EDITORIAL: Sustainable solution required
ONE OF THE distinguishing features of Barbados in the last 50 years has been its emphasis on education and the gains reaped for both the society in general and for many of its citizens.
Still, the country needs more of its people accessing higher education to broaden opportunities and build national prosperity.
The benefits are clear and many. College graduates will earn much more over their work life than those with only a secondary school education.
They are not likely to have to rely on social security or be unemployed for extended periods and are less likely to be incarcerated.
A bachelor’s degree or associate degree-level technical or vocation certification is critical in helping to make the country more competitive.
Unfortunately, the ideal of having a graduate in every household in the country clearly comes at a great cost.
Given the country’s prevailing economic circumstances, Government’s cutback in its funding of the Cave Hill campus was expected. The situation requires a review of our education system at all levels.
Cave Hill should take the lead by ensuring that there is an increase in relevant research and innovation there, while not placing quantity over quality to expand demand-driven education.
It must also indicate whether funding per place is below regional or international standards What we have witnessed at Cave Hill, the Barbados Community College (BCC) and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP) is not unlike what has been happening worldwide.
College and technical/vocational education have seen dramatic increases in student numbers, while state funding has lagged.
At the same time, college expansion programmes require more infrastructure, increased staff and various other kinds of resources – all of which call for more expenditure.
The issue is therefore about funding college level education, whether through the taxpayers or by increasing fees and encouraging students to accept greater personal financial responsibility.
The Cave Hill campus, BCC and SJPP all have multimillion-dollar capital needs and maintenance programmes that must be addressed. The challenge is in achieving these objectives other than by reliance on state funds.
Although the state has historically been the source of financing, it no longer has the money. So we need other ways to ensure affordable high-quality education for both domestic students and the increasingly important international student market.
A sustainable solution is required. Students and parents need to take on some of the financial responsibility of ensuring their dreams of a better tomorrow. Education at this level should not be seen as an entitlement.
Greater accountability must also be brought to bear on the financial affairs of these tertiary institutions, in addition to stringent cost containment and, most certainly, higher graduation rates.