Does the Duration of The Undergraduate Liberal Arts Degree Matter?
A simple answer is YES, as it ensures quality. However, it is painstakingly a complex issue. In the same way it is impossible to arrive at a consensus that will satisfy everyone in the field of education.
First, let us examine why the duration of education whether at the Primary, Middle, Secondary or University level Is of concern to policy makers?
Why Is the Duration of Education a Concern to Educational Policy Makers?
Three basic reasons; one is the cost of education to the central government is huge. Investments in education and training are long-term whose benefits are not easily recognized.
The second reason is the belief that the socio-economic development of Ghana requires investments in other areas such as health, transportation and not education.
A third reason is the argument that funding education requires a paradigmatic shift with more private and parental involvement, instead of the current system where the central government pays more than 80 percent of costs associated with education and training in Ghana.
Examples of International Baccalaureate Degree Durations
Ghana’s education system was and is still modeled on that of the United Kingdom albeit with some previous attempts at changing the content and structure without much success. The Ghana system, unfortunately, has largely retained key features of the UK system where the duration is mostly 3 years of full-time study but in Scotland, it is 4 years.
In Canada, the baccalaureate requires a minimum of three years of full time study with a caveat. It depends on the Province and whether the program of study is general or specialized. The Canadian and UK models have largely been practiced in Ghana and explain why at the University of Ghana, liberal arts programs run for three years and specialized professional programs for 4, 5, 6, or 7 years. The same applies to the University of Science and Technology and the University of Cape Coast.
In the U.S, the baccalaureate is typically 4 years of full time study but can run for more than 4 years. The United States operates a 9-month academic calendar, comprising two major semesters of fall semester and spring semester. Summer semester is available but optional.
What is at stake in Ghana is to determine if students should declare a major from the onset or wait until their junior year (Year 3 or Level 3) for liberal arts students. What policy makers are silently telling liberal arts students is that “you are a drain on our university resources hence the need to reduce the duration for liberal arts degrees so that more resources can be channeled to other science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.”
Based on Ghana’s population projections and the high unemployment facing the youth who are mostly liberal arts graduates, and the central government who is the payer of education and training in Ghana, the future for 4-year baccalaureate degree maybe bleak. From the perspectives of education policy makers, a shortened university baccalaureate may result in short-term savings that could be used to provide needed physical infrastructure development, and faculty development much needed today.
Dr. Augustine Amenyah
Part Time Faculty-Organizational Leadership
Colorado State University Global