A former trade union leader and this island’s Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador, Robert “Bobby” Morris, is concerned that Barbados’ education system is not developing innovators, and wonders whether students would be better placed at colleges rather than the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Morris, an educator who served on the National Advisory Council on Education, Monday night bemoaned a trend of university graduates taking up clerical and other salaried jobs, while actual production and introduction of new ideas for development were left to a few.
Addressing a National Union of Public Workers symposium on higher education, employability, and economic sustainability, Morris, who is a former deputy general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, quoted statistics that point to 31 per cent of the Barbadian workforce being university graduates.
“Out of that 31 per cent of persons with degrees, I would wager to say that most of them perform clerical, and administrative functions. They hold jobs. They don’t necessarily add anything major to the economy,” the CARICOM ambassador said.
He continued: “If you study your society very well, you will know that [there is] a handful of people who push economic development in Barbados, in terms entrepreneurship, new ideas”.
The Ambassador, who also served on the National Productivity Council, said: “Only a very small percentage of the university graduates we’re talking about are doing anything more than holding a job. And by ‘holding a job’ I mean that they are managing, or they are administering.
“They are not necessarily creating anything new and different. And they get a salary sometimes that is not related to output, to bring about change”.
Quoting figures that showed UWI Cave Hill, galloping forward with enrollment between the 2004/2005 and 2008/2009 academic years, while the Barbados Community College, Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, and the Samuel Jackman Polytechnic reflected marginal increases, he noted, “It was the University of the West Indies [enrollment] that moved dramatically”.
The former lecturer at college and university level then asked, “Would it not have been better to see those numbers at the Community College, and the Polytechnic?”
He further considered a more specialized role for the Cave Hill campus, “Can’t we reserve our university for post-graduate teaching? Master’s, doctorate, professional teaching [for] entrepreneurship and driving change?”
Morris was among four panelists at the symposium, moderated by former senior public servant Anthony Cave. Other panel members and fellow educators were Orville Lynch, Dr Troy Lorde, and Dr Patrick Rowe.
“Barbados at this stage, in terms of competitiveness, is stuck somewhere between process and innovation,” Morris contended, arguing that this island was unlike, “Trinidad [that] has gone on to the innovative stage of its economic development”.
He said Barbados needs to move on along the route of the sister CARICOM nation and attain the level of innovation, inventiveness and entrepreneurship that will take this country, “towards self-sustaining growth and growth that is going to keep us at a high level over a long period of time”.
But he posited, “A lot of our economic change in a country like ours is coming from a small group of persons. We need to change that”.