EDITORIAL: SJPP upgrade worthy of full steam
DESPITE SUFFERING FROM the impact of the challenging economic times, education remains of the highest priority to Barbadians. That is why the latest idea floated by vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles, should be seriously considered and pursued. The suggestion of upgrading the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP) into a degree-granting UWI college is a worthy and achievable objective.
Amidst what has been mostly a despairing discussion since the financial squeeze on the UWI caused by Government’s cash woes, Sir Hilary’s SJPP proposal is a pragmatic one. It also indicates that he is not holding on to elitist traditions but taking initiatives to reach an even wider student base while responding to the island’s needs for upgraded vocational training opportunities.
The development of higher education in Barbados for the past two decades has largely been focused on the UWI while the Polytechnic and the Barbados Community College (BCC) appear to have suffered in that thrust. We feel, however, that inclusion of the Polytechnic under the ambit of the UWI can only benefit that institution, its graduates and the economy. The fact is that in higher education internationally, polytechnic colleges are now very prevalent.
By integrating the Polytechnic into UWI, a number of important goals would be achieved. The SJPP certificate, which under the existing arrangement carries little weight beyond Barbados, would certainly acquire an enhanced reputation.
As the institution’s programme is reviewed and improved, the quality of its academic staff would of necessity be strengthened. Hopefully, the SJPP would attract more funding, including donations, so that the range of courses offered would be fully supported.
Technical and technological skills are required in the new knowledge economy. But they must be of the very highest standard with the recognised certification. A move to upgrade the SJPP would be a very appropriate response to the calls for higher-quality graduates in the workforce.
The suggested upgrade of the SJPP would put paid to the long-held belief that it is a place for second-class students. Like the BCC and the UWI, such an institution must attract the best talent. We do not believe that Sir Hilary’s proposal will purposely disadvantage any student; it will rebrand and reposition the Polytechnic.
It should give the Barbados Vocational Training Board an opportunity to further develop its programmes in collaboration with City & Guilds.
With the Cave Hill Campus’ planned siting of City facilities in the Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society’s building on Lower Broad Street and the NIS Building on Fairchild Street, there is already the physical facility to help make the SJPP idea a reality.
It is now for Government to respond, the public to give its input and the UWI to outline the full details. This could be a win-win situation for education in Barbados.