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Consultation key to successful education policy execution

BY: Very Rev Dr. Sam Nii Ollennu
The writer
The writer

As far back as 1983, Levitt asserted that the two vectors which were shaping the world were technology and globalisation. He explained that technology helped to determine human preferences while globalisation was substantiating the economic realities.

From this assertion, I reckon that a combination of these two vectors is the cause of a global reality which came with a proliferation of knowledge and new ways of thinking as well as acting.

The outcome of this global reality is the precipitation of rapid changes in all sectors, and one could align with the claim that any commercial entity or country which does not adapt to this realism will become a victim of those which do. In response to this realism, the world has seen many reforms in almost all sectors of human endeavour, not excluding education.

Accordingly, there have been numerous educational reforms and initiatives in many countries to meet the challenges of globalisation, technological inventions and the economic transformation, not losing site of the international competition that come along with it. In fact, in some jurisdictions, the aim, content and organisation of education were significantly changed, and curriculum reform was rapidly implemented to meet national aspirations.

Reforms

These rapidly implemented education reforms could not have been undertaken without extensive consultations. This is because the findings of a study entitled “An Interrogation of Administrative Processes Driving Education Reform Policies in the Secondary Education Sector in Ghana”, conducted by Ollennu, S.N.N. and Maloreh-Nyamekye, T. and published in 2019, indicate strongly that consultation of players in the education field and interest groups in that arena appears to be key to the successful running of any education reform policy process. Consequently, any education reform policy which is not preceded by an all-encompassing or thorough consultation is very likely to meet challenges which could make it fizzle out. Furthermore, without consultation, the reform may be regarded as being radical and inappropriate, and the government may be accused of riding roughshod over an existing policy

Consensus

Thus, the stiff opposition which the introduction of the recently proposed new education curriculum by the Ministry of Education (MOE) was greeted, is a clear indication that an all-embracing consultation was not undertaken before the attempt to implement the reform. If the proposed reform is to see the light of day, then it is imperative for MOE to put the system into reverse gear and go back to consult with the key players and prominent interest groups in the education industry in Ghana.

To give direction and structure to the consultations among various players in the education reform policy process, the following recommendations must be considered. Firstly, there should be free speech and all parties encouraged to participate in the discussions without fear of intimidation whatsoever. The consultations should touch on how people feel about reform proposals made to gauge the emotional impact of programmes. This is with the view to engendering honest feedback from relevant stakeholders on the acceptability of the policy. The mechanics of how the policy would address the gaps identified should be discussed to enable training, role assignment, configuration of reporting structure and communication mechanism. It should be clear at the end of consultations at each stage along the policy cycle what is to be achieved, that is, the key performance indicators (KPI).

Additionally, methods and deliverables for measurement of success must be agreed upon. The following factors must also be considered: time, to determine realistic schedules; cost, to ensure expenditures are within budgetary provisions; materials, their quantity and procurement procedures; and resources, including human resource, needed for undertaking tasks at various stages of the process, should be worked out and discussed during the consultations. These would ensure that reviews are thorough in order set the reform policy on the road to achieving its objectives.

Broad based consultations

To know precisely what needs to be reformed, the government would have to mindfully undertake a thorough analysis of the extant education system, using broad-based consultations at the grassroots. These consultations must be apolitical and deeply involve education practitioners, relevant stakeholders, interest groups and other private players in the sector. It is also important not to see reform policy execution as a one-off event. Rather, it must be seen as a cyclic process in which the evaluation stage of the preceding policy feeds into the beginning of a succeeding one.

Obviously, lack of resources can shortchange the administrative set-ups put in place to manage the consultations and subsequent reform process. This could eventually affect the full implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the policy. In this connection, the government would have to make ample budgetary provisions for the various stages of the policy execution process, including consultation, each time education reform policies are to be introduced.

The writer is the Chaplain/Lecturer, Methodist University College Ghana, Accra