that are sustainable and time tested.
Tertiary education must equip its students with the professional skills and competencies including teamwork, critical thinking, time consciousness, communication, problem solving, and several others that will see them succeed in their various job designations.
If the students have these skills upon completion, it will increase their employability, hence a more competitive advantage in the job market, and this is especially positive if we want to be a more globally oriented nation than we currently are. Those with an entrepreneurial drive will also not be left out, these will also be better equipped to set up their own businesses and employ others while at it.
The Writer is a student and a Teacher. He holds Professional Certificates from Arizona State University, University of California, Irvine, and the California Institute of the Arts (All in the USA). He also holds ELT Certificates (Cambridge English Teacher) from the University of Cambridge, UK.