Throughout the history of the discipline, political theorists and practitioners have offered multiple, at times contradictory, at times overlapping definitions of what politics involves. It is therefore difficult to provide a single definition of politics that everyone can agree on. But for this essay, I will define politics as “a contested concept”.
Conceptual confusion has long been a source of difficulty in the study of politics by W.B. Gallie’s analysis (1956). In this article, I will look at two of his framework — democracy and rule of law. Democracy is an essentially contested concept in that its meaning and applications appear to be subject to endless contestation. Rule of law is the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power subordinating it to well-defined and established laws. “It is the authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behaviour; (hence) the principle whereby all members of a society are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes.” (Oxford English Dictionary).
Politics in our Colleges of Education
In political science, a political system defines the process for making official government decisions. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems. However, this is a very simplified view of a much more complex system of categories involving the questions of who should have authority and what government (leadership) influence on its people and economy should be?
The achievement of goals and objectives in any sector of development in any nation of the world is guided primarily by sound policy framework backed up with effective administrative dispensing strategies informed by forward-looking decisions.
It has been observed that most of the problems or crises that have bedeviled the Colleges of Education are traceable mainly to issues having to do with policy and implementation of the programmes.
Opinions differ in academic circles as to whether the fundamental crises in the Colleges of Education are attributable more to the inappropriateness of policy framework and quality of administration or policy implementation lapses (Ojiah 2004, Owuamam, 2002) argue about the application of poor administrative strategies most at times.
Effectiveness is determined by productivity, stability, morale, turnover rate, degree of integration, and maximization of individual potentialities and values contributed to the institution and the society at large (Jiayeoba, 2003). It seems that leadership effectiveness in our Colleges of Education at the management level could be gauged through such indicators as efficiency in management, quality of infrastructure and equipment outfit, academic standard, appropriate staffing, and the perception of the institution (Peretomode, 2001).
We would be naive if we do not acknowledge politics as a potentially destructive force, when deployed effectively it can help a college meet its strategic goals and live up to its values, especially during organizational change.
Institutional politics refers to a variety of activities associated with the use of influence tactics to improve personal or organizational interests. Studies show that individuals with political skills tend to do better as well as managing stress and job demands, than their politically naive counterparts. They also have a greater impact on organizational outcomes.
Political behaviour is also likely to be present, but not explicit until it becomes too late. It is important to understand that the root cause of political activities is often scarce resources, social and structural inequalities, and individual personal motivations.
Leadership can view political moves as dirty and will try to distance themselves from those activities. What they find hard to acknowledge is that such activities can be for the welfare of the college and its members. The first step to feeling comfortable with politics requires that Principals are equipped with a reliable map of the political landscape and an understanding of the sources of political capital.
Understanding the political terrain can help Principals fight dysfunctional politics.
Crucially, Colleges of Education lack data. There is little information about governance and leadership. This includes critical governance and management issues.
Institutional politics is very important since it provides an understanding of the informal processes of conflicts and co-operations in organizations, and their impact on the institutional performance. Leaders must skillfully use institutional politics to acquire and retain power and to accomplish major goals.
We should not forget the fact that an institution is made up of people managing and coordinating other resources for the achievement of stated objectives within an unstable and complex environment. Because people are involved and because the institutional fails to live up to its expectations in terms of rationality and objectivity, political behaviours become commonplace. Politics may be positive or negative but the fact is that no institution exists without politics (Yusuf, 2008).
Increasingly, institutions are turning to technology and developing innovative infrastructures to offer a wider range of online degree opportunities. These offerings average the principles of blended and hybrid learning to cater to the scheduling needs of students. But how many Colleges are poised to uphold technology advancement? What have we learnt amid COVID-19? How do we blend face-to-face instructions and that of online tutorials? If students cannot attend classes, they should be able to access online learning.
Student learning outcomes and assessments are central to an institution’s overall academic quality. All stakeholders are calling for increased transparency in terms of these assessments and learning goals. The most salient questions by some of the stakeholders are:
- How can Colleges access learning?
- How much are students learning and internalizing what they have learnt?
- Do students deserve the grades they obtain in the internal assessment?
The relationship between academic quality, programme offerings based on the curriculum, and the student learning experience is what needs to be prioritized by the Colleges.
