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Shift fund focus

Natasha Beckles

Shift fund focus

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With a $537.28 million education budget in 2011, economist Professor Frank Alleyne has called for a national discourse on the financing of education in Barbados, with a view to allocating resources equitably to all levels of the system.
According to Alleyne, the island’s educational system focused too strongly on the “apex” of tertiary education, at the expense of early childhood education.
He was speaking last Thursday during a panel discussion on Financing Education In Barbados hosted by the Barbados Economics Society at the Savannah Hotel.
Making the case for a different approach, Alleyne said: “If you’re going to build a sound education system, you have to start at the bottom and that is pre-school education.”
Alleyne said that pre-school education had to compensate for “poor environments where you hardly see newspapers in the home [and] where you hardly see parents with books”.
Furthermore, the professor said that no political party had been able to address the issue of resource allocation.
“If you look carefully at our education system in Barbados, there are no clear criteria for the allocation of resources.”
“My fear is that what you will see is some tinkering rather than facing the issue head on and asking questions about what type of system we want to build, and what is the most equitable means of allocating resources at the various levels of that system,” Alleyne said.
The professor, who heads Government’s Council of Economic Advisers, also noted that the case for state-funded education was not as strong as it was in 1963, when many households did not have the means to finance the education of their children.
“None of the governments in the English-speaking Caribbean are really able to finance tertiary education in the way it was conceived back in the ’60s,” he said.
“If you say that you’re going to put a ceiling on the allocation to the [university], what the other party which is in Opposition will say is, ‘Put me in; I’m going to move that ceiling,’” he said.
He noted that the absence of fiscal space meant that the issue would have to be addressed.