Alignment of higher professional education with the needs of the local labour market: The case of Ghana
Author (s) : Mtinkheni Gondwe, Jos Walenkamp – The Hague University of Aplied Sciences
Secondary and tertiary education should be the foundation of a nation’s workforce development efforts. However, in developing countries, the critique is often heard that education is not responsive to the needs of the labour market. Graduates have limited theoretical knowledge and practical skills which are relevant for employers. This necessitates retraining in the workplace. Furthermore, there is often a mismatch between the courses given and the needs of the local economy, particularly in technical disciplines.
In this report an analysis is made of the extent to which tertiary level professional education in Ghana is aligned with the needs of the labour market. Firstly, we give an overview of the Ghanaian education system and labour market (including the challenges faced and needs). Thereafter, we identify key areas in which alignment exists or does not exist. The analysis is based on a literature review and personal interviews with key representatives of the education and employment sectors during country visits.
Background to the study
Many students in developing countries do not complete their secondary education, either due to financial reasons or due to poor academic performance. Furthermore, complex regulatory structures and processes limit progression of large groups of students to the post-secondary education level.
The number of students who fall away is very high (e.g. 60% in Ghana; Ghana MOESS, 2008), which is an unfortunate loss of talent. As a result of the theoretical nature of the secondary education currently given, the school-leavers do not have sufficient practical or employable skills. Most end up in the informal sector where they become self-employed. However, since they lack entrepreneurship skills and the skills to professionalize their activities, their earnings are limited and sustainability of the activities is low. This limits the contribution of the informal sector to national economic development.
More and more governments of developing countries wish to bring about a change in this situation. They see technical and vocational education and training (TVET1 ) as a solution to the problem, on the condition that the training is optimally aligned with the human resource needs of the local labour market and the local economy.
Due to shortcomings in the quality of professional education institutions, society often has the impression that students who train at technical and vocational education institutions are second rate students. All these problems give TVET a poor image, and make students choose theoretical studies in the general secondary education stream or at a traditional university instead. There is a need to improve the applied sciences curricula, teaching methodologies and infrastructure and staff training. Dialogue between professional education institutions and the labour market also needs to be structurally established so that the curricula can be jointly developed to increase relevance and so that the training skills of employers during apprenticeships and internships can be raised.
Aim of the study
The current study aims to identify the weak points in the linkage as well as the factors that weaken the linkage in Ghana. The analysis particularly focuses on the tertiary-level system, although performance and quality at this level is intricately linked with that of the secondary-level TVET system. Not only shortcomings are reported, but also the successes that have been achieved in the alignment. The potential role of international cooperation in strengthening alignment is also explored.
THE CASE OF GHANA
This chapter begins with a presentation of an overview of the Ghanaian education system in order to identify the education level and context within which professional education takes place. Thereafter, attention is mainly paid to the higher professional education sector as this is the main sector of interest to the current study.
University education: Entry into university requires passing a university entrance examination. Universities offer academic programmes (bachelor, master and PhD education) as well as sub-degree professional education courses (certificates and diplomas) through their affiliation with local tertiary level professional education institutions.
Higher professional education: is offered at polytechnics and specialized colleges. Polytechnics have not always been part of the tertiary education system in Ghana and were only upgraded to this level in 1992 through the Polytechnics Law (PNDC Law 321; Ghana MOESS, 2008). In contrast to universities, polytechnics prepare students for practice-oriented middle-level professions.
Governance and administration
Education is mainly financed by the Ministry of Education (72% in 2008), the GETFund2 (9.5% in 2008), internally generated funds by institutions (9% in 2008) and multilateral and bilateral donors (9.5% in 2008; Ghana MOESS, 2008).
In 2010, Ghana’s budget on education was 27.4% of the total national budget (Prof. Buatsi, presiding MOESS Chief Director, pers. comm.).
Current challenges and future development needs of the TVET sector
The following factors have been identified as hampering the quality of tertiary (professional) education in Ghana:
- Quality and number of students: The number of students at the secondary school level, who have the necessary background to enable them to pursue scientific and technical programmes at the tertiary level, is insufficient.
