Importance of Polytechnic Education and the Challenges it faces

The main objective of polytechnic education is the promotion of technical and vocational education and training, technology transfer and skills development to enhance the socio- economic development of the country. 

Polytechnic education plays a vital role in human resource development of a country by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. Technical Education covers courses and programs in engineering, architecture, town planning technology, management, pharmacy and applied arts and crafts, hotel management and catering technology.

Ghana continues to witness increasing demand for polytechnic education and essential step to address this development is identifying the factors that contribute to the increasing demand for polytechnic education and the introduction of alternative solution to providing quality education to all citizens of Ghana as contained in the constitution of the country.

However good the intentions of government to polytechnic education in the country cannot go with its myriad of problems from society and the way the country’s economy is structured. 

Recent concerns about the disproportionate number of students offering business-related programs in the tertiary institutions, especially, polytechnics, should not be blamed on the institutions, but the larger society.

Prospective students sometimes choose courses based on their perceptions of the sectors that would yield the fastest or most rewarding jobs. They may also decide on a course, depending on the esteem in which society values that profession.

Another problem is the confusion about the role and nature of polytechnic education which is not clearly understood by many. Until recently, many polytechnic students had the erroneous impression that the Higher National Diploma (HND) certificate was equivalent to the degree while some members of the public felt that the polytechnics are duplicating what the universities are doing. Lack of understanding of the career-oriented nature of polytechnic education has been responsible for these misconceptions 

The polytechnics are not first choice institutions for many students because, opportunities for academic progression are limited in Ghana and public recognition of the Higher National Diploma (HND) is quite low

Polytechnic trained graduates are expected by virtue of their training to be more practical oriented or biased as compared to their colleagues trained in the universities. According to Stuliff (2000), industrial exposure gives the academics a chance to seek inputs and feedback from practicing professionals who can provide valuable insight into the skills and abilities students would need in their career. 

Ballinger and Lalwani (2000) also indicated that it offers an opportunity for students to personally practice the theoretical models in the classroom to enhance their chances of securing employment after graduation. They are to serve the middle-level manpower management needs of the country in the drive towards industrialization. 

Even though polytechnics have been churning out graduates into the World of Work ever since their establishment, this pertinent role is becoming illusive because there seems to be no distinctive practical traits exhibited by the polytechnic graduates that distinguish them from the university trained graduates.

There is a need to scrutinize the system to categorize the gaps created and recommend ways to achieve their mandate of producing practically-oriented graduates to aid the country’s industrialization process or agenda.

Since the polytechnics are expected to give more practical approach to the training of its students, there is therefore the need to come up with more forward-looking and resourceful ways of ensuring that its graduates acquire distinct practical expertise that would distinguish them from their colleagues trained in other similar tertiary institutions such as the universities.

Furthermore, there is a need for the Polytechnics to start looking at recruiting lecturers who have obtained technology as well as training existing lecturers to acquire technology degrees, since they foresee training their students for progression in higher technology degrees such as M. Tech and D. Tech. Currently, the persons with D. Tech and M. Tech are few and unavailable. It is expected that the polytechnics marshal resources to train it lecturers in these technology degrees to have more practical oriented staff.

Written by Kwarteng Amaniampong
Senior Assistant Registrar at Takoradi Polytechnic

Email: [email protected]

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