Funding: Quality and access are not free!

· Alabi speaks at the Baraka Policy Institute. [Final]

 For the much touted quality education to happen in Ghana, it’s quite clear that all stakeholders must help: parents, teachers, students, governments, chiefs, churches, mosques and so on. And when businesses, especially, add their voices through their corporate social responsibilities (CSR), they need to be commended. Adding value and saving the nation’s children and youth are in everybody’s interests.

Views from Salem Kalmoni and Alhassan Andani

It was refreshing to hear from the managing director of Japan Motors, Mr Salem Kalmoni (President, BPI) when he said “We would like to re-emphasize that we at Baraka Policy Institute (BPI) see those in charge of national policy as partners. And we are fully aware of the difficulties and complexities of policy drafting and implementation. Our intervention in these matters is to draw attention to those important details that might have escaped the attention of the government, policy makers and authorities. We do this by offering suggestions and alternative ideas through empirical research and intellectual support.”

Salem Kalmoni (President, BPI)
Mr Salem Kalmoni (President, BPI)

That view was corroborated by Mr Alhassan Andani, MD of Stanbic Bank (Chairman, BPI): “Over the last three years, BPI has tailored its activities towards education and wellbeing, as we believe that these inseparable domains hold the key to our socio-economic development. It is in this light that our research activities, capacity building programmes and policy drafting endeavours as well as our advocacy programmes have focused on education of the deprived and the vulnerable in particular and the general wellbeing of the citizenry as a whole.”

Alhassan Andani (Chairman, BPI)
Mr Alhassan Andani (Chairman, BPI)

Quality costs money

Prof Joshua Alabi (in concluding his keynote address for the Institute, Feb 23, 2017) said (edited), “As we talk about quality and access, we should be guided by the fact that quality and access are not free. They cost money. So where should the money come from?

“The current situation is limited by: 1. Inadequate funding from government to support effective tertiary education in Ghana; 2. Currently, the main areas of funding covers personal emoluments (though not 100%) and to a lesser extent infrastructure; and 3. Main operations of the public universities are really not funded; so public universities are to find alternative sources of funding to fill the gap. This is where a lot of public universities have resorted to massification and cost sharing, which has its own quality and access implications. To address the funding gaps, government intervention will be greatly required. Here, more transparent policy directives on funding and cost cutting mechanisms are timely. Sharing of resources among the tertiary institutions is another strategy.

“Unfortunately in Ghana, the tertiary institutions see competition and not collaboration. Private universities are saddled with unnecessary fees charged by public universities, in the name of affiliation, making it very difficult for most of them to focus resources on essential quality issues. However, my candid opinion is that affiliation was a colonial concept at a time when there were no accreditation systems in place. With accreditation systems now firmly in place, one wonders the real value of affiliation.

Prof Joshua Alabi
Prof Joshua Alabi

“This is an area that should be critically revisited and I call on the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) to pay attention to the feedback from the private universities. Obviously, because of the income many public universities are making, contention is expected. Eventually the cost is passed on to the poor students in the private universities who have no subsidy from the state in the form of government support to the public universities. Students are, generally, over burdened with too much contribution towards their tertiary education and there is need for a strong national financial intervention to alleviate this stressful burden.”

Merging smaller universities

“One key strategy that many countries are using to cut cost and enhance their international presence and performance on global ranking is merging of smaller universities to make them bigger to raise their performance. Quality of university education is now equal to performance in rankings. For institutions to attract international students and become self-sustaining and globally competitive they have to look good on global rankings.

“The Education Sector Performance Report (ESPR) 2015 does not paint a progressive picture in this respect. The reports notes, ‘The new University ranking compiled by Thompson Reuters has ranked the University of Ghana, Legon, as the 10th Tertiary Institution on the African Continent. The report looked specifically at University reputation, which reflects a University ability to recruit high quality staff and students, establish valuable international partnerships, and connect with greater funding prospects’.

“One would have expected to see a more promising picture of how Ghanaian universities are featuring on the global rankings with plans for improvement in the report. Many countries have developed national strategies for internationalization and ranking because irrespective of how we feel about these rankings, they are the new reality for universities across the world, and Ghana cannot be left out. Many countries are resorting to the merging of institutions to cut down on overhead cost and to improve their performance on global ranking and international visibility.”

Planned national strategy

“Ghana can do the same. For example, we should be thinking of merging institutions like Ghana Institute of Languages, Institute of Local Government, Ghana Institute of Journalism, NAFTI and University of Professional Studies into one big professional University, with satellite campuses all over. This will not only cut down on overhead cost but also enhance global ranking because of potential increase in research output. The question is, ‘Do we have a planned national strategy to enhance our inclusiveness?’ Tertiary education the world over has been commoditized under GATTS-WTO and therefore requires well-planned marketing and strong promotional strategies.

