University and Society
April 27, 2016
have been talks about the role of the university in our
society recently, and a former vice-chancellor from one
of our universities had this to say:
university is not meant to produce skilled graduates but
rather, train their minds to enable them adapt to
situations and circumstances.”
I am not an educationist. I am
just a citizen who happened to be offended by this
gilded view of purpose of a university education for a
Third World country like ours.
the advanced nations today have no fair use for the
above view of university education.
notion of “training the mind” only is dangerous because
it has never worked in a world that constantly demands
skills in all fields.
due respect for the Chancellor's expertise as an
educationist, I would still be worried about the
usefulness of his recommended view and ask the average
citizen to be wary of the lofty ideal embedded in his
lofty ideal of university education, of training the
mind only, is exactly how the colonials got us in this
position; namely miss-educating us in Africa.
has been the worshiping of scholarship, even when your
daily needs are not being met. And the pretense at
expertise even when your basic skill for the claim is
course, you would always have the university degree that
says you are the knowledgeable one. And you would
have an academic
adornment that has no hinge on the basic skills needed
to help transform our society.
the university administrators, the degree only is a nice
way to say “we have done our job” and then to remove
themselves from blame for the disaster that happens
Seriously, it is in our interest to question how
successful we have been so far with this old purpose of
true measure of effective university education must be
linked to the overall health of the society. The
question on every lip should be how well we are doing as
Is our economy stuffed with
essential items that we produce here locally?
Are ideas coming out of our
educational institutions ready to be implemented by
graduates with a “can do” attitude?
Our universities are not
producing enough skilled, competent, clear eyed leaders
in all areas, as can be gleaned from what is happening
around us. Our development prospects have been abysmal
for a long time. But unfortunately, our educational
ideals remain the same as they were from the beginning.
There are reasons why a change
must happen immediately.
our developmental efforts need a boost. We lag behind
our own potential, as was proven in the early 60s under
Second, an intriguing question: Why is it that foreign
experts, mostly foreign university trained, could come
with their learned skills and tackle our local problems
while our professors here are busy drilling into our
students educational ideals that they would not be
mandated to use?
may argue that the ideals have worked. They have allowed
us the ability to “adapt to situations and
circumstances.” But the problem here is, mere adaptation
is not what we should want.
We must want to transcend our
underdevelopment; a transformation from the Third World
to the First World. So we must desire an approach
that will assist in more rewarding ways our
the process that would allow this to happen fast is
education, especially university education.
about it. It has been over half a century since
independence. Instead, our problems are outgrowing our
ability to solve them. Basic infra-structural problems.
Poor roads, bridges are holding development back in our
elsewhere, the same problems are being solved with the
help of their local universities, with the sort of
hands-on training, practical skill building that our
universities in advanced countries are not just ivory
towers. They have been made attractive as places for
acquiring skills, knowledge and where youthful energies
attraction of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark
Zuckerberg, for me, is that they are not just
college-dropouts, but that they took off with their
universe shaping ideas while in college. I dread to
think of what would have happened to these folks were
they to have been caught in our system!
Caution, the above is not an indictment. It is just to
warn that it will be extreme folly not to ask our
universities to release similar energies on their
campuses through another approach.
A graduate degree must not
just be an adornment of a mind that adapts to
“circumstances and situations.” It must also be a badge
for the mind that has been trained to tackle and help
fix vital problems.
bring new inventions into the world.
Leaders like President Mahama and The Asantehene have
spoken out for this need.
There is justification for a
practical side of every subject studied. The danger of
not adding the practical side is to produce inertia in
the same trained brain.
further insistence from the professorial class that
universities can only train the brain and “not to
provide “ready-hands for industry" should be seen as a
furthermore, a serious risk to every attempt to advance
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher
www.ghanadot.com, Washington, DC, April 27, 2016.
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