Tertiary or higher level education is acknowledged universally as one of the necessary conditions for attaining personal achievement, social development and cohesion in any society.
The wider societal goals in development, economics, politics and consistent interrelations between people become highly attainable when members of the society are highly educated.
The expectations for or expected behaviour of persons with higher education is not the same for others who did not receive higher education.
Through higher education, knowledge is acquired and individual perspectives are sharpened.
University education is sometimes referred to as universal education.
But can we say the over fifty years of higher or university education in Ghana has contributed to a stable, consistent and upwardly progressive society?
Are the benefits of higher education in Ghana so visible to everyone who has the eyes to see?
Has the ‘Ghanaian personality’ been defined and clearly established through higher education in such a way that the Ghanaian stands out among his peers as a Ghanaian?
Certainly yes! Higher education has made Ghana what it is today. The impacts of higher education on the country are undoubtedly obvious. The import of higher education is what has brought this nation to where we are today, irrespective of how we see it, higher education has done a lot for Ghana.
A good number of our leaders have had the benefit of higher education. And it can be said that, it is one of the factors that sharpened their leadership abilities to enable them provide us with the kind of leadership we needed in the critical moments of our nation’s life.
The content of higher education
University or higher education consists of a vigorous and thorough programme of study which is aimed at giving the student a universal outlook. It is aimed at broadening the student’s worldview to free the individual from ethnocentrism. It is known as university education because it focuses on universal or a wider form of education that is not parochial.
For instance for any one to qualify for the first Degree or Bachelors Degree in any university, the student is required to complete approximately 108 or 126 credit hours of intellectually involving courses, depending on the specific discipline either in the sciences or the humanities. Most of these courses are multi-disciplinary and challenging.
Sometimes, they are purposefully so structured to task the mental abilities of the student, so as to make the individual effectively functional in a very useful and meaningful way, to the individual’s own benefit as well as the wider society.
The student subsequently, becomes fully equipped and prepared to address him or her self to finding solutions to society’s unresolved problems.
Apart from imparting knowledge and the ability to probe into issues in a rigorous manner, university education is also geared towards instilling greater discipline and ethics in graduates.
The training that university graduates receive is supposed to make them dependable, consistent and up to the task in whichever field they find themselves.
Why some acquire university education
Some people acquire university education simply because they want jobs that offer higher salaries. It might not necessarily be jobs that give them satisfaction, though.
Sometime ago, university education in Ghana was the ticket to a better paid job that comes with a car and an already furnished house and other benefits. But it is not the same these days.
For some, having a university degree is prestigious; it boosts their ego and makes them feel they also belong. For instance, some parents are known to have pushed their children to enter university and take courses other than ones that they might have loved to, because they want their children to be like a friend’s or a neighbour’s child.
There are others still who acquire university education so as to enhance their performance in their chosen career and for this category of people, university education has become the tool for higher functionality and better delivery.
And for some others, if they had not acquired university education, they probably would not have achieved anything worthwhile in life. To these people, it is a lifetime achievement.
Has university education failed Ghana?
Looking at the state of our nation today, and the attitudes of some of our fellow countrymen and women who are known to have received very high quality university education, most people question the credibility of university education. People cast doubts on the usefulness of university education because of the performance of some graduates.
Sometime ago, a banker took Ghana’s universities’ graduates to task. He accused the country’s professionals who are mostly graduates of local universities of failing the country. He raised issues with the poor conditions of our roads, and placed the blame right at the feet of Ghanaian engineers who were trained in local universities.
He also raised issues with the state of the justice delivery system in Ghana and questioned the capabilities of our lawyers and judges, most of whom have received higher education in the country.
Indeed, not along ago, I was in a class taking a course in business management. During the lecture on Business Law and Ethics, I remember one of the students raising his hands and when the lecturer gave him the floor, he asked whether ethics was still taught in our schools?
The lecturer said yes. And the student retorted, “please stop wasting our time, there is no need to teach these things any more because no one observes them.”
Of course, my colleague student might have a point, because his reaction might have been informed by his everyday experience in the real business world where, profit margins decide how businesses must be conducted, and not the ethical values that should guide people’s conduct.
For someone who has spent five years studying at the University of Ghana, I have heard so much about examination malpractices and how grades are doctored and so on, but I never personally saw any evidence except when some students have been sacked and their photographs published in the newspapers.
I however, heard a shocking revelation recently. It came from a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon. According to the former Vice Chancellor, some students who have been caught cheating during examinations and were sanctioned by being dismissed from the university, manage to stay on campus, attend lectures and graduate!
What that means is that, people with criminal records, as a result of which they are not supposed to be in our universities, manage to graduate, join the rest of us in the real world of work.
People with weak moral foundations therefore, are unleashed onto the society. Corrupt and unscrupulous individuals acquire university degrees by omission and then rise up through the system to hold responsible positions in the society.
Could that possibly explain the chaos and lawlessness we are witnessing in the country? Sometimes, even from people occupying high public office and therefore making nonsense of any impact higher education is expected to be having on the country?
Higher education has produced outstanding Ghanaians
That notwithstanding, our universities have produced some of the most remarkable individuals in the society. They have made their marks in various areas of our society.
Indeed, to these legitimate graduates, university education did not only open the doors of opportunity wider, for better jobs and higher remuneration with accompanying better standards of living, but it gave them the required skills to be innovative in the discharge of their duties to the society in very responsible and committed ways, often leaving indelible achievements in their chosen fields and careers.
As a matter of fact, while most people strive for higher education so they could better their chances of what they consider a better job, others acquire higher education so they could live a more superior lifestyle in thought and in deed.
Some of Ghana’s outstanding individuals in their various endeavours in the arts, business, politics, the public and civil service, law, medicine, architecture, journalism, the military, the police service and the legislature, achieved spectacular feats above their peers because they had received quality higher education.
There are those Ghanaians who have contributed so much to the nation’s growth and development without necessarily receiving higher education though, but higher education in itself, predisposes a committed individual to a higher quality of life and service.
Authored by: Emmanuel K. Dogbevi