The establishment of two universities with a focus on allied science, health and natural resources by government is a fraught attempt to bridge the widening between science and business professionals to propel development.
With the inauguration of the Governing Councils of the University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta Region and the University of Energy and Natural Resources in the Brong Ahafo Region, science education has been brought under the spotlight.
The President indicated in his State of the Nation Address that the two universities will admit students when the academic year begins in September.
Industrialists in recent years have bemoaned the dwindling number of technical personnel in the field of engineering and applied sciences – not to mention the poor quality of graduates churned out by tertiary institutions – to drive the country’s industrial development.
Many of the traditional universities currently run more arts and business related courses, to the detriment of science education.
In recent years, other specialised universities like the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has introduced courses in the social sciences and business; hundreds of students are admitted to pursue such programmes.
In a recent paper titled “The Future of Polytechnic Education”, the Ghana Employers Association (GEA) recommended that polytechnics should increase their intake of science and applied science enrolment by 70 percent each academic year to help bridge the gap between applied science and business professionals.
The study found that between 2001 and 2010, the average enrolment of Polytechnic students in the Arts was 18,744 compared with 10,448 in the sciences and applied sciences.
Comparatively, South East Asian giant India produced 401,791 engineers in 2003-04 -- 35 percent being computer engineers. In 2004-2005 the number of engineering graduates increased to 464,743 -- of which 31 percent were computer engineers.
It is estimated that 60 percent of polytechnic students graduate in business-oriented programmes compared to just 40 percent in the sciences.
Business leaders and education experts have called for a comprehensive overhaul and investment in the country’s educational system to produce competent science and technical graduates who can lead the country’s development drive.
“Currently, there is an over-concentration on the arts; the country needs a robust educational system that gives the practical skills to turn things around,” Professor Kwaku Atuahene-Gima, the Director, Centre for Marketing and Innovation and Executive Director of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) Africa, said.
The Association of Ghana industries (AGI) has also figured the failure of polytechnics and universities to produce middle-level technically-minded professionals in the field of manufacturing, commerce, science, and technology is one of the banes of the country’s manufacturing sector.
Mr. Joseph B.W. Winful, a Senior Partner at KPMG-Ghana, said the shift in the focus of polytechnics to art-education has had a negative impact on the economy. He cited the inability to process the country’s raw materials as a typical example.
The share of government expenditure on technical education in India is reportedly about 40 percent. In China, the amount spent on research and development, especially in engineering fields, is a good 10 percent of government expenditure.
Successive governments have shirked investment in science education owing to its capital intensive nature. Business leaders have therefore called for a conscious effort to allocate a percentage of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the promotion of science education an investment crucial to balancing the scales of education.
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