By Michelle Dawson & Lucas Rutherford
A survey undertaken by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has found high levels of support throughout the country for the introduction of a minimum level of education requirement for Members of Parliament (MPs).
Furthermore, there was also significant support for such a threshold being set quite high, as a tertiary qualification.
The survey on ‘Public Perceptions of Members of Parliament’ was undertaken by the IEA, with assistance from officers of the National Centre for Civic Education (NCCE).
The respondents, all aged 16 years and above, were drawn from all of Ghana’s ten administrative regions. In total, 2,346 responses were collected.
The respondents were asked whether they considered that there should be a minimum education standard to qualify as an MP, and, if so, what that standard should be (being given the option of English proficiency, a High School Certificate, a University Degree or some other level of education).
An overwhelming majority of respondents, some 84%, agreed that MPs should have a minimum level of education. Significantly, an individual’s own level of education does not significantly impact these results, with ¾ of those without even a primary level of education attainment, supporting the creation of a minimum threshold.
Of those that considered that there should be a minimum level of education, a significant majority (67%) considered that the minimum qualification should be a university degree.
The results are perhaps, an acknowledgement of the difficulty of the job undertaken by MPs. Under the Constitution, Ghana’s MPs have an important function in reviewing and debating legislation.
In addition, through the various committees of Parliament, they play an integral role in overseeing the work of the executive arm of government, and the operation of Ghana’s institutional machinery.
In discharging these functions, often in very complex areas of policy and administration, MPs regularly need to able to understand modern political and economic matters, participate in important and complex policy discussions, and be able to communicate with their international counterparts.
A move to impose a minimum education threshold in Ghana would not be out of line with some other African countries. In Uganda, presidential candidates must have a minimum formal education of A-level or its equivalent.
In Tanzania, all candidates must be able read and write proficiently in Kiswahili or English.
In Kenya, a person must hold a post secondary school qualification to be nominated as a candidate for election, and a person must possess a university degree to be nominated for important posts such as President or Vice-President.
In Nigeria, to be elected to the National Assembly, an individual must have been educated up to, at least, a School Certificate level or its equivalent.
It is evident from the results of this survey that Ghanaians appreciate the challenging role of their MPs. The broad level of support reflected in this survey highlights that education levels of their MPs is an important issue to Ghanaians, and one that warrants the government’s attention.