The population of every country is deemed as its most precious asset. Besides, the natural and capital resources, human capital holds the key to lift the fortunes of all nations. Human beings left without any conscious effort to empower themselves tended to harm the very society that failed to equip them with the needed knowledge. Establishment of educational institutions are geared towards empowerment of individuals in order to produce the needed positive impact on the individual and the society at large.
Educational institutions gained an important place in the then Gold Coast because the colonial masters consciously introduced formal education with the view to empower the natives for communication purposes. The interaction between the British Governors and our forebears had led to establishment of several schools in the country. After 63 years of independence, Ghana is still glued to the system of education inherited from the colonial master. The colonial master’s form of education was centered on white collar jobs as against skills-based education that has the potential to develop the country.
There have been several government interventions in the form of educational reforms but the needed results are yet to be achieved. Currently, Ghana has improved in the provision of opportunities for higher learning through the establishment of more public universities and turning polytechnics into technical universities. This increase implies that more graduates are being churned out by the various tertiary institutions. It could be said that there is no correlation between the number of graduates produced and the employment opportunities available. An embarrassing situation is where the issue of unemployed graduates from our tertiary institutions has taken a central stage in Ghana’s political space.
The days when upon graduation from the universities, jobs were readily available to students were gone for good. The concept of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has not yielded the expected results. The situation in which brilliant students are enrolled in the Senior High Schools and those with poor grades are sent for TVET is killing the efforts to build human resources capacity. This era of science and technology is about practical application of proven scientific theories for our domestic and industrial benefit.
Recognizing hardworking students only on the basis of excellent grades and not his practical contribution to society is sickening. Skill-based institutions in the country are not given the needed resources for constant hands on or practical training lessons. Due to unavailability of educational materials, logistics and financial support a whole academic year could end without achieving the prescribed number of practical lessons.
The reading-based courses are gradually taking over the skills-based courses in those institutions specifically established for skills orientation. For instance, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has a population of non-skills students that appears to belie the nomenclature of the institution.
The employers in the country have in recent times questioned the competencies and preparedness of fresh graduates from tertiary institutions. As a country, when we still stick to earlier forms of learning (rote learning and theory-centered curriculum), whom do you blame?
With the advent of technology and social re-direction, all stakeholders especially the policy makers, framers of national education curricula, technocrats, employers as well as implementors must take a step beyond just “take and give” learning to advancing institutional and individuals life or career skills. Institutional internship model of bridging the gap between the academia and industries should be replaced with passion and interest. Students have the responsibility to desist from reducing university programmes to a two-way traffic system, thus commuting from lecture to hall of residence and vice versa. This will enable students to equip themselves with appreciable knowledge and skills through the technological approaches.
The paradigm shift on acquisition of needed knowledge, skills and values for employment after university course has gone beyond presenting a beautiful transcript and CV to exhibition of skills for the job one is seeking. The likes of late the Komla Dumor got to where he reached, started building theirs careers from campus. Others like Bernard Avle, the General Manager of Citi Fm and Citi TV, Nathan Kwabena Adisi (Bola Ray), the CEO of EIB Network Group among others picked their passion while still pursuing their studies in the university.
Also, Joseph Opoku Gapko of Multi Media and Fred Djabanor of Citi Fm seized the opportunity to pursue their dream while undertaking their degree courses. Joseph Opoku Gakpo while at KNUST was an intern at Capital Radio in Kumasi and when in Accra during vacation, joined the then Choice Fm for media practice. Similarly, Alfred Djabanor also while at University of Ghana, Legon joined Ken City and later Choice Fm before landing at Citi Fm. They never waited for the completion of their studies before looking for jobs. This scenario presents a sharp shift from the traditional mode where a university graduate realizes the need to look for job avenues only after mandatory national service.
Another paradigm shift that dictates the acquisition of knowledge and skills for a job is technology integration. This is where students while pursuing their designated courses on campus take pains to enroll in technological-skills-based training or apprenticeship. This category of students have foresight in this technological era and believing in their self-driven passion, take courses in Information Technology. While some students combine the extra skills acquisition with the face-to-face model, others do it online. Students with such foresight are likely to be successful in any new world order because they are battle ready.
Since the COVID-19 has taught man a lesson, educational institutions and students must look beyond the existing model of knowledge and skills acquisition because passion-driven technology is now dictating the pace in the tech-industrial world. Key actors in both academia and industry must come to terms that remote teaching and learning, and working student have arrived. Therefore, acquisition of extra knowledge in life or career skills, social literacy information and communication technology literacy make up the new direction for survival in this changing world.
The writer is a Master of Educational Leadership and Innovation ,Methodist University College Ghana, Accra