EDITORIAL: Reform entire education system
Amidst all the discussion relating to the cutback in Government funding of university studies, this is an ideal opportunity for a comprehensive review of the educational system. There is a clear need to implement changes for the better.
The financial challenges which have forced the Freundel Stuart administration to do a major U-turn in the way it offers universal free education are not unique to Barbados. Understandably, this is not what a student challenged by the financial realities wants to hear, but still a reality which must be acknowledged. Neither must the outlook be made to seem hopeless.
What the situation has thrown up is the need for reform of the entire education system – from nursery to tertiary – to bring benefits to both the individual and the country. It must be about more than the high academic achievers and about becoming certified, even if not qualified.
We place great value on outstanding academic performance throughout the system, but often overlook many others who are still expected to also make meaningful contribution to the country’s development. Yet, the disparities continue while the concept of “a free meal” prevails.
In helping to reshape our educational needs, Barbados must know its manpower requirements for the next 25 years, and those areas of greatest need even beyond these shores in order to equip its people for those opportunities. Education in all spheres must have meaningful outcomes. Manpower studies must be undertaken to help guide the way forward for our educational system which must produce qualified and highly skilled people capable of filling desired well-paying jobs in academic, technical and vocational areas.
This requires a shift in the way things have been done and must start with the Ministry of Education which needs to embrace students, educators, parents and trade associations in a more meaningful way. Education and training are no longer the purview of a few.
The Ministry must have under its portfolio responsibility for all relevant matters relating to education and training. We must buck the trend of shifting responsibilities to a myriad of ministries resulting in duplication, overlapping and the development of fiefdoms. More importantly, there must be no semblance of a master/servant relationship, with the ministry giving orders to be carried out without objection or differing views from the professionals across the system. At the same time, all educational institutions must be measured and their performance reviewed.
This is a wonderful opportunity to do new and exciting things for the benefit of all Barbadians. It is not about rhetoric and piecemeal measures. Minister of Education Mr Ronald Jones can stand out by being exemplary. Fail to innovate and he will be forever inconsequential.