Ghana challenges critical World Bank

October 4, 2002

The World Bank unfairly singled out Ghana for an invidious comparison with South Korea in its draft report on higher education, the vice-chancellor of the country's leading university has said.

Ivan Addae-Mensah said the challenges Ghana faced were ignored in the report on higher education.

The bank compares South Korea and Ghana, which 40 years ago shared very low tertiary enrolment rates. South Korea has since seen student numbers rocket from 5 to 80 per cent of the eligible age cohort, while Ghana's enrolment languishes at less than 2 per cent.

The bank gives credit to the South Korean government's encouragement of private institutions and its focus on research and development, deregulation and performance-based funding.

It then highlights Ghana's low percentage of private institutions, its decrease in per-student funding and its few industry partnerships.

Dr Addae-Mensah, vice-chancellor of the University of Ghana in Legon, believes the comparison is unjust because the country has low numbers of secondary-school graduates, and universities are burdened with covering students' non-academic needs.

He said Ghana had always been hailed as a success by the World Bank in comparison with other African countries. He added that there were many educationally deprived areas of his country. "The problem is at the basic level," he said.

But in a report earlier this year, bank officials concluded that higher education reforms launched in the early 1990s had failed to stem a decline in quality. Even a groundbreaking student loan scheme was draining resources from the system While the bank's report has been applauded for the admission that the bank should become more involved in funding tertiary education, Dr Addae-Mensah would like to see funds to improve basic education in his country.

The report criticises universities that spend large amounts on the non-academic needs of its students.

Many Ghanaians cannot afford necessities such as housing and food, and some universities provides these. "You can not run away from providing accommodation and even food," Dr Addae-Mensah said.

At a meeting of higher education leaders at Laval University in Quebec City, Jamil Salmi, who led the team that wrote the report, was under pressure from delegates sceptical of the bank's subtle shift towards a holistic approach to the education systems of developing countries.

Mr Salmi said: "In the late 1970s and 1980s, higher education did not receive priority. But for the past 12 years I have been trying to convince my colleagues that it should."

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