Stay clear of irrelevant changes to tertiary education, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus Professor Eudine Barriteau has warned.
Delivering the annual Elsie Payne Memorial Lecture last evening as part of activities celebrating the 120th anniversary of Queens College, the leading academic raised concern that increasing financial pressure to fund higher education had resulted in a “rush to prescribe more models of funding and delivery” which could lead to more harm than good.
“To be transformative educational leaders we cannot lose sight of the role education has played and must continue to undertake in our societies,” she said, stressing that education in Barbados and other Caribbean countries was not “merely a social good.”
“It is an economic investment in the productive capacity and human capital development of our societies. It is the educational sector that equips our current and future work force with skills, and perspective and attitudes necessary to contain, manage and triumph over adversities in global economic relations.”
Speaking under the theme, Creating Leaders Through Excellence in Our Educational System: Transforming a UWI Education, Barriteau urged authorities to step back and ensure that new educational strategies impart the right
skills-mix that is best for societal development.
“That is, what kind of citizen do we envision producing? And where does her or his experience fit in the very society his or her education is expected to transform?
“A transformative agenda for tertiary education cannot separate educational strategies from a philosophy of education that is grounded in a critical and rigorous assessment of where our countries are inserted in the global economy.”
She insisted this would require exposure to all forms of education, including instruction in the humanities, arts and culture, along with sciences, math and technology.
Noting that these developments were also taking place as competition for the provision of tertiary education was ever increasing, the UWI principal however cautioned against “a general free for all among mostly, unregulated, foreign providers,” saying that a foreign education provider had left students stranded in one Caribbean country.
The UWI principal who has been faced with a drop in enrollment at the Cave Hill Campus after the Freundel Stuart administration stopped paying tuition fees for locals, made a case for Barbados to ensure its entire population had access to tertiary education and not just school leavers. She made reference to UNESCO statistics which showed a decrease in the enrollment in the primary and secondary school.
“In 1999 the enrollment in primary education for both sexes stood at 24,792 by 2011, 11 years later, it was 22, 509 with every previous year showing a decline on the year before. Similarly the secondary enrollment population was 21, 841 in 1999 and by 2011 its 19,696. Interestingly, we note the population of persons between the ages of 24-64 rose from 137, 261 in 1999 to 157, 686 in 2011. There is a labour force in need of continuous retooling and upgrading.”
Lamenting that the Caribbean was still lagging behind the benchmark standard of 15 per cent access to tertiary education, she stressed that the Cave Hill Campus was acting quickly to move out of the current decline in enrollment and to strengthen its financial viability outlining her vision to transform the educational institution.
“Our facilities must be functional, well resourced and fit for purpose. In addition to increasing our learning facilities, we have improved student health services, provide career and psychological counselling and maintain a range of programmes to support academic and professional development . . . Our faculty must be qualified, competent, motivated, professional and student responsive.
“All our content should meet international standards and include curriculum, library, laboratory, and other educational resources . . . we require our administration to be professional, knowledgeable, resourceful and student responsive.”