EDITORIAL: Technology key in modernising Polytechnic
INNOVATION IS GOING to be a key factor in driving change in Barbados and this is particularly true of education, given what it can do to propel the society.
This is why the call from the chairman of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), Desmond Browne, for a drastic revamp of the way things are done at that institution should be embraced.
Modernising Barbados’ education system will call for fundamental shifts in existing approaches and will rattle those who are comfortable with the status quo. But, things must be revamped at the polytechnic to not only enhance its image but, more importantly, to improve the educational experiences of the students it serves, ensuring they get a 21st century education.
Mr Browne must be bold enough to embrace other tertiary institutions both in and outside of Barbados with the experience and expertise to help to guide his vision for the SJPP. A good starting point would be the former College of Arts, Science and Technology in Jamaica, which was able to transform and upgrade to meet the needs of students and region.
It may also mean working with the University of the West Indies, whose vice-chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles has spoken of that wider vision which encompasses all the tertiary institutions in Barbados.
It will also be necessary to leverage the talent within the private sector which may be able to offer the technical and financial help the polytechnic so desperately needs if it is to be relevant in an environment driven by new technology.
Mr Browne has acknowledged that meeting the need for a change in thinking, attitude and approach will not be easy, given the many obstacles to be encountered and overcome. But there must be no shying away from instituting either the flexibility or the boldness in new approaches that are so absolutely necessary.
It is unacceptable to hear every year of the polytechnic’s inability to adequately offer places to hundreds of students seeking the opportunity to enhance their technical and vocational skills. At the same time we cannot expect the state to build another polytechnic or even significantly expand the existing plant given the poor shape of the national finances and the competing demands on the public purse.
There is no longer a need to be held back by the constraints of the traditional classroom. Efficient utilisation of the existing plant and application of technology seem the logical choice, even if through provision of an adjunct faculty, as is done in North America.
Fortunately, there seems to be unison at the top at the polytechnic as principal Hector Belle has echoed sentiments similar to Browne’s. This could be the cusp of significant change, once fully embraced and backed by the right investment and commitment.
The SJPP must surely be redesigned to be more responsive to students and the nation. Our economic survival depends on it.