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Dotyaw
25th September 2013, 02:05 AM
The Urgent Need for Ghana Ministry of Post-Secondary Education

By Fredua Kwarteng and F. Ahia

At present, Ghana has eight public-funded universities, ten polytechnics, and more than five dozens private postsecondary institutions. Postsecondary or tertiary (higher education) institutions include universities, colleges and other institutions beyond senior secondary education. The rate of establishing both public and private-funded postsecondary institutions in Ghana, particularly universities is increasing exponentially. Within the next couple of years, every region in the country would have a university and some would arguably have more than five. This trend is comparable to the situation in the 1970s when numerous private commercial/business schools sprang up in every nook and cranny in Ghana teaching mainly accounting, commerce and typewriting. However, the spate of private commercial/business schools in the 1970s was driven by the assumption that service jobs were available in banks, state, para-state and other organizations for young people who would avail themselves of a short-duration of education for 2-3 years.

The same assumption does not underlie the establishment of public and private funded universities in Ghana. On the contrary, private universities are set-up on the presumption that the more universities we have as a nation-state the more we are able to up-lift ourselves out of poverty and other economic deprivations. This theory does not question the nature of the program offerings of these universities, their pedagogical orientations, and their mission in relation to our development problems or goals as a nation. There is yet another theory that the more universities we establish in Ghana, the more access people would have to postsecondary (higher) education or the more we could meet their demand for postsecondary education. Another factor that has led to the proliferation of university institutions in Ghana is the provision of the 1992 Constitution, that states that higher education should be accessible to all and that individuals have the right to establish and maintain private institutions at all levels. None of these factors suggests that the state cannot take an active role to regulate tertiary institutions on a continuous basis.

Nevertheless, the critical question that motivated us to write this piece is this: Which of the ministries is responsible for post-secondary institutions in Ghana including universities? The obvious response is the Ministry of Education. But we know through our observations that the Ministry of Education has very little or nothing to do with postsecondary institutions in Ghana. It is rather the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) that coordinates the operations of postsecondary institutions in Ghana. We are also aware that before a private university is established it has to go through vigorous evaluation process set-up by the National Accreditation Board (NAB). But our question is directed at the ministry that regulates continuously, undertakes external quality assurance of post-secondary institutions periodically, controls and disburses funding judiciously, and ensures that government policies on higher education are implemented effectively. Though members of the NAB are appointed by the government for a specific term, it is not a ministry under the direct supervision of a minister. Given the exponential growth rate of the postsecondary sector in Ghana, it should have its own substantive sector minister responsible for working with postsecondary institutions, including monitoring and undertaking external quality assurance; aligning national goals with those of postsecondary in the sphere of science, technology and research; and control and disbursement of funding. For instance, such ministry should have the power to order the closure of a department or faculty in a university that fails repeatedly to satisfy external quality assurance criteria.

Establishing a separate ministry for tertiary or postsecondary (or higher) education does not suggest that the government should interfere in the operations and management of postsecondary institutions, especially universities. While we cherish academic freedom and autonomy dearly, our tertiary institutions should be structured to meet the needs and aspirations of our society and be held accountable for the investment funding they receive from the government. They should also be made accountable for providing quality and relevant education to the public. A ministry responsible for tertiary institutions would also compel the government to develop cohesive national policies on tertiary institutions and ensure that they are effectively implemented at the institutional levels. It would enforce standards and quality through its quality assurance principles. It would also coordinate government policies with higher institutions and make the policies of these institutions as transparent as possible to the public.

We are sick and tired of hodge-podge tertiary education policies in the post-Nkrumah years that have never been a catalyst of Ghana’s economic, industrial and social development. That is, political leaders of post-Nkrumah era have failed to articulate any vision for higher education, let alone translate their vision into policies, plans or programs. The mere inauguration of a university is not good enough but the contribution it would make to our national development beyond the platitude of providing human resource is what matters most to us. Furthermore, we want to strengthen our democracy by having a minister in charge of tertiary institutions who could be questioned by the people’s representatives in parliament. Presently, the people’s representatives are denied this vital democratic right. Having a minister in charge of tertiary institutions in Ghana is a way forward towards building a strong tertiary education sector.

You can reach the first lead author at efredua_2000@yahoo.ca