|DRUSSA’s Symposium on Higher Education and the National Development Plan in Ghana|
|Thursday, 02 April 2015 08:41|
What happens when you put 25 Ghanaian higher education stakeholders in the same room for two days? A) Lengthy arguments on the real reasons for the recent energy blackouts; B) an in-depth debate on why the Black Stars are underperforming; or C) a meeting of minds on the linkages between academia and policymakers through the generation of research evidence for policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
If you chose option C, you are clearly in the right place. A symposium entitled Higher Education and National Development: Challenges and Policy Options, was held in February in Accra, where debates covered an array of topics on higher education and the national development plan, and how academics, policymakers, and higher education stakeholders can work together to ensure an effective way forward. Convened by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI), the Ministry of Education, and the National Council on Tertiary Education (NCTE), the topic allowed attendees to discuss why research that is relevant and produced by knowledge productions institutions such as universities is not being effectively used by policymakers and to make recommendations to the government as it drafts Ghana’s comprehensive policy on tertiary education.
Cross-roads in Policy Creation
Dr George Essegby, Director of CSIR-STEPRI, in his opening address noted that Ghana is at a cross-roads in terms of policy creation - the development of the nation is largely dependent on the Ghanaian educational system and so the policies that guide national human development are important. With a large number of youths between the ages of 15 and 24, the transformation of the country is reliant on the extent in which a strong and scientific technological workforce is created through the educational system.
Challenges facing the Higher Education Sector and its Role in National Development
These comments set the stage for three key presentations on the opening day: 1) Challenges in Higher Education by Professor Mahama Duwiejua, Executive Secretary of NCTE; 2) Overview of Education in Ghana by Mr Cephas Agyei-Mensah on behalf of the Chief Director, Ministry of Education; and 3) the Role of Higher Education in National Development by Dr Jerry Odotei, from the National Development Planning Commission. Three key challenges were identified in the plenary discussions: 1) the weak relationship between academia and policy makers; 2) high demand for tertiary education resulting in a supply gap in public institutions; and 3) the need for relevant research to inform policy.
The presentations on the first day led to fruitful discussions on the second, in which three themes were addressed by the delegates: 1) strengthening the information and knowledge sharing links between academia and policymakers; 2) strengthening governance and management of higher education; and 3) improving the quality of higher education and employability of graduates.
The combination of paper presentations, plenary discussions, and syndicate group discussions led to the symposium closing with concrete recommendations to be taken forward to the Ministry of Education for inclusion in in a comprehensive policy on tertiary education. Proposed recommendations included: the creation of a national database/repository of past and current research so that research information is easily accessible to be coordinated by the National Council on Tertiary Education; the creation of a dedicated National Research Fund; the creation of a national qualifications framework; and continued policy – academia dialogues between major stakeholders.
Taking it forward
The symposium provided a forum to discuss some of the barriers to evidence-based policy-making. By considering the higher education sector as a whole, and its relationship with the policy environment the symposium allowed policy-makers, academics and other stakeholders to suggest concrete changes to the Ghanaian Higher Education policies which will, to some extent, address the barriers to evidence-based policymaking.
Hannah Halder is the Project Coordinator, DRUSSA at the ACU
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