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He spoke out about the “outdated and outmoded criteria” being used to test Caribbean students, saying that the regional education system remains inadequate at preparing young people for the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.