Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Sir Hilary: Too few people enrolled in higher education

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal
of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus.

The potential of the Caribbean to lift itself out of the present economic recession and achieve growth is compromised by the very fact that we have too few people enrolled in higher education.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, made this observation while delivering the keynote address at the opening of the two-day 2014 Conference of the Association of Caribbean Higher Education Administrators (ACHEA), held in the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex of the Campus last week Thursday.

Speaking on the theme, “Creating a Sustainable Lens for Higher Education: The New Urgency”, Professor Beckles declared, “If you look at our hemisphere, we in the Caribbean, we have the lowest percentage of our citizens enrolled in higher education, in the entire hemisphere.

Dr. Kofi Nkrumah-Young, President of ACHEA,
also addressed the gathering.
“From Alaska to Argentina, the Caribbean is at the bottom of the education enrolment accessibility profile. And if you take the English Speaking Caribbean, which is primarily our zone, our part of the Caribbean Space, it is the lowest within the Caribbean. So the French speaking, the Dutch speaking, the Spanish speaking Caribbean, are ahead of us in the English speaking Caribbean,” he continued.

“So the entire Americas can be characterised with one criterion, that in the English speaking Caribbean, the enrolment in higher education is the lowest across the continent. Now that puts us in ACHEA in a very difficult and awkward position, because we are the ones who are managing and governing this reality,” Sir Hilary stressed.

The UWI Principal further stated that every model of development suggests that the potential for development is an expression of the number of citizens who have participated or are participating in higher education. As such, he said, it is significant to note that those countries in the region at the top of the low profile, in terms of educational investment, are doing best.

Sir Hilary pointed out that Barbados and the Bahamas have invested heavily in higher education over the last 30 to 40 years, and this is the reason why these two countries are at the top of the (UN Human Development Index) and have the lowest quotient of poverty.

Participants gathered for the opening of the 2014 Association
of Caribbean Higher Education Administrators (ACHEA)
Conference at the UWI Cave Hill Campus.
However, he suggested that on account of the present fiscal recession, money is being diverted away from education into economic activities, and the cost of education is subsequently being transferred to students.

Suggesting that this pattern is a predictable “logical consequence” of the recessionary period, he however queried: “Should we not tell the IMF, that in a small island with no abundant natural resources, and where the people constitute the primary resource, the people should not be seen as consumers of education, but the state should see that their investment in the citizens is an investment in the economy and in the society?

“It is not an expenditure, it is an investment,” he maintained. (RSM)

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