Technical and Vocational Education and Training — What is Ghana’s story?

BY: By Raphael Azumah Williams*

Ghana’s education system has not shifted significantly from the unsystematic general education of our former colonial masters, a self-preoccupation that short-changed Ghanaians into subservient semi-literates. The education was purely based on learning the English Language and the vicious attempt to indoctrinate Africans in general with the English culture.

It basically ignored the aspect that taught Ghanaians how to fish for themselves - that eventually deprived them of knowledge and application-based training. To a large extent, the outcome of colonial education system further impinged on our ability to solve our own problems and the nightmare continues with our dependency on the skills and expertise of the West and Asia to fix our teething technical problems. 

Many years of extricating ourselves from the shackles of colonial rule, little has been done to correct the imbalance ourselves. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) continues to receive little attention. Several renowned educationists have indicated that Ghana will continue to move in cycles unless there is a complete paradigm shift and a full integration of TVET in our education system at pre-secondary and post-secondary levels.

 They insist that our current education system basically lacks targeting as part of national strategic human resource planning and also not demand-oriented. There is, therefore, no doubt to say that there is a huge gaping gap with regards to technical and vocational manpower requirement for now and the foreseeable future.  

Employers in Ghana admit that looking for people with technical skills for the industry is very difficult and sometimes,  certain specific technical skills are also non-existent.  Many countries have realised the imbalance and have resorted to putting up concrete measures to remedy the situation.  Even though for many years as we existed as a country, Ghana has never undertaken any Human Resource Audit, there is credence that the country needs people with technical skills of various dimensions. 

Rwanda is one of the African countries which is vigorously pursuing TVET to solve many socio-economic challenges after plunging deep into the doldrums of excruciating civil war. 

Rwanda is providing leadership and institutional framework to accelerate the implementation of TVET. Rwanda envisions TVET as a strategic government policy aimed at ending poverty. As a result, both legal and structural reforms of the TVET sector were instituted in 2008. 

Two institutions were created within the Ministry of Education: The Workforce Development Authority (WDA) and the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Canters (IPRCs). The WDA has to organise the TVET strategy at a national level and the IPRCs have to develop into centres of expertise on a provincial level. Despite some few challenges, Rwanda’s purposeful tenacity is paying greater dividends in the TVET sector.

Statistics from International Labour Organisation (ILO) are damning, especially with regards to TVET sector in Sub-Saharan Africa.” In 2007, more than 54 million students were enrolled in upper secondary TVET institutions, representing over 10 per cent of all enrolments worldwide at this level of education. The figures in relation to general secondary education were declining in virtually all regions of the world a decade ago.

 Percentages, nevertheless, remain relatively high in some regions, notably Europe, where more than 50 per cent of all secondary students in European Union countries are enrolled in vocational programmes, and slightly less in all Sub-Saharan African countries, where nearly 15 per cent of students are enrolled in combined school and work-based programmes. In 2007 an estimated 56 per cent of young adults in Sub-Saharan African countries entered tertiary-type academic programmes, whereas on average, only 15 per cent of young adults entered tertiary programmes with a TVET-type orientation and subsequently direct access to labour markets”. The trend continues to decline abysmally. This has therefore given rise to a direct disproportionate reflection on what is happening on Ghana’s labour market where graduates with technical and vocational skills are almost non-existent and the few around become “hotcakes”.

In Ghana, there are approximately 672 public senior high schools (SHS) including secondary-technical and technical institutes. Public technical institutes constitute 4.2 per cent  whereas public secondary-technical schools also constitute 2.9 per cent . These figures therefore translate to 7.1 per cent  of both secondary-technical and technical institutes put together. Private TVET provision is nevertheless expanding and such schools provide some significant training in Ghana. The private sector participation in the provision of TVET equals public sector contribution. Churches’ contribution to TVET at the private sector is overwhelming – it is approximately 80 per cent . At the tertiary level, TVET courses are mostly run by the polytechnics and a few universities. And yet, graduates who pursued TVET related programmes from all the 10 polytechnics in Ghana constitute 10 per cent  of the total number of graduates on yearly basis. 

While many EU countries have achieved 50 per cent TVET enrolment at both pre-secondary and post-secondary levels, Ghana is struggling below 10 per cent  at all levels with regards to public institutions. The laxity can be attributed to a myriad of factors such as lack of government priority, financial reason, lack of proper policy and leadership direction. It is true to the extent that, finance poses the greatest challenge in the provision of TVET; however Ghana has not had the kind of leadership to provide the direction. We need leadership that will not only prioritise TVET but also diversify our long-cherished general education. That is the way to go.

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