More Barbadians to pursue life-long learning

A set of key recommendations from an investigative study on the continuing education sector in Barbados has suggested that more Barbadians will pursue life-long learning and gain better employment and business opportunities.

(FILE IMAGE) The findings of the study which is entitled Towards Lifelong Learning in Barbados: Experiences, Challenges and Strategies for Action were shared with a group of public and private education stakeholders including the University of the West Indies, Barbados Community College, Barbados Vocational Training Board, and the TVET Council by Dr. Dwayne Devonish, Lecturer in Management at the UWI, Cave Hill Campus.

The research was commissioned by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development as part of its Human Resource Development (HRD) Strategy, and was intended to identify the best ways to transform the continuing education sector into a lifelong learning environment through conducting a comprehensive SWOT assessment of the sector.

According to Dr. Devonish, Barbados would change significantly if the recommendations were implemented. “Barbados will enjoy a high level of national competitiveness with a highly skilled, competent workforce who can create new ideas, develop and use new technologies, and execute their job functions effectively and efficiently,” he stated. He added that economic development would also be enhanced, resulting in less unemployment, less poverty, and reduced social problems.

The management expert explained that some 320 students were surveyed across the four public continuing education centres and an additional 230 students assessed across TVET-based institutions including the Barbados Community College, the Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB), the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and the Barbados Youth Service.

Other interviews were conducted with coordinators of a number of private sector continuing education institutions. These were Ace Academy, Comprehensive Learning Academy, Lockerbie College, Career Development Institute, Barbados O’ Level Institute, and the University West Indies, Open Campus.

Key findings coming out of the survey indicate that there needs to be a restructuring of the education sector to promote lifelong learning; the development of a policy for the integration and promotion of the sector; and changes in the curricula, as well as key operational or institutional systems of governance and administration to offer more practical, useful and rigorous education and training for Barbadians.

Curriculum reform critical

Out of these findings came a number of recommendations. One critical suggestion was curriculum reform which would align itself with national development goals and objectives.

This is indeed critical as students with technical or academic knowledge or skills relevant to their programme but unrelated to national development goals do not produce the necessary social and economic gains for the country. There are a number of challenges facing national development in this country and if Government invests heavily in these programmes and institutions – the expectation is a highly trained and educated workforce, whose competencies translate to practical contributions to national growth and development,” Dr. Devonish emphasised.

Other recommendations included the need for the development of a National Policy on Lifelong Learning which would inform legislative and institutional changes to develop the continuing education sector; the development of a National Oversight Body for governing and managing the lifelong learning sector; the use of different methods of teaching, including instead of the usual face-to-face technique; greater access to all categories of learners, including persons with special needs; and a training fund to provide financial support to education and training providers as well as persons pursuing learning opportunities.

Maureen Pollard, Project Coordinator, HRD Strategy Unit, Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development endorsed the recommendations by Dr. Devonish and noted that they advance the mandate of the HRD strategy which was to improve the competitiveness of Barbados through a seamless, coordinated and efficient educational and training system.

Pillar three of the strategy speaks to the delivery of lifelong and life-wide education and training and seeks to provide increased opportunities for second chance education. The strategy also seeks to promote technical and vocational education and training and the development of national and Caribbean vocational qualifications,” she pointed out.

The Project Coordinator also indicated that a consultancy to examine lifelong learning in Barbados, and to rationalize technical and vocational education and training and continuing education programmes, would be conducted over the next few months.

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