It is critical importance that a College has clear ways of demonstrating and quantifying the work she is doing. A detailed and complete picture of academic quality that takes into account programmes offerings, the learning experience, and student learning outcomes will be increasingly necessary given trends in accreditation as well as the College. It is the changes such as these which the Colleges must plan for and adapt to.
Ways Principals can improve the Quality of Education
To improve the educational system at the College level is a fraught, complicated one with incredibly high stakes. But that should not discourage policymakers (the Principals) from engaging in it. The problem is concentrated and disproportionately affects low-income and minority students.
Principals must refuse to tolerate even slight overcrowding. A lack of resources or that their Colleges are in less ideal conditions. Lack of space leads to lessons being taught in instructional and non-instructional areas. Visit some of our Colleges to testify.
The statistics around College funding – the problem is not a simple matter.
Higher education as a whole has come under scarcity in terms of educational quality it provides. Such scrutiny has come from most of the stakeholders. The consensus is that Colleges need to place value on academic quality and diploma/degree offerings.
Everyone at the College leadership, faculty, and staff needs to understand the reality of students’ lives. Recognizing the many responsibilities that students are juggling outside of school. Learning is more about the student’s experience at the College.
The College needs to help students to make informed decisions about their educational and career plans. They need honest information about what different programmes entail, what career opportunities exist for graduates. The policymakers should not forget the teachers who will help the student to realize his/her dreams.
Recruiting and training of all faculty and staff on helping a College to achieve its mission and vision should be paramount.
Let me now come to the political structures at the Colleges of Education level.
Hierarchically, the National Conference of Principals of Colleges of Colleges of Education (PRINCOF) is the administrative leader of all Colleges of Education as each Principal is a member. What is the role of PRINCOF in Tutors/Staff well-being? PRINCOF is there to fight for her interest and not for CETAG and CENTSAG. They only come to your aid when issues at stake would benefit them.
To bridge the distance between PRINCOF on one part and Colleges of Education Teachers Association of Ghana (CETAG) and College of Education Non-Teaching Staff Association on the other part, the latter should come together and push its grievances forward for one common goal. But what do we see? CETAG has its uncountable problems, CENTSAG has its issues. At the national level members have no confidence in leadership. At the local level, some chairmen/chairpersons (if any) do not see eye-to-eye with their Principals. Some find it difficult to approach the administrative head to discuss the interest of their members. The Constitution of CETAG itself needs serious amendments. Accountability of leadership of its stewardship seems to be absent in the mother union.
Teacher Trainees Association of Ghana (TTAG) who is the recipient of both PRINCOF and CETAG direct directions, has their problems. In every period leadership allows itself to be influenced by any ruling government that comes to power. Due to this, their interest (i.e.TTAG) is not able to push forward its agitations. They allow politicians to interfere in their day-to-day administration.
TTAG is always at the receiving end of instructions. Their agenda is never implemented. She should sit up and learn from her sister student unions.
Politics among individual tutors/lecturers is another interesting phenomenon. In some of the Colleges, staff is divided into three/four or more groups fighting for positions or any other relevant concern(s). At times with the support of Principals. Little said about the negatives, the better.
If the four internal structures at the Colleges of Education level should come together, they can protect members’ right; support members professionalism, and check administrative power, things would work right for all.
The essentials of good education are the same everywhere: a rigorous curriculum, effective instructions, adequate resources, willing students, and a favourable social and cultural climate in which the four stakeholders should play acceptable politics. PRINCOF cannot do it alone; CETAG/CENTSAG cannot do it alone; Tutors/Staff cannot do it alone; neither TTAG can do it alone. It demands collective efforts from all.
The unions will continue to be important, vital, and needed so long as they work in the interest of their members. Despite some of the unacceptable politics, the presence in the political arena, efforts are intended to improve the quality of teaching in our colleges of education.
A more substantial preparation is required and will become ever more necessary as the body of relevant knowledge continues to grow. All the departments may not get equal level of competency but equal success should be the hallmark. Colleges should also consider allowing some meaningful participation by all members of staff who are prominently involved in college life. Negative traits should never be entertained.
Written by: Frimpong Stephen Jnr.