What students get from the classroom is able to harness / contribute up to just 22 percent of their true effectiveness and greatness in life. And the onus is more on students to seek and acquire the complementary (co-curricular) education that will help harness / contribute the other 78 percent that ordinarily the formal curriculum is not able to harness; they are known and readily accessible. In this presentation I challenge some conventional attitudes as I throw more light on the above; following Mr. Senyo Hosi’s beef about University of Ghana dons and matters arising.
To put this presentation in perspective, I like to disclose that I graduated from the University of Science & Technology, Kumasi (UST; now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology – KNUST) where I pursued both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Architecture. Subsequently I devoted 7 years to intensive research and development on ‘Education & Productivity’ principles, techniques and strategies and have written (authored) 14 amazing books (and counting) and more than 50 articles on the subject; including ‘Fixing Our Education – A Delightful Paradigm‘ published by The Daily Graphic (Ghana’s largest newspaper). From Architecture to research and development on ‘Education & Productivity’ may seem removed but it was in response to a personal shock upon realising the gap between the 6 years of university education I had received, and (as against) what I really needed to face real life (more about this later; you may click here).
What the Issues Really Are
I summarise Mr. Hosi’s submission into five main points, as per the Postcript (PS) further below, and walking through the streets of both traditional media and social media, I seem to hear a loud chorus that goes like… “Senyo Hosi had some good points, but the way he presented them was disrespectful and in bad taste!” Also, I have followed various responses by both academicians, and industry persons; including (but not limited to) those by Prof. Ransford Gyampo, Prof. E. A Sianr, Mr. Dela Coffie, Mr. Gideon Segbafia, Mr. AK Mensah, Mr. Oswald K Azumah, and others by Mr. Senyo Hosi. And both the ‘outburst’ by Senyo Hosi, and the responses give credence to the fact that… “The biggest challenges and problems we face cannot be solved with comfortable conversations, whether it’s in your own head or with other people;” in the words of Tim Ferris. Permeating through the voices is a clear consensus that a lot of the graduates being churned out are below expectations. Apparently, we have been ‘educating’ each generation to fit into the ‘status quo’ and not necessarily to deal with existing and emerging problems, let alone create an amazing future! And so I agree with Pakwo Shum that… “The preparation of a generation of people who can lead Ghana into an advanced nation status is one thing far more critical than how much gold, oil, bauxite, arable land, or other resources we might have.”
Interestingly, some people have argued that it is even not the mandate of the universities to churn out that industry-ready top calibre graduates we all seem to be expecting; could this be the case? And by industry-ready top calibre, we mean… graduates who are (i) equipped with skills on how to live, and who are also (ii) equipped with skills that are relevant for the future; especially skills that employers are seeking; examples… critical thinking skills, candor, creativity, curiosity, emotional intelligence, integrity, analytical skills and the standard IT skills the job market requires, and who (iii) may not need extensive retraining by prospective employers in order to be employable. Is it (or is it not) the mandate / obligation of the universities to produce such graduates? We have to be very objective in answering this question…
The Mandate / Role of the Universities
Let us take a look at the official objects / mission of the universities and note their brand promises in terms of the graduates they have purposed to produce. I used two universities in Ghana (one public, and one private) as case studies… University of Ghana (UG), and Ashesi University (AU) respectively. And from the analysis (See in the Postscript further below) the universities have made it their mandate / obligation to produce problem-solving graduates such as described above, and so we should not expect less of them. And none of the two universities made ‘the calibre of students they receive’ a pre-condition to achieving their objects / mission, and I believe they have been taking time to select only trainable students (out of the multitude of applications they receive) or otherwise the authorities believe that they (the universities) have what it takes to achieve their stated objects / missions. I don’t think the other accredited universities in the country are any significantly different from UG and AU, and so further discussions will be extrapolated to cover all the other accredited universities in the country.
