A former director at the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has suggested that the days of free tertiary education in Barbados are over and Barbadians have to accept that there is no going back.
Reverend Guy Hewitt, who headed the regional agency’s corporate strategy and business development desk between 2009 and 2011, told Barbados TODAY that he believes the new policy is here to stay and will require creative thinking for people to afford a tertiary education.
The decision by the Freundel Stuart administration to have Barbadian students at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies pay their own tuition from the start of this academic year has been highly controversial.
Some students have been unable to continue their studies, with university officials reporting a 28.51 per cent decline in overall registration this year. While there have been calls for the decision to be reversed, others have insisted that students need to start paying their own way because Government is cash-strapped.
Hewitt, who began serving as Barbados’ High Commissioner to the London from today, said it is possible to move past this situation.
“When you talk to people in other parts of the world, in other Caribbean countries, in places like the USA, even in the UK where we got our model from, students have to pay because governments are no longer in a position to make the kind of investments in people’s education as they did a generation ago,” he said.
The diplomat said people who cannot afford to pay, as well as businesses, need to think more creatively.
One of his suggestions was for companies to form partnerships with students that would guarantee jobs for them after graduation.
In return, Hewitt explained, the company would secure additional staff.
“I think that is where partnerships with the private sector could be beneficial. Can a final year student identify a prospective employer who may be willing to pay part of his tuition in exchange for him or her working for that company on graduation? It can become a win-win situation,” he said.
“I know people have a notion that they have been provided for, whether it be by the state or a corporate sponsor, but I think we need to become more creative now and look at how an individual can find a way of negotiating with someone in terms of giving their services in the future [to get] a scholarship or support to meet their tuition needs in the present.”
Meantime, the former CXC director has suggested that it may be time to embrace the idea of life-long training and furthering one’s education at a more mature age.
Hewitt said maturity could allow the individual to better handle the demands of studying, have a clearer idea of their career path, and more easily afford tuition.
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