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12 July 2016

Days of Polytechnics running business-related courses are numbered

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Government says the era of Polytechnics veering into the running of non-technical programmes will soon be over.

Deputy Education Minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has indicated that Polytechnics will be made to go back to their roots of predominantly producing more technically-minded graduates for the job market.

The Polytechnics Act, 2007 (Act 745) directs greater focus in the fields of manufacturing, commerce, science, technology, applied social science, applied arts.

In spite of the stated intention of Polytechnics, available data shows that the enrollment numbers in the said courses are dwindling.

Six out of 10 Polytechnic students are enrolled in business and management programmes, according to the National Council for Tertiary Education.

In further deviation, Polytechnics have been found to be far away from the requirement of a 60:40 ratio for the Science: Humanities enrollment in polytechnics.

By 2008, enrolments in polytechnics had seen a steep drop to 30:70 ratio for science/humanities and got even worse by 2010 when it was 24:76.

Efforts to arrest the glaring deviation paid off as 2013 data showed the science/humanities ratio was 37:63 for a total student population of 53,078.

The dwindling enrollment rates has been blamed on a pervasive perception that technical courses are neither a breadwinning enough investment nor a status-enhancing educational option.

Speaking to the grim statistics on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Monday, the Deputy Education Minister lamented that the imbalance at the polytechnics is a reflection of a national condescension towards technical and vocational institutions.

Sharing another statistic, he revealed that only two out of 10 students in Senior High Schools applied to do technical and vocational programmes. It implied that poor enrollment rates at the lower or pre-tertiary level is affecting the ability of Polytechnics to admit technical and vocationally oriented students.

“All this is going to change”, Okudzeto sounded a coming re-orientation. In a new era where polytechnics are being re-branded as technical universities, a greater emphasis on admitting more students in technical and vocational areas will be restored.

He explained that the goal is to ensure that only 1 out of 10 students will be allowed to read business or management-related courses.

A Technical University Education Bill in parliament will provide an enhanced framework within which technical education is expected to flourish. He explained that even the rebranding of polytechnics to Technical Universities is to serves as “a constant reminder of its core mandate”.

He was proud of government’s investment in promoting vocational and technical education. Government, he revealed, is pushing more than $200million in “totally revamping” some 12 technical institutes across the country.

While Ghanaians look down on technical courses, government says it has observed a global trend that places greater emphasis on these courses.

It is because “that is where the jobs are,” the deputy minister pointed out.

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