Skills for getting useful, practical things done!

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  • The missing link in our academic infested institutions

In a previous column, “Reduce academic theories; focus on pertinent skills” (March 22, 2021) the Daily Graphic feature editor picked the following for a caption: “Ghana has no reason to be poor, but we miseducate the youth into thinking that education is all about theories and finishing off in cushioned offices”.

The caption prompts an alarm that ought to challenge and alter our understanding of what education must achieve for a developing nation massively in love with borrowing and dependency.  

Assumption

In redefining its appropriate place in the global context, Ghana would need to trash the primal assumption that real education is about theories. Why, for example, do we have to import labour and management from overseas to do mundane things that can be done by people right here in this country? Isn’t full employment – or anything closer to it – what is touted by finance, politicians and economists as the key for the nation’s development?

It’s time to wave goodbye to the dearth of a bygone era where all one was supposed to need to be self-sufficient was the ability to memorise information and regurgitate same for a certificate. Today, that notion—faulty from the start—remains as dead as pork. What is the point of education for a developing nation, if the supposed education cannot be used to produce stuff needed to upgrade one’s standard of living?

What’s stops Ghana or Africa assembling a creative and active talent that will move this continent forward? We need to educate our youth to be more productive and thrive in the coming years. And if that means breaking off from a century of theories and academics so be it! That screw has to be turned, twisted, and pushed for impact.

Of course, that is easier said than done: The real challenge is in the nation’s ability to groom a brand-new set of educators with the appropriate skills to teach the youngsters creativity and industry. That was the Osagyefo’s dream of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) before it morphed into a chew, pour, pass academics.

Human capital

The power to veer off poverty is not the fantasy kind. How many parents wish to spend good money on their ward’s education and in the end find them back at home to roost? That happens to be the current predicament in many cases. A word to our esteemed vice chancellors is to entice the various departments to be hands on, induce creativity and industry, and actively add value for the dear nation’s human capital.

A poor mindset does not only heighten real poverty but it’s the cause of that poverty itself. And a poverty of mind – to be clear – is what we hope our institutions will not only diminish but eradicate completely.

Today, the essential question for progress supports such reflections. But then the rub is this: How come our institutions are supposed to grow learners into creativity, and yet not only are our students unwittingly educated out of it, they are often denied the use and benefits of creative possibilities and innovative solutions?

Unimpeded access to education is a necessity; but the lack of suitable models stall progress. As opposed to the old model of tertiary institutions – where timetables are drawn to fit academicians that service only a tiny elite and keeping all others out – today access to the brightest ideas and know-how of practitioners have to be possible for most citizens. And advancements in technological applications are great for the purpose of 24-hour inclusivity: that is, to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

New awareness

One is reminded of the Brazilian educator, Paolo Frere, who intimated that the wrong kind of education will continue to be a subversive force if the mindset of the oppressed or poorer countries does not evolve into a new awareness of selfhood. He suggested that nations begin to look critically at the local situation in which they find themselves, and then take the initiative to act – and in the acting transform societies for the better.

At the end of the day, only the actions that emerge from outside the lecture halls provide the qualitative evaluations of the time spent just in the talking and listening mode, so that lectures do not morph into a meaningless talk shop. Students who get the most from education are those who learn to construct their own understanding, make meaningful choices, and act in applying new knowledge to solve problems.

Graduates’ dysfunction and unemployment emanate from tendencies such as lack of purposeful action – hardly the ingredient that move the individual or any nation forward.

Instinct for action

Every great leader has had an instinct for execution; that is, the discipline for getting things done. So, the selection, raising, and development of the nation’s youth ought to focus on that discipline. The downfall of many leaders or heads of institutions has been the inability or know-how to execute; the inability to close the gap between goals and outcomes.

Leaders or any boss wants to achieve and the ability of the organisations to deliver expected outcomes all focus on the discipline of getting things done. And the best learning comes from working on real problems, keeping in mind that the bulk of learning takes place outside the classrooms or lecture halls.

Email: anishaffar@gmail.com

Website: www.anishaffar.com

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