By Stephanie Ofori Bediako
Sixty-two years after the take-off in our educational sector, we are still faced with graduate unemployment, ignoring the fact that other countries with a robust educational sector have been able to transform their economies. It would have been great to see a transformed country like Ghana with an educational system designed to address the challenges of our time. Yet we desire new clothes, new houses, new cars, new phones among many others, including living in a better and sustainable environment.
In effect, no one desires to live in the 19th Century life in the 21st Century environment, making our reasons simple. The environment keeps evolving and so are the things we use, therefore, it is in the right order not to keep relying on the old ways that do not bring any successful returns to us. Juxtaposing our lifestyles with our educational system makes the heart bleed.
Sadly, we are investing in education, and yet, the products of our educational system cannot be absorbed by the economy. We have changed everything around us, but left our educational system behind – that which is fundamental to the growth of the economy – relying on political leaders as our source of livelihood. Why should we keep studying 19th Century courses in the 21st Century when even the propounders of such a system have changed everything around them? Have we done ourselves good as a country? Can a 19th Century car last a lifetime? So it is the same with our educational system, because we continue to study old courses and use old structures. This has failed us as a country and has become evident in the upsurge of the unemployment rate in Ghana.
Unemployment remains a major development issue globally, and in Ghana, the rates are quite high, especially among the economically active population (the youth). The International Labour Organisation (ILO) refers to youth unemployment as the share of the labour force within the ages of 15-24 without work, but available for and seeking employment. The Ghanaian youth population increased from 1.1 million in 1960 to 2.3 million in 1984, and to 3.5 million in 2000 (World Bank, 2014). World Bank statistics also indicate that about 65 per cent of the unemployed in Ghana can be found in the 15-24 years age group. This is as a result of the current state in our educational system, leaving the youth unskilfull for the working world.
One other thing worth noting is our style of examinations. This is unfathomable in this era. Right from nursery through to masters, and even PHD levels, the style of our education is still the same when individuals sit behind their desks to receive exam questions. The style was used by our grandfathers, and is still being used today. There is no review whatsoever on our style of examination. Our country, invariably, through our style of examinations, has brought about the popular and simpler form of learning, thus “chew and pour”, without encouraging creativity. So, in effect, if you do not pass your examination, you are made to rewrite the failed papers at the higher educational levels. The system praises and rewards those who are good at “chew and pour”, leaving our creative ones behind.
Also, lack of adequate teaching and learning facilities in our public tertiary institutions is a reflection of inadequate funding for these institutions. This has resulted in poor quality graduates who lack the ability to be innovative and creative, and are unable to put to use the skills they acquire. The major consequence of this imbalance is a disconnect between industry and the academia, where more graduates whose skills do not match industry standards are produced. According to Bawakyillenou et al (2013), the mismatches between tertiary education and the needs of firms have three major effects on the Ghanaian economy: High levels of graduate unemployment on the labour market who lack the requisite job-related skills, productivity effect on the part of industries and development effects in the form of high unemployment and dependency rate.
This, invariably, has increased social vices within the country. The Head of Department of Computing and Information Technology of Wisconsin International University College, Ghana, Dr Nana Kofi Annan, stated during the school’s thirteenth matriculation that Africans could not compete with their counterparts in the world if they continued to teach with old-fashioned tools and materials, while their counterparts used modern and sophisticated tools. He, therefore, called for a review of the educational system to reflect the current trends of training job creators, rather than job seekers.
In conclusion, our educational system requires a total review in this fast changing environment. There should be frequent review of the courses and systems, including the style of examinations, to rightly fit the changing environment. Definitely, round pegs should fit round holes and not square pegs in round holes. Our educational system should fit the changing environment and not the other way round. Sometimes, it seems as if we are waiting for the environment to change to fit our educational system. Let’s wake up to the new era where we challenge the destiny of our children, our generation, and make a lasting positive impact on our economy.