EDITORIAL: Benefits from offshore schools
LAST WEEK the House of Assembly debated the first reading of the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (Incorporation) Bill.
This bill seeks to implement the agreement reached by Caribbean nations for accreditation of medical schools in the region. It is noteworthy that a committee made up of knowledgeable experts will evaluate and report on schools applying to operate in the region, and in so doing, it will also seek to ensure the highest standards and so avoid any “fly-by-night” operators.
This important piece of legislation will enable this country to promote and encourage the establishment here, of what are sometimes called offshore medical schools, and, when enacted, will compliment our ongoing national effort to position this country as a service economy open for legitimate international business.
Indeed Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite told the House that he wants to see the island better market itself as a provider of educational services of an international standard; because he notes that there could be serious economic benefits for the island if we aggressively promote the island as place where international schools have successfully made an impact. He thinks that we can export educational services just as we export financial services.
It is difficult to fault the thinking of the learned Attorney General. He has had the experience of living and working in a jurisdiction which is a leading centre for the establishment of financial services and he would have seen first-hand the benefits which can accrue to a country from such activities when the service is vigorously marketed.
We already have one foreign-owned medical school established here, and the House was told that charters had been granted to two other schools with the application for a fourth school under consideration by local authorities.
Barbadians will be very much aware of the major contribution which the well established St George’s Medical School continues to make to the economy of Grenada, a factor which adds weight and support to the Attorney General’s point of view.
Whatever may have been misgivings in past times, we urge Barbadians to support this measure. Offshore medical schools have in the past three decades gained acceptance and recognition as centres where high quality medical education is given and proficient and knowledgeable students are produced.
What are required are procedures and policies which ensure that the educational standards of these schools match those in the United States, so that continuity and success is assured.
We simply cannot afford to have a proliferation of offshore medical schools across the region with varying standards. The regional agreement is designed to head off this possibility so that proposed operators cannot try to play games pitting one island against another.
With hindsight it is regrettable that the building formerly housing The St Joseph Hospital has fallen into some disrepair since it might have been a desirable location for such a school. That may have been an opportunity lost.
Nevertheless we must grasp the current trend in the exporting of educational services. The Cave Hill campus has started the teaching of English as a foreign language, and its recently constructed hall of residence bordering on Highway One is also a foreign exchange earner since it caters mainly to foreign students.
Barbadians should support this latest push to diversity our services sector, for once successful, it will bring much needed employment and foreign exchange to our country.