Rap on knuckles for charging Tuition at UWI? EU makes call for changes in education to make it economically viable
Barbados has a solid educational foundation and a well-educated professional class which has taken it closer to developed country status, however, the country is in need of a new model for education to take it to the next level of development.
That was the opinion of Dr. Stephen Boyce, Programme Manager (Education), Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, while delivering remarks recently at a workshop on the Economic Impact of Education in Barbados: First Steps towards a Higher Education Strategy, at the Accra Beach Hotel.
According to Dr. Boyce, education can no longer be business as usual, and any new strategy must go beyond the usual discussions pertaining to course work and classrooms and include an analysis of education as a business which costs tax payers approximately BB$ 0.5 billion annually, and whose returns are unknown.
The workshop was organised by the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (METI) and was attended by officials from METI, the European Union, the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Department and other key stakeholders involved in the education sector.
The (EU) Programme Manager was also of the opinion that the discussions being held were a “pivotal first step in repositioning Barbados’ approach to education“. He added that it was necessary to determine whether it was more practical or financially prudent to educate the country’s population for a good job, rather than first determining how many of those jobs currently exist, or what skills were needed.
Changes in delivery of education recommended
Dr. Boyce also spoke to the need for changes in the delivery of education: “It is clear we need to address the multifaceted nature of education, but also seek solutions beyond the traditional boundaries of the educational sector…. The challenge is to create an environment in which state run institutions coexist with regional, offshore and virtual schools. It will be necessary to rethink where, how and when education is delivered,” he advised.
Participants were challenged to consider the best approach to training and retraining the “brightest and the best“, while attracting the “brightest and the best” to work in new research centres, patent new technologies, incubate new businesses and trade new products.
Maureen Pollard, Project Coordinator of the HRD Strategy, agreed that there needed to be a new and innovative approach to education in Barbados. She explained that the HRD Strategy was poised to do just that and was based on the premise that when individuals were provided with access to a solid education and opportunities for lifelong learning, the result was increased international competitiveness, sustainable growth and reduced poverty.
“The HRD Strategy was developed to address many of the challenges that present themselves in the education sector; challenges which have curtailed our growth as a nation. We expect to see significant changes in both areas once the strategy is fully implemented,” she emphasised.
“This phenomenon presents a significant opportunity for providers of post-secondary school education in Barbados. In fact a recent study conducted for the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries has shown that there is great economic potential for Barbados to move in the direction of providing services to international students, especially in the teaching of English to non-English speakers,” Ms. Pollard disclosed.
New model of education for Barbados
The deliberations during the workshop, along with further collaboration with a designated technical team will provide the basis for a new model of education. This model is expected to provide: an assessment of the impact of education services on Barbados’ economy; an analysis of the economic potential of providing Higher Education services as an expert service or revenue generating stream; the development of a digital financial/education model; contribution to the development of a Higher Education sustainability model; conduct of a technical and administrative capacity assessment of the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation; and development of a five-year strategy to support Barbados’ efforts to realise the economic potential of higher education services.
The HRD Strategy is funded by the EU and implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. The strategy promotes the idea that a solid basic education and lifelong learning are the keys to an individual’s personal and professional development. It is also facilitating a well-run, high quality, demand driven environment which empowers and enables citizens who will actively contribute to sustainable growth and development in Barbados.
The strategy has five components: Creating an environment conducive to human resource development through strengthening institutions and building capacity; Developing a National Qualifications Framework which is recognised internationally; Developing a demand-driven education system which sets Barbadians on a path of life-long learning and improved employment opportunities; Re-organising knowledge management systems so Barbadians in the public and private sectors can have access to the knowledge and information they need; Enhance research methods to improve innovation, entrepreneurship, and development among Barbadians.