“In conclusion, tertiary education should result in an ‘economically productive workforce, develop sustainable livelihoods, contribute to peaceful and democratic societies and enhance individual well-being’. But this cannot happen with an elitist tertiary education system, a system where only few can have access to tertiary education either because of entry restrictions, lack of space to accommodate all who qualify or ability to pay.

“I will like to advocate for a critical look into how we can improve both access and quality of Ghana’s tertiary education system. We should not look far. We should not think of a revolution but a radical evolution that can build on the existing systems to enhance both quality and access in a distinctly Ghanaian fashion. In this respect I believe the recommendations made in this presentation are worth considering.”

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

“What does Ghana want from its tertiary education?”

· Alabi speaks at the Baraka Policy Institute (Part 2).

A key mover and shaker on the education front, Prof. Joshua Alabi presented (at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Accra, 23rd February, 2017) an inspiring presentation to the Baraka Policy Institute to help guide policy directives relevant to 21st century tertiary issues,.

A transformational leader, a marketing professional, an accomplished academic with credit in leadership in governance, sports administration and entrepreneurship, Alabi was until recently, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), training business leaders and professionals in banking, marketing, finance, auditing and management.

Prior to his appointment as Vice-Chancellor, he was over twenty (20) years a Lecturer from 1987, the founding Head of the Marketing Department in 1989, the Dean of the Management Faculty from 2003 to 2005, Pro-Rector from 2005 to 2008, and Rector from 2008 to 2012.

Prof Joshua Alabi
Prof. Joshua Alabi

The first part of the complete address was published in this column 27th February, 2017, under the main title, “Ensuring inclusive, equitable, quality tertiary education”. The following is the second part of his address (edited):

Which quality do we want?

“Quality is what you want and what works for you. If you want it and it does not work for you it is not quality. So the question is, What does Ghana want from its tertiary education and what works for it? Do we want employable graduates or graduates with employability skills? Graduates with critical thinking skills that may not necessarily have an immediate use?  Graduates with initiative and the drive to create and deliver value for national prosperity? Research that gathers dust on the shelves? Research that is targeted at promotion? Research that results in innovation and advancement and can solve immediate problems?

Section of the audience
A section of the audience

“Again, Is quality = Standards? or Is Quality = Accreditation? or Is Quality = Number of years a school is under tutelage? Who judges quality of graduates? Is Quality = Number of years students stay in school? Is it industry that judges the quality of graduates, the university or the regulatory bodies or the students themselves?

“A good quality education has been described as one that provides all learners with capabilities required to become economically productive, develop sustainable livelihoods, contribute to peaceful and democratic societies and enhance individual well-being. According to UNICEF, quality education is defined by five elements: 1. Learner’s outside experiences, 2. Learning environment, 3. Content of education, 4. Learning processes, and 5. Educational outcomes.

“Currently the quality issues in the tertiary sector include but not limited to the following: Learning environment; Infrastructure and resource issues, particularly human resource issues (Staff / Students Ratio), why the Staff /Students Ratio is low even with only 12% Gross Enrolment Ratio.”

Content / Instructional Competence

“Generally, is the curricula we have suited to our labour needs? Do we have Programmative Benchmarks? And if we do, what are the programmatic learning outcomes responsive to labour market needs? Obviously, there is the urgent need for tuning our various curricula to the needs of the labour market.

“For the learning processes, instructional approaches, training and retooling of staff are needed. This does not imply that we do not have quality in our learning processes but we need continual improvement. Currently, there is over emphasis on research competence over teaching and learning competences as teaching and learning competence is not required for teaching in the tertiary institutions in Ghana. The assumption is that once you can research well then you can teach.

“Also, the learner’s outside experiences must include Internships for both staff and students, industry linkages and international exchanges and exposure.”

Education outcomes

“What are the outcomes expected? Are they linked to national human resource needs? Are there any sound linkages between National Development Agenda and tertiary education outcomes? How do we improve upon this? Generally, how can we make Tertiary Education work for us? Do we have the relevant labour market data that informs us about the relevant skills and competences that are required over the strategic planning horizon?

“The policy as stated in the ESPR 2015 stresses the following actions as interventions to enhance quality:

  • Industry linkages and incubators through operationalization of a well- functioning Work-place Experience Learning (WEL).
  • Review and revision of tertiary curriculum and instructional design and methodologies to make the curriculum more learner centered, and needs-based.”

Training and retooling of academic staff

“Though these interventions will improve quality of tertiary education in Ghana, we require a transformation of teaching strategies for quality to improve. This will require a complete paradigm shift that will require training and retooling of academic staff to make teaching at the tertiary level more practical and suited to the needs of society. It should also be problem and competency based. Many academics will also need to learn how to facilitate learning not lecturing.

“A policy requirement that calls for teaching and learning competencies will be required to equip academics with skills in facilitating learning. At the moment the requirement for teaching in the university is a research master or PhD. The assumption is that once you can research well you can teach. However at the secondary and primary levels, teaching competences are recognized for differentiated salaries.”

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)