– The case for a comprehensive Technical and Polytechnic education.
The recently ‘Polytechnic bill’ passed by Parliament recognises the country’s ten Polytechnics as technical institutions with proper organisational management structures and academic validation procedures to run bachelor of technology degree courses.
As Ghana prepares to become a major oil producing country in the first quarter of 2010, market research has revealed a widespread desire among polytechnic graduates to top up their subject diplomas and certificates to degree level, especially in research and development. This can be achieved by the ten polytechnics in devising a series of subject-based extended studies (from bachelor’s to masters degree level) to be completed at their own polytechnic. This would increased engineering, technical, vocational, construction and management graduates that Ghana would need in her drive to achieve rapid development in all sectors of the economy.
In recent years there has been criticism of lack of government interest in polytechnic education by GNUPS, educationists, business leaders, professional bodies and employers. The main criticism is that the diploma courses are poor imitation of the degree courses and thus do not serve the purpose of training competent technical personnel. Many commentators, including past Presidents of GNUPS have expressed their concerns on several occasions about the need to reorganise the system of polytechnic education that articulates the development of joint cooperative effort between the polytechnics and industry.
As Ghana embark on ambitious development programme, demand would grow for employees in the following areas: ICT, leisure and tourism, building, nursing, road and railroad construction, agro industry, petro-chemicals and supervisory and training staff for private and public organisations. This new demands had to be met by higher institutions. By turning the polytechnics into institute of technologies would stimulate research and development work in areas mentioned and others as well. This would also enhance the quality and impact of education and to encourage the ten polytechnics to undertake long-term development as the country prepares for the take-off. The training of tradesmen and artisans, technicians and technologists to serve much needed developmental aspirations of the country would fall on the polytechnics and thus the need to for fully accreditation.
Centres of excellence must be established in all the ten polytechnics and must be allocated performance based funding to encourage competition and enhance quality technical education. The centre of excellence may be a department (thus in Tamale Polytechnic – Degree Programme in Nursing and Health Care, Ho Polytechnic – development of entrepreneurship in the Degree Programme in Agriculture and Rural Development etc) or corresponding faculty or a whole polytechnic. Like the public universities, the ten polytechnics must be encourage to expand as multi campus institutions and offer courses that would lead to diplomas and degrees in teaching, technology, engineering management, business etc. With the severe shortage of health professionals in the country (in addition to school of nursing at University of Ghana, Legon, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University For Development Studies, Tamale and School of Medical Sciences at University of Cape Coast) the following polytechnics – Kumasi, Accra, Tamale, Bolgatanga, Ho and Cape Coast must establish school of Nursing and Health Care as a matter of urgency.
In the area of auto engineering, Kumasi, Accra and Takoradi Polytechnics must form a close working relationship with their various Magazines (with the establishment of faculty of Mechanics Education, and co-operate with Industrial slums, where artisans and technicians are known for their innovative prowess) by identifying various technician specialities and reorganise their curricula to suite them, in order to help develop local equipments and machineries, especially in agriculture. The abilities and capacities of these artisans must be supported by the competencies that they acquire through education, training and experience at the country’s polytechnics. In this regard, this writer would like to congratulate Tamale Polytechnic for its ‘Four Year Strategic Development Plan’ launched in 2008 to meet emerging challenges. Projects like that of Tamale would assist the government to continue its long term investment program in technician and skilled worker training as was outlined by the Education Minister Hon Tettey Enyo.
As Tamale has done, each polytechnic in consultation with the regional authorities ensure that training in each speciality should a judicious combination of theory and practical experience in the field.
In conclusion, this writer would urge the education ministry to examine the inadequacies in the delivery of polytechnic education and devise measures to improve the system. Lessons can be learned from places where similar problems in polytechnic education have been dealt with effectively such as United Kingdom and United States.
Peter Jeffrey, London.
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