Is it fair to the universities for them to shoulder such a huge responsibility and take the blame when we are not satisfied with their outputs? And are we all being fair to ourselves?
The Other Side of the Coin
Producing ‘problem-solving graduates who are (i) equipped with skills on how to live, and who are also (ii) equipped with skills that are relevant for the future; especially skills that employers are seeking, and who (iii) may not need extensive retraining by prospective employers in order to be employable, and ‘who can thus help to tangibly and significantly develop Ghana (and Africa)’ is a process that begins right from childhood (much like a relay race, or a production line in a factory) and certainly four years at the university (which forms the last lap) should not be seen to be solely responsible! Indeed, inference drawn from a study carried out by Harvard University indicates that, ordinarily, the formal education system is able to harness / contribute up to just 22 percent of people’s true effectiveness and greatness in life. Studies done under the auspices of other institutions like the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching yielded similar results. Formal education alone cannot give us the needed results! It stands to reason that, we cannot give credit to the universities alone for the few supposedly great persons who happened to have attended those universities; for all you know their excellence might have stemmed from resources and experiences outside of the universities, otherwise producing great persons should be the norm rather than the exception; as the HR Director of one of the biggest institutions in the country is said to have intimated… “The University can take pride in its output only when the majority of its students excel.” To achieve the desired / stated calibre of graduates, I see 5 categories of stakeholders who have very important roles to play… (1) Parents / Guardians(2) Teachers (Including Pastors, Imams, Lecturers, etc)(3) Administrators (Including Headteachers, Civil Servants, Politicians, Vice Chancellors, etc)(4) Pupils / Students, and(5) Media Persons It starts with the awareness that, ordinarily… ‘What students get from the classroom is able to harness / contribute up to just 22 percent of their true effectiveness and greatness in life.’ And that… “Education and schooling are not the same thing. What goes on inside the schools is often not education. And the results may well be that it reduces productive capacity rather than to increase it;” in the words of Prof. Sir William Arthur Lewis (Nobel Laureate). Then, we must point ourselves (especially pupils / students) to resources that will help harness / contribute the other 78 percent that ordinarily formal education is not able to harness. Those are the 2 keys! And one such recommended resource is Zing4Life! which covers: Exuding Healthy Self-Image, Brainy Acts for Learners, Emotional Intelligence, Time-Management, People-Management, Negotiation Skills, Etc; very important (indeed critical) issues / topics that every student needs to master, but that which the universities are generally not teaching their students, and the other levels of education are also generally not teaching. (You may click here to see more about Zing4Life!) All the stakeholders must have a top-of-mind-awareness of these, and so we must continually remind ourselves of them. University lecturers and administrators particularly must constantly project those facts to students, and possibly create avenues for students to acquire that needed complementary (co-curricular) education. It’s like being handed a baton in the final lap of a relay where your predecessors had perhaps not run efficiently; you cannot refuse to visibly stretch yourself. Indeed, you are put in the final lap to prove your dexterity! Notwithstanding, students (and pupils) at all levels must make it a point to acquire this recommended complementary (co-curricular) education; with or without the help of their teachers; as it is said… “The greatest risk in life is to wait for and depend on others for your own security.” However, parents / guardians must foster this. To borrow the words of John Legend… “I’m calling every woman, calling every man. We’re the generation. We can’t afford to wait. The future started yesterday and we’re already late.”
For the numerous challenges that confront the universities (such as: high number of students, low fees, poor reading culture, etc.) one can only reiterate that the authorities have to stretch their creative imagination and be innovative; indeed at no point can they be done with being innovative for there will always be incident and emerging challenges that will call for innovation. This is solely (and squarely) in the ambit of the lecturers and the authorities as (i) they have elected themselves to be responsible and are being remunerated for that, and (ii) they are seized with the full facts on the ground. Just by way of example… since people don’t necessary do what you expect, but rather do what you inspect, lecturers should vary the scope of what they inspect to include all that they should expect of students, such as general reading culture, emotional intelligence, confidence, curiosity, initiative, etc. That should be in addition to assessing the students on the core technical principles of the main subjects of study. In perusing the solutions being proposed, we have to agree with Albert Einstein that… “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them,” and that… we cannot continue to do the same things over and over again, but expect different results. Long live UG and all the accredited universities; long live Ghana; long live Africa!
