KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY GHANA’S MINISTER OF EDUCATION AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 10TH EDUCATION INTERNATIONAL FURTHER AND HIGHER EDUCATION
AND RESEARCH CONFERENCE 14 – 16 NOVEMBER, 2016
AT THE FIESTA ROYAL HOTEL ACCRA, GHANA
Mr. Chairman, Officers of Education International, delegated and participants of Conference, ladies and gentlemen of the Press, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, my ministry and the Government of Ghana bring you warm greetings.
With the independence of Ghana in 1957, universal education became a central political goal. Despite our economic difficulties, we have made significant progress. In 2011, the primary school net enrollment rate was 84%, described by UNICEF as “far ahead” of the Sub-Saharan average. In its 2013-14 report, the World Economic Forum ranked Ghana 46th out of 148 countries for education system quality. In 2010, Ghana’s literacy rate was 71.5%. However there is a notable gap between men (78.3%) and women (65.3%). As of April 2015, 90% of children in Ghana were enrolled in school, ahead of countries like Pakistan and Nigeria at 72% and 64% respectively.
It is our honour to host you for this very important event. The issues you will discuss and debate over the next few days are vitally important. Building high quality and accessible further and higher education systems is critical for the advancement of knowledge, the preservation of culture, the development of informed and active citizens, the advancement of social cohesion, and the sustainable and equitable economic development of our communities and nations.
I note that you will be discussing this morning the challenges confronting the sector in Africa. Indeed, while we have in Ghana and elsewhere made some significant progress, there is still much for us to do. We face serious challenges in providing the necessary resources for our education sector as a whole to better ensure that our people may have the basic education necessary to progress to higher levels of training and education. We are faced with the continuing problem of brain drain. I recognize that we need to look at ways to improve the working conditions of teachers and researchers. We also need across Africa to develop more robust quality assurance and accreditation systems. I hope that in your discussions you will be able to share ideas and point to ways that we may address these problems.
THE STATE OF RESEARCH IN GHANA
Government of Ghana is constantly engaged in the formulation of various policies aimed at improvement in the various sectors of governance and government business. For such policies to be relevant and worthwhile, they must be based on research. The importance of research cannot therefore be over-emphasized. Unfortunately, such an important area of human endeavour does not appeal much to the private sector in Ghana. The above places the entire burden of research funding on government. Considering that the country falls within developing countries, it is obvious that research funding will not be adequate. This constraint notwithstanding, the government of Ghana is determined to face the challenge head on. It is in line with this objective that government has set up the research fund which can be accessed based on the presentation of appropriate proposals.
PRIVITATION AND COMMERCIALISATION OF EDUCATION
Government recognizes the pivotal role education plays in reducing ignorance, disease and eradicating poverty. We also recognize that education is a social good and that the state has to lead the education agenda for the citizenry. But in all these, we are constantly mindful of our economic limitations. It is abundantly obvious that a developing economy like ours cannot foot the education budget alone. There is the need for the private sector to partner government for the achievement of this objective. This is no news in Ghana since private sector participation in education dates as far back as the colonial era. Government is however cautious to avoid the situation in which private players in education will use only profit-making consideration as the basis of their involvement in the education industry. This is the reason why government sets ceiling for the charging of school fees at all levels of education. As of now, the Education Bill is under scrutiny and discussion. It is the aim of government to come out with the requisite regulations that will ensure the delivery of quality education by both public and private institutions. Such regulations will also ensure adequate protection of the vulnerable in our society from exploitation by businesses.
LINKING EDUCATION TO THE NEEDS OF INDUSTRY
The prevalence of unemployment graduates points to a mismatch between the content of higher education and the need of industry. Various studies have unveiled weak interaction and communication between industry and tertiary institutions of learning. It is also established that there is an absence of a national development plan that effectively links tertiary education to the demands of industry. To create the needed synergy between the curricular in the tertiary institutions of learning and the needs of industry, the institutions of learning must re-examine the courses offered at the universities with a view to making the requisite changes. To this end, it may be beneficial to mainstream entrepreneurship courses into all department programmes. It may also become necessary to create an integrated platform for dialogue on tertiary education and the needs of the Ghanaian economy.
Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations organized the Job Summit on 15th and 16th April this year. In an effort to rectify the mismatch between the content of higher education and the needs of industry in Ghana. Again the need to correct this undesirable situation is the reason why the Polytechnics in the country are being upgraded to Technical Universities.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF GHANA AND THE
TEACHER UNIONS IN GHANA
As a democratic county, government recognizes and respects the freedoms of the people of Ghana. Our constitution gives right to groups of persons to form Unions for the protection of their social and economic rights. We in government have always looked at our Teacher Unions as partners working towards the achievement of a common goal. We are particularly appreciative of the roles Teacher Unions play in the formulation of various educational policies and programes. It is however a known fact, that even the best of friends have their difficult times in their relationships. An African proverb has it that the teeth and the tongue co-operate all the time but it is common that the teeth bite the tongue at times. Certainly, there have been times when government and Teacher Unions disagree. But in all such instances, the necessary trade-off are made, the concerns addressed and we move on.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN GHANA
Academic freedom has never been an issue in Ghana. Indeed we encourage academia to take advantage of our research fund for research and publication. Government in collaboration with the National Council for Tertiary Education and the National Accreditation Board are working hard to ensure that academia have the freedom to make research into areas of their interest and to publish same without limitations or interference from government or management.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Education International for your recognition of an interest in my Ministry and government of Ghana as manifest in your kind invitation that avails us the opportunity to be part of this Conference. It is my expectation that this Conference will take further and higher education and research to a higher level. I wish you successful Conference. Thank you for your kind attention.