Stop romanticizing about education and get down to the business of transforming the system to meet the changing demands of the labour market, Member of Parliament for The City Jeffrey Bostic advised Parliament today.
Making his contribution to Estimates debate, Bostic stressed that critical to this overhaul was the development of technical and vocational education.
He argued that education could no longer be about the number of Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) certificates gained by students, but whether their course of study translates into more jobs and revenue.
“It is not a matter any more of having one, two or three CXC’s, but, in my view, when it comes to technology, when it comes to vocational education . . . the critical factor has to be how does that impact on our manufacturing and productive sectors.”
In this vein, Bostic proposed a major upgrade for the Barbados Vocational Training Board as a matter urgency, saying that while it was performing well, the organization had outgrown the use of primary schools as satellite training centers.
“The number of people who are now pursuing courses with that institution are large and when it comes to equipment, the primary schools are too small and if we are serious about increasing our industrial output we have to put the Barbados Vocational Training Board on a different footing,” the City MP said.
He proposed construction of a new facility to allow the Board to expand its offerings and to help the island build a strong industrial base.
“There is need for a modern purpose-built campus which would facilitate the training board offering more courses and oriented people skills in the areas of manufacturing and other industries that are required to take Barbados forward for the next 50 years,” Bostic told the Lower Chamber.
The Opposition MP also said he was anxious to see the island develop its Information, Communication and Technology sector beyond mere qualifications, while warning that Barbados was in danger of being left behind.
“We are not making the connection to get some of our people to be able to go to Microsoft and these other big places to get that real training to propel this country and this is something that we really need to take stock of.
“We cannot have a situation where the world is going along with technology, lots of emerging millionaires in India and we don’t have an information technology school or college or institute in Barbados,” he added.
Stressing that now was the right time for the shift to occur, Bostic urged policymakers to ensure that changes in the education sector were in line with sound measures to propel the country forward in the next 20 years.
“It cannot be the romanticizing of education anymore and I believe strongly that this is the time, this is the moment, this is the right time to make the shift and we have to do it systemically and comprehensively, so that at the end of the day Barbados would truly be able to build out the capacity for development in the country,” he said.