- Quality and number of educators: Science teachers in pre-tertiary education institutions are trained either at universities or teacher training colleges. However, not enough educators are being trained so that most people teaching science in schools have no specialized training at all in science education (Duodu, 2006).
- Recommendations for improvement: The 2007 Educational Reforms led to the upgrading of Teacher Training Colleges into Diploma Awarding Institutions as this would bring improvements in both the quality and quantity of teachers, especially science teachers (Addy, 2008). The increase in trained primary school and junior secondary school teachers is necessary since the educational foundation often determines a student’s potential to cope with studies at secondary and post-secondary levels, certainly in the technical disciplines.
- Quality and number of education and training institutions: The official government policy is to achieve a ratio of 60:40 sciences to humanities manpower base by 2020 (Ghana MOESS, 2008). However, the present enrolment is heavily skewed towards humanities (Figure 188.8.131.52).
Current key economic sectors and labour involvement
The key productive sectors of Ghana’s economy are agriculture (34.3% of GDP in 2007 and employing 56% of the labour force), services (31% of GDP in 2007 and employing 29% of the labour force) and industry (26% of GDP in 2007 and employing 15% of the labour force; GoG, 2005; CIA World Fact Book, 2009). Within the agricultural sector the contribution to the GDP, in order of magnitude, comes from the crops and livestock subsector followed by the cocoa, fishing, and forestry and logging subsectors respectively (GoG, 2005).
The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) provides statistical summaries on participation in the labour market. The strong performance of Ghana’s economy, particularly since the mid-1990s, has been linked to declining unemployment and underemployment (GSS, 2008a). Despite these positive developments, the situation for youth is still critical, with the unemployment rate among the youth aged 15–24 (i.e. people who have no work, are available for work and actively looking for work) being estimated at 61% in 2006 (GSS, 2008a).
Current challenges and future needs of the Ghanaian labour market
Needs deduced from personal interviews: Personal interviews conducted by Nuffic with senior education stakeholders and labour market representatives in Ghana (van Haren et al., 2009) all pointed to oil mining as a major upcoming economic sector in Ghana for which personnel with specific technical skills is required. The country has proven oil reserves of 15 million bbl (CIA World Fact Book, 2008), which is a commercially viable quantity, and has plans to commence oil mining and export in 2011.
Matching the education on offer with the skills needed in the local labour market
Ghanaian academics agree that the correct emphasis has not been placed on the development of human resources, particularly in the sciences (i.e. science, engineering, agriculture) and on the application of science as a development tool (Addy, 2008). Scientific knowledge increases a nation’s capability to innovate technologies that assist in the solution of national problems.
Alignment between educational curricula on offer and local labour market needs
Areas in which alignment exists, but where stronger linkages with the labour market are needed:
Analysis of the curricula on offer at higher (professional) education institutions (Annex A and B), shows that in most instances alignment exists between the education programmes on offer (in terms of discipline) and the type of skilled personnel that the government needs in order to achieve its strategic goal of Ghana being driven by a strong agro-based industrial economy.
Areas in which no alignment exists:
One crucial discipline which is not sufficiently on offer at polytechnics and universities is ICT and ICT management. This discipline is an essential component of all the engineering programmes on offer, ensuring efficiency of operation in the innovations developed. In order to ensure high productivity and financial returns, a modern automated agro-processing industry is necessary and this requires high ICT skills and innovation.
STRENGTHENING ALIGNMENT THROUGH INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
Considering the total budget available to the Ministry of Education, and the current destination of most of that money in relation to TVET, it is clear that there is limited room for implementing re-allocations of the budget towards TVET without causing serious problems in other priority areas of the total education sector (Table 184.108.40.206). International cooperation offers additional opportunities for improvements to the TVET sector.
Possible niches for cooperation and forms of cooperation
It would be best for professional education institutions in Ghana to particularly cooperate with other professional education institutions internationally. Particular issues of focus would be to modernize and increase the scope of professional education in Ghana towards technical subjects.
Cooperating institutions could also try to involve the private sector in their activities. Many international enterprises are involved in Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) 7 and have committed to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) 8 in their business model and could be open to collaboration.
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