A. What Led to My Shocking Discovery of the Wide Gap in Our Education…
After 6 years of university education, and having served in various leadership roles (including Organising Secretary for Graduate Students Association of Ghana; GRASAG) I thought I had everything under control until this happened; you may click here to see the full story. I remember the press-conference I organised to announce my findings at the International Press Centre so vividly as though it was just yesterday.
B. My Summary of Mr. Hosi’s Key Submissions…
(1) University of Ghana (UG) appears to be churning out people with degrees, and not people with education; not problem-solving people with skills on how to live. (2) The authorities seem not to be equipping the students with skills that are relevant for the future; especially skills that employers are seeking, and that most of the graduates lack critical thinking skills, candor, creativity, curiosity, emotional intelligence, integrity, analytical skills and the standard IT skills the job market requires. And that, many Ghanaian employers are compelled to spend a great deal of money and time retraining university graduates just to make them employable. (3) Students’ subtle psyche / objective in enrolling into the University appears to be more for the degrees as a ‘to-do’ rather than for education that goes with skills that make them viable for the future. (4) Especially for similar courses, Ashesi University is producing graduates who are preferred in the job market, compared to that of UG. And that, it is no wonder how and why those who can afford (including some staff of the University) will largely rather school their wards in Ashesi University (or universities abroad) and not UG; again, for similar courses. (5) The authorities have to be innovative.
C. UG and AU as Case Studies… The official website of UG (accessed: 11:13HRS, Tuesday 27th August 2019) says… “…the University aims to produce the next generation of thought leaders to drive national development.” The website captures the mission of UG as: “We will create an enabling environment that makes University of Ghana increasingly relevant to national and global development through cutting-edge research as well as high quality teaching and learning.” What is high quality teaching and learning? Clearly, the brand promises here are not objectively measurable; so when a student enrolls into the university it is not exactly clear what the student has signed up to. (I stand to be corrected; if there exist measurable ‘more-graduates-specific’ KPI’s other than the general ones listed in the 2014-2024 Strategic Document, I will like to know). In any case, are the products being churned out by UG ‘next generation thought leaders’ who can drive national development? Is teaching and learning on UG campus of high quality? Senyo Hosi says ‘No!’ and many agree with him on that score. However, a faculty insists that UG students are hailed globally. And that every year, a huge chunk of UG students receive scholarships from the best schools in the world to pursue postgraduate studies. And afterwards, many of them are hired to work there, and so, UG students are internationally competitive. Without the specific numbers / statiscal figures involved, it is very difficult (and purely subjective) to support one or the other. The official website of AU (accessed: 13:17HRS, Tuesday 27th August 2019) says… “Our mission is to educate ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within students, the critical thinking skills, the concern for others, and the courage it will take to transform the continent.” Here also, the brand promises are not measurable, but it is comforting to note the specific mention of ‘critical thinking skills,’ ‘the concern for others,’ and ‘the courage it will take to transform the continent.’ Those are really commendable! According to the website, AU was (in 2012) ranked among the top ten most respected organisations in Ghana (a first for an educational institution) in a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Business & Financial Times, and in 2017, was awarded the World Innovation Summit in Education Prize, one of the world’s biggest prizes in education. Could these have significantly contributed to the hugely positive image AU seems to garner among many people? In their predominant communications, they claim that nearly 100 percent of AU graduates receive job offers, start businesses or enter graduate school within six months of graduation. And that AU has created an educational model unlike any other in Africa. Well, quite subjective. There is a lot to do!