UWI Official Slams Region’s Education System

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday April 20, 2017 – Lack of political will, vested interests and deep conservatism are obstructing the transformation of the region’s education sector, a senior programme and research officer at the University of the West Indies Open Campus has said.

However, Dr Glenford Howe said the problems are not limited to those issues, and also include an aversion to things not rooted in the colonial experience, lack of institutional and implementation capacity as well as a fear of the effects of change.

Delivering his overall assessment of the sector, the regional educator said it is not fit for purpose.

“Since the education system in the region was not designed to be inclusive, it is not surprising that, in the absence of fundamental reforms, it is proving to be unfit for education provision in a 21st century context, in which the focus is on democratization of access, inclusiveness, equitable provision of education for all learners, and addressing the individual needs of each student,” Dr Howe said.

The academic, who has drafted a CARICOM Human Resource Development Strategy that addresses many of the “systematic failures” he identified, was speaking this week on the topic ‘Education for Empowerment – Reconceptualising Caribbean Education for Inclusive Social and Economic Development’.

He spoke out about the “outdated and outmoded criteria” being used to test Caribbean students, saying that the regional education system remains inadequate at preparing young people for the world of work as reflected in the growing number of unemployed and underemployed persons, especially youth.

Furthermore, he said, there is a serious skills deficit across the region and an overall low educational base in many countries.

And, though changes in the economies and labour markets have significantly increased the importance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET), he lamented that there continues to be a false perception in the region that such programmes are for school drop-outs and poor performers.

“All of these challenges and weaknesses at the lower levels of the education system then produce negative reverberations at the tertiary level and are reflected in for example the relatively low enrolment rates at the tertiary level. These challenges have also been leading to irrational responses among tertiary institutions,” he concluded.

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  • Christine Norton

    It’s brilliant that an educator such as Dr Howe has taken the first step in the journey of one thousand miles. I hope his comments will not be turned into a defensive fight by others educators to claim otherwise. Evidence for years now has demonstrated that his comments are right on the button. All Caribbean people who care about the economic viability and overall well-being of the Region should embrace this call! A sound education system can not be built by educators alone. This is an intersectoral initiative for visionaries with a well-rooted understanding of context and who are somewhat selfless. This is about the willingness to move on from the past ideals and admit to some of our failures. Pride is a major stumbling block but our resilience, cumulative expertise and technological potential are cornerstones for a new strategy. Let’s us keep what has worked well but invest in a new, bright future for children, adolescents and adult learners.. this is a continuum of learning that will facilitate our participation in a rapidly changing world! Bravo Dr Howe!!

  • Olutoye Walrond

    This man must have been reading my book, WESTMINSTER’S JEWEL – THE BARBADOS STORY, or my mind. Yes. Oh how outdated and moribund our education system is – especially the one in Barbados. These colonial clones who took over from the British have demonstrated zero creativity and independence of thought. There is an aversion to changing anything left by the British that is so profound, it would take the world’s longest oil drill to reach the bottom of it.

  • Kelvin Scoon

    Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
    Johann Von Goethe
    Will Dr Howe accept the challenge on behalf of the UWI to ‘do’ whatever is necessary to bring about the changes he has prescribed, by accepting the UWI’s sacred responsibility as the region’s premier academic institution?

  • To-nee-T

    What does a reformed education system in the Caribbean look like? Democratization of access might look like our own CSEC-CAPE-TVET platform with a complete set of courses for self study or guided study in preparation for these national exams.