Barbados runs the risk of returning to a time when only a select few will benefit from the prospect of upward mobility through education.
This assertion from Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education with the UWI Cave Hill, Professor Pedro Welch, as the debate over Government’s financing of tertiary education continues.
He noted that in the 1950s, there had been some public spending on education with parents contributing towards the education of their children, and that this was restricted to those who could either afford the fees, or to those fortunate enough to earn a Vestry Scholarship.
“For those parents who aspired to a higher station of life for their children, there was the emergence of private fee paying schools at the elementary and secondary levels. With respect to access to tertiary education, this was even more restricted [as] only the children of some upwardly mobile Blacks, Coloured and Whites could ever hope to enter the halls of Codington College, or better yet, journey to the UK or US to [study] there.
“In many cases, this was facilitated through the much coveted Island Scholarship . . . .We have come along way from that time but it seems in 2014, we have come full circle once again,” Welch lamented as he addressed the launch of the Student Opportunity Saver (SOS) policy, an education insurance product from the Guardian Life of the Caribbean Limited, this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
He called for more attention to be paid by private sector financial agencies to take up the challenge of helping to finance education in Barbados.
“Private finance will have to play an increasingly important role [in funding education]. It is time for more of our financing institutions to begin to look more closely at this question of financing education. We have to move beyond seeing education simply as a matter of providing books and lunches and other things of that kind.
“We have to begin to see education as a project worthy of investment, a project that has potential for economic growth and the potential for increasing profit margins. We have to move beyond the traditional ways of looking at the question of private financing in education,” the professor stated.
Welch said the general view by some was that funding was more costly and that the fiscal budget of the various countries of the Caribbean were now under threat, and may well lie on the verge of collapse under the weight of the allocation to the educational sector.
“On the other side of the debate . . . we simply cannot view the allocation to the tertiary sector or for that matter, the entire education system in exclusively economic or financial terms. Rather we ought to view the question of education provision at any level in terms of what may be identified as the social good. We might well argue that the issues of the financial and the economical and the social need not be viewed in mutually exclusive terms but as two sides of the same coin.
“Most of those who are arguing for a lessening on the allocation to education, most of this persons tend to view the matter almost entirely in terms of what I call the financial bottom line; and what I am suggesting is that the matter is too complex simply to be placed on a financial footing only. Even though today we are dealing with financial matters, the fact is that the financial is only part of a matrix of other things,” he suggested.