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Caribbean Competitiveness -March 2014
Thomas Friedman (New York Times Columnist) argues “your ability to act on your imagination is going to be so decisive in driving your future and the standard of living of your country. So the school, the state, the country that empowers, nurtures, enables imagination among its students and citizens, that’s who’s going to be the winner.”
According to the 2013/14 Global Competitiveness Report (GCR), “one of the elements gaining in importance in fostering countries competitiveness is education.”
In this 2nd edition of Caribbean Competitiveness we examine the importance of education to competitiveness. We examine the performance of the Region’s education through key educational indicators, the factors that contribute to the inefficiency and lack of productivity of the system, as well as advance recommendations for improvement.
It is not a numbers game or about the volume of investment in education, rather it is about the quality and focus of the education products. The World Bank argues that despite the fact that governments in the Caribbean have invested heavily in increasing enrolment rates at the primary and secondary level, the quality of education in the region remains relatively low. The average pass rates in core subjects such as English and Mathematics are less than 50 percent. Additionally, the Bank has identified that many students lack the basic skills in information and communication technology and other disciplines seen as critical for success in the 21st century workplace (Quality Education Counts for Skills and Growth, 2013).
Conclusion And Way Forward
It is evident from the foregoing that systemic changes within the education sector are required to improve the Region’s competitiveness. While the performance of the Barbadian Education system is impressive, it has been on the decline over the last six years and the current economic challenges of the economy have rendered a casualty of education. The challenge is how can Barbados, not only stem the slide, but continue to remain the regional leader? For the rest of the region while there are pockets of improvement, there is a long road to travel to get the prize.
In this regard, the World Bank believes that learners in the Caribbean must be given the opportunity to realize their potential. While primary and secondary enrolment rates in the majority of the Region have been impressive, increased attention has to be placed on enhancing the overall quality of the education system to ensure a seamless transition from early childhood through tertiary education and that accounts for alternative learning styles to ensure the effective engagement of a differently endowed learning population and cultivates innovative and entrepreneurial spirit in learners. ICT must be integrated into the teaching and learning processes. This requires an investment in the reconfiguration of the classrooms, teacher and student training to get the desired competitiveness outcome. In addition, focus must be placed on increasing tertiary enrolment ratios and increasing research and knowledge creation responsive to the needs of the productive sectors of the economies.
The challenge is how. The CCfC is of the view that we need to take a systematic approach to improving the region’s education system. This must start by assessing the education systems of the world’s best ranked countries on the GCI towards developing a “best practices framework” against which the region’s education system can be analysed to ascertain the areas of deficiency, make recommendations for improvement and bring the necessary stakeholders together to facilitate implementation.