Radical shakeup being proposed for Caribbean’s educational system

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, July 6, 2017

The way is which education is delivered regionally has to change fundamentally and at all levels”, so said St Kitts and Nevis’s Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minster Shawn when he addressed the media, last evening, at the Grenada Radisson Hotel, on the sidelines of the CARICOM 38th Heads of Government Conference. The CARICOM Chairman of the Commission of Human Development accompanied by Commission member and Organisation of Eastern Carbbean States (OECS) Director Dr. Didacus Jules and Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council Glenroy Cumberbatch, briefed media operatives on the findings of the Commission.

According to the findings, a complete transformation of the Education System across the Caribbean is urgently needed if youths are to be ready for future employment, especially in the rapidly changing technological world. This was emphasised by the panelists on behalf of the 17 member Commission.

According to St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister (PM) Richards, the issue is to build regional resilience from economic, social, technological and environmental standpoints. The PM added that regional changes in climate change and Information Technology (ICT), must be taken into consideration, “When we look at the use of ICT, for example and the way in which ICT is impacting the world and the region, it is imperative that we develop our citizens to be able to withstand all the necessary changes…These are the kinds of consideration that we must take into consideration as we develop an ideal Caribbean citizen for 2030.”

The use of technology within the education sector and ensuring that it is done so in a positive manner is another concern particularly amongst youths, the PM noted. The need to achieve the United Nations MDG Number 4 which speaks to the provision of quality, equitable, affordable., lifelong educational opportunities for all and the goals of SDG Number 8 which speaks to promoting sustained economic growth, which was also mentioned by the PM.

He revealed that the strategy takes into consideration all aspects of learning from early childhood to those who have graduated from High School. The aim, in this regard, he added, is to increase the number of people leaving High School with more subjects. The PM said research shows that a startling figure of 66% of recent graduates leaving high school, do so with two subjects or less, 12% with 3 to 4 subject passes and 22% with 5 or more, there was much to be done.

Future demands, he explained will require youths to be competent in complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, coordinating people, people management, emotional judgement, negotiating and decision making, and cognitive flexibility.

There is also a vast difference in the skills required presently and those in 2030, hence he added, “We are looking at an education which is seamless one and regardless of where you are, there must some sort of uniformity in terms of the systems…In terms of our own education institutions that we bring to bear the necessary policies that will meet this reality.”

Dr. Jules added that the HR 2030 Strategy makes it clear that education needs to be seen in its full amplitude, “Everyone is capable of learning, the question is, are we capable of teaching? And that is the crux of the issue.” People have to empowered with education and it must be seen in the context of developing a whole person, he added, “It is about developing a certain type of individual, who has characteristics embodied in the ideal CARICOM person.”

“People must be put at the center of development”, Dr. Jules stated and added that, “It is no longer about tinkering with the system….There have a lot of projects where they have focused on several challenges with limited successes. The question is, what has been the overall impact on the DNA on our education system.” H3e opined that if the education system is changed and the way that teachers teach and test isn’t, then the status quo will remain. The entire system needs reform, he explained and this can only be done if there is the political and social will to do so.

Learning must be made fun and school structures changed to accommodate this, CXC Registrar Cumberbatch insisted. He sounded a call for more access and importance to be attached to tertiary, poly-technic, adult and continuing education. The long serving educator said there is also the need moneys to be spent differently to achieve true value for money, in terms of results and above all, he emphasized, “We must make learning fun.”

The Commission was launched after Caribbean Leaders were given a presentation in March 2014, on behalf of a cluster of Humana Resource Development (HRD) agencies regionally, and a decision was taken to examine education jointly. They then asked that a Commission be mandated to develop a HRD strategy that looks towards 2030. It sought to address ways in which HRD and education needed to change to equip CARICOM residents with the projected skills and knowledge needed, for economies and societies, by that benchmark.


By: Paul McAdam