Interview: Ernest Aryeetey
To what extent do accreditation criteria need to be strengthened or better enforced in Ghana?
ERNEST ARYEETEY: The way the national accreditation board pursues accreditation does not really distinguish between different types of institutions. All public universities are seen as equal, but in fact they all have different endowments, resources and strengths. It would be good to benchmark different institutions by some accepted standard in relation to the type of university, since universities need to be seen differently as they aspire to much higher standards. Therefore, the benchmark for accreditation should be higher for some. If you take a look at the newer private universities, you cannot hold them to the same standard. It is important that through the affiliation system new private universities learn from older more, established ones.
Which industries do you foresee having the biggest demand for future graduates?
ARYEETEY: What Ghana needs in the future is a lot of graduates to go into manufacturing. However, I am not sure if the manufacturing sector is going to grow that fast to be able to absorb those graduates. So what will happen is that graduates will be looking at the service sector, both finance and leisure industries. I see a lot of demand coming from the hospitality industry so it will be good for young people to prepare themselves. IT will also be a fast-growing area, since IT provides services to banks, hospitals and educational institutions.
How have budget changes impacted education?
ARYEETEY: The budget has been increased compared to 2012 budget, but you have to be careful when speaking about an increase. That increase was only on the previous year’s budget, but the actual amount spent was twice as much as the initial budget. The announced increase is therefore a reflection of reality. There are many areas that require additional funding, at the secondary and tertiary levels. The number of people who have applied to come to university in 2013 has more than doubled compared to 2012 and that number is expected to increase significantly over the coming years, creating a major burden for Ghana’s universities.
One of the biggest problems that schools in Ghana face is a lack of qualified teachers, largely because teacher education has not been taken seriously enough during the last 30 years. We have to work on that so that teachers adequately serve the needs of those students. Another issue I would like to see improve is the flexibility of programmes offered. Curricula should be broader and more flexible.
What can the university system do to better prepare students entering the job market?
ARYEETEY: The private sector does not show much interest in the university system. Collaboration between educational institutions and private sector companies needs to be improved for students to get real work experience and learn how to conceptualise the theory they have acquired in the classroom.
How can industrial research and associated technology transfer be increased?
ARYEETEY: There is a lot that can be done. We have actually created the Institute for Applied Science and Technology. The main purpose of the institute is to solve industry problems. The most common problems in Africa are related to packaging, materials and processing. People are using materials that cannot be stored properly, which is not economical. African exports to Europe are quite expensive because of a lack of adequate packaging. Because many companies cannot package food exports efficiently, the EU rejects many products coming from Africa. An institute like this can work with industry to solve these problems and maintain the freshness of food exports, if the right scientists can collaborate on the project. We have approached various institutions like the Association of Ghana Industries and the Private Enterprise Foundation because we aim to bring people together and find solutions.
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