Sunday, 27 March 2016


         Merge Technical Training with Mainstream Education

There is almost a consensus that the educational system in Ghana is not working. This is a fact too obvious to require further proof as there are things glaringly showing this, not least of all the increasing spate of graduate unemployment.

Employers have had cause to complain about the pervasive mismatch between the knowledge graduates acquire and the needs of industry. Worse still, there is little or no innovative skill content to produce people who are capable of creating their own businesses. At the same time, those who are unable to progress to the tertiary level can hardly do anything meaningful with the knowledge they acquired in basic or Senior High School.

Many have attributed this to the grammar-type education being offered under our educational system. But the real tragedy is that even those who complete technical or vocational education find it difficult to find jobs. We can say that this is because there are generally no jobs, which is a truism. But why can't such people turn their vocational or technical skills into jobs  for themselves? There are definitely some factors that make skilled individuals incapable of making jobs out of their skills. The most important of such factors is the over-emphasis on examination - chew, pass, poor and forget. I have written about this in the past before and shall write more extensively on it in the future.

For now, let's concentrate on the aspect of making the educational curriculum skill-oriented. As already intimated, part of the problem is over-emphasis on examination such that even technical and vocational skills education is not seen from the point of view of the relevance of its practicality but rather  from students' ability to memorise the content and pass their exams.

So for instance, at the JHS level, there used to be subjects like Pre-technical skills and Pre-Vocational skills. People got excellent grades in these subjects but can hardly nail two pieces of wood together. Why? Because the emphasis was and has always been on the grades not the skills, partly the reason for lack or inadequacy of equipment for practical training.

The other problem is that these subjects tend to be perceived as "minor" and little attention is paid to them. Even at the Senior High level, those who are admitted to do technical or vocational courses are seen as less intelligent. Beyond the Senior High level, technical or vocational education is usually recommended for people who fail their WASSCE and these schools are seen as some low-grade reserve for low-achievers.

Admittedly, to the extent that these subjects used to be taught and still are being taught, albeit with different names at the JHS level, my idea of merging technical skill training with mainstream education is not necessarily original. It however proposes a new emphasis and a new level of coverage that is beyond the JHS level.

The Idea

To ensure a skill-rich educational content, technical training (Training oo, not teaching) should be done right at the primary school level. The emphasis is on training because the scheme must not be an exam-focused thing. Skills should be related to the everyday needs of Ghanaians families such as tables, chairs, cement works, electronics etc. Pupils should be trained on how to make these basic things at the basic level.

As they progress up the educational ladder, the complexity of things in focus should increase with accompanying increased complexity of training. In other words, whereas training will be on things such as stools, pottery etc at the basic level, more complex equipment like mobile phones, printers, computers should be at the higher level.

At the basic level, training should be all-round on how to make basic articles of wood and metal for home use and specializations should begin to emerge at the Secondary level and these should be the basis for progress to University.

This requires a total overhaul of the educational system to make it more skill-based and relevant. With this kind of education, people will be able to make meaning of their investment in education after every level. Young people who complete Junior High School even if they are not able or don't want to go to Senior High School can use their skills to make a living. Those who complete one level and don't have the financial means to progress to the next level can make money from their skills to help them pay their fees.

With this kind of arrangement, our educational system will not only serve industry with the necessary technical skills, it will also help people make money on their own using their skills. Again, if everyone learns technical skills, no one will perceive technical education as second-rate.

Hardi Yakubu

MAKING EDUCATION WORK (2); Why is Schooling Like Playing a Football Game?