Individual polytechnics in Ghana can now award their own Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), diplomas and other certificates.
However, this power conferred on the polytechnics by the new Polytechnics Act, 2007 (Act 745) has raised eyebrows within educational circles; notably from the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports (MOESS) and the National Board for Professional and Technician Examinations (NABPTEX).
The principal bone of contention lies with the award of HNDs; this category of certificates, according to information available to Public Agenda, should be the sole prerogative of national bodies such as NABPTEX and not individual educational institutions.
For now though, the contrary is stipulated in Section 5(a) of Act 745 as follows: "A polytechnic may award Higher National Diplomas, diplomas and other certificates accredited by the National Accreditation Board."
The provision departs from the existing norm, whereby the NABPTEX has regulated and monitored HND examinations in polytechnics and awarded certificates to graduands.
The law also fails to make mention of the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), which holds the purse over tertiary education.
The first to express concern about the non-recognition of NABPTEX's role in the new law was Hon. Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State in Charge of Tertiary Education.
Speaking recently at the 7th congregation of the Accra Polytechnic, Ms Ohene told the polytechnic community, "There is now a new Polytechnic Act and I congratulate you. I note that NABPTEX does not feature anywhere in the Act and I am not at all sure if this is part of what the Polytechnics want to be congratulated on."
She pointed out that there was a compelling reason to have a body like NABPTEX to validate the HND and give it recognition within industry.
She put forward that a NABPTEX awarded HND "implies that having gone through a standardized curriculum, having done sufficient practical work and having passed an externally moderated exam, a polytechnic graduate is ready for the world of work."
Nonetheless, she expressed hope that the polytechnics will maintain a workable relationship with NABPTEX to guarantee the continued national acceptance of the diploma by industry and world of work.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ben Antwi-Boasiako, Executive Secretary, NABPTEX has described the arrogation of powers for the award of HND to the polytechnics as unfortunate, especially because the attention of the Select Committee on Education of Parliament was drawn to the dangers of such a provision.
He told Public Agenda in an interview that if the provision is not looked at again there will be no uniformity in HNDs as each polytechnic would award its own HND based on its own determinations.
"This will not be ideal since industry in Ghana and elsewhere who recognize NABPTEX as the HND certificate awarder may not give recognition to individual polytechnic HND certificates."
He argued, "Even the universities cannot award their own national certificates because it is an exclusive right of a national body."
Also, he pointed out that Section 5(a) of Act 745 is inconsistent with provisions in the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) Act, 2006 (Act 718). That law names a number of certificates including the HND and the bodies that should award them.