The Principal of Tamale Polytechnic, Alhaji Dr Yakubu Seidu Peligah, has proposed an extension of the cost sharing policy in the country’s universities to cover polytechnic education.
He said taking into consideration the new financial demands imposed by the redesigning of the curriculum of polytechnics to train students in specific competencies under the educational reform programme, the country had to decide on other sources of funding or make the students take part in paying for their training.
Alhaji Peligah made the suggestions at a forum on “Voices of the Universities” on the second day of the 59th New Year School in Accra.
He explained that the change in curriculum to focus on each student and his/her area of competence, imposed extra teaching load on staff that run into billions of cedis.
“No polytechnic has that kind of money. This means that government must be committed in providing that kind of money, or we find it elsewhere”, he added.
He said a recent review of a pilot programme on the new curriculum that had been run in some polytechnics with funding from the Netherlands Government, showed that the country would have to commit to a huge financial outlay to sustain the technical and vocational education in the country.
“Practical education comes at a heavy cost”, he pointed out, stressing the role of polytechnics in providing a specific human resource of a technical character for national development.
On other challenges, Alhaji Peligah, said funding had ceased for non-tertiary programmes such as craft being run by the Tamale Polytechnic.
He said unlike regular polytechnic students offering the HND programmes who could access other sources of funds, students offering the non-tertiary programmes depended a lot on the institution for their feeding and, therefore, the cessation of funding was worrying.
Coupled with that, workshop equipment, facilities and other teaching materials were not available.
Alhaji Peligah called for discussions on practical solutions in the funding of tertiary education, as well as the synchronisation of government educational policy, industrial needs and polytechnic education in the country.
The Executive Secretary of the National Council for Tertiary Education, Mr Paul Effah, stressed the importance of innovation and skills application of polytechnic graduates to national development, while stressing quality research, knowledge sharing and service for university graduates.
He pointed out, however, that the country currently had a lopsided educational system, with just a quarter of the student population at the country’s universities being found at the polytechnics.
For instance, he said that the normal practice was to have four practising technicians for every practising engineer, but that was not what pertained in the country.
Mr Effah was, however, optimistic about the new educational reforms and the focus on technical and vocational training.
He said the relevance of tertiary education to national development was evident in the quality of research, the development of skills of students and the ability to impart the skills and knowledge acquired to local constituents to solve challenges.
When he took his turn, the Executive Secretary of the National Accreditation Board (NAB), Mr Dattey, asked Ghanaians to be critical of all advertisements of educational opportunities and make enquiries at the board before committing themselves or their wards to such institutions.
He said the onus was on all Ghanaians to judge critically the institutions and their accreditation status.
Mr Dattey took participants through the various stages of the accreditation of educational institutions, adding that a minimum of two years and a maximum of five years were required for an institution to have the required accreditation.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe, who answered some questions from the participants, said accreditation was for the public interest, to protect the public and maintain standards in education.
On polytechnic and university education, he explained that the two provided different lines of training, with polytechnic students being trained to provide middle-level skills, drive innovation and technology in the country.
Prof. Tagoe said the university had plans of providing tailor-made training for professional and other groups of people who might not possess the normal university entry requirements but needed training in their chosen field.
The chairperson for the function, Prof. Florence Dolphyne, said for the past 10 years it had become increasingly obvious that tertiary education was important to national development hence initiatives like the GETFund.
She said with policies that had led to increases in basic and secondary education training, there was the need for absorbing products into tertiary systems and added that funding and expansion in facilities at the tertiary level had to be looked at to address challenges.
After the presentations participants wanted to know, among other issues, the academic and professional lines of progressions for polytechnic students.
Those who contributed said the lack of employment opportunities for polytechnic graduates resulted in most of them backtracking for degree programmes at the universities.
DAILY GRAPHIC, MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2008