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Voices in the Humanosphere 2016: Ghana at forefront of education reform

“Education is the fundamental method of social reform and progress,” said the 19th Century American philosopher and school reformer John Dewey. Patrick Awuah of Ghana couldn’t agree more.

Patrick Awuah

Patrick Awuah

For today’s Year-in-Review podcast pull from the archives, we’re revisiting the chat we had with Awuah while he was in Seattle. Awuah, who has engineering and economics degrees from Swarthmore College, an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and numerous awards such as the so-called genius grant or MacArthur Fellowship, is the founder of Ashesi University in Berekuso, a small town about 45 minutes drive from the capital city of Accra, Ghana.

Some might wonder why you’d want to start an institution of higher learning in an African country given that so many children in sub-Saharan Africa don’t even get adequate primary or secondary educations. For one thing, Ghana is doing pretty well with an economy chugging along somewhere in or close to achieving ‘middle-income’ status. For another, Awuah contends much of higher education in Africa remains largely vocational and rote. What he wanted to promote is the value of a liberl arts education, even if all you want to do is engineering, information technology or the like.

Awuah, who was able to launch this ambitious venture having done well working for Microsoft in its heyday, explains why he thinks a broad-based, liberal arts education – as Dewey said – is so fundamental to making any kind of social progress and truly representative democracy. Listen and learn! The interview (after podcast producer Imana Gunawan and I discuss the news at the time of the interview with Awuah) starts at 9-minute mark.

That’s our final visit to the podcast archive for this holiday week, and for 2016. We’ve had lots of fascinating interviews this year, too many to re-publish in one week. Go to our list of podcasts for more.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.