Higher Education and Developmental Leadership: The Case of Ghana

This study highlights the important role that quality education, at both secondary and higher level, has played in the formation of developmental leadership in Ghana. Its findings include the way in which quality education (largely residential in Ghana) has promoted social integration and shared values, and can help form networks and coalitions that have a greater chance of initiating and sustaining reform.

Key findings

– During their education, the leaders gained developmental leadership qualities (including core values, key characteristics and technical skills)

– Education has helped create shared values among the leaders, facilitate social integration and increase social mobility

– Higher education was critical to both the emergence of reform coalitions in Ghana and to their success in bringing about economic, political and media reforms.

Policy considerations

A wider view of education: This research suggests that education policy needs to incorporate not only important issues such as equity, human rights and poverty reduction, but also more strategic issues such as the development of good governance and developmental leadership.

Residential experience: Some form of residential education with meritocratic access could work well in countries where trust, integration and shared values are lacking.

Humanities and social sciences versus STEM subjects: Law, economics, politics and journalism were the subjects studied at university by the majority of developmental leaders interviewed in Ghana. Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are vital to train the technicians required for development, but they tend not to create transformative leaders.

A broad curriculum: Interviewees also stressed the importance of a broad education, both at secondary and higher levels, in developing their intellect holistically and shaping their values and worldview.

School autonomy: Policy makers could consider where the current focus on metrics and accountability might lead. The developmental leadership qualities this research identifies are not easily measureable. Quality education establishments need some flexibility and autonomy to decide what is best for the development of their students.

Scholarships to create networks: At least nine of the developmental leaders we interviewed had studied overseas with the help of scholarships and international fellowships. Their experience enhanced developmental leadership in Ghana, but most were isolated from their Ghanaian peers and so missed out on the networking possible for those who studied only at home. Scholarship providers might consider whether scholars could be concentrated at particular overseas universities to maintain some of the advantages of domestic education.

Massive online open courses (MOOCs): Our findings emphasise the importance of a high-contact, campus education in the formation of developmental leaders. However, we also see in Ghana that funding constraints mean that massification is diluting the quality of campus education. One point to consider then is not whether MOOCs will replace campus education, but whether they can be exploited to relieve pressure on publicly funded higher education establishments, thus allowing them to provide the quality, high-contact education they were in the 1960s and 1970s.

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