Ronald Jones, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development. (FP)

Any attempt at getting technology spread throughout our education sector is highly important to the Government of Barbados.

This was stressed today by Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, as he addressed a symposium at the Higher Education Development Unit (HEDU) at Government Hill, St. Michael, for stakeholders working to develop a national research and education network (NREN) to connect academic and research institutions.

Noting that Government was still trying to develop this project to suit the learning infrastructure of Barbados, Minister Jones said: "The Higher Education Unit is charged with the responsibility to ensure that we have a relatively seamless roll out of the connectivity…What is important for me [however] is a functioning process where research and education comes before your face and it can be properly utilised to advance development."

The Minister pointed out the importance of staying relevant to the times and stressed that the ???Tortoise and Hare’ approach would not work. He stated: "For any society to truly move and catapult itself into the 21st century… They have to make some astronomical leaps in order to become relevant in a world that is highly technological… It means that in order for us to make the quantum leap, persons have to be fully engaged; bring the knowledge which they possess and increase that knowledge also in quantum ways to ensure that what is rolled out and what is done is relevant to the processes and the systems of Barbados.

"We also have to be competitive, not only within the context of commerce and all of those systems that generate economic good but also competitive in services, including educational services in order to sell [these online]."

The Education Minister, however, urged stakeholders to deliver an effective service. He recalled his experiences with a number of internet providers here and observed: "We deserve better service relative to internet connectivity and the technology is there to give that better service… You have to be able to move with the times. You have to be able to give the client the service when called upon. Anything else is an excuse. Why are you in the marketplace if you can’t provide what is needed to the clients who are hungry for the service?"

Noting that he didn’t wait when one provider couldn’t give the service he wanted, Mr. Jones admitted that he spent a lot of time online doing research and said: "I can’t go into Parliament and say I am not ready. I can’t be writing a paper without the kinds of material I need to develop it… I find that in Barbados, we might not be as well served as we should be and, therefore, the challenge is for even the current providers to find mechanisms and capital to roll out even more."??

He suggested that CKLN, with the resources provided by various agencies and supported by the Governments of the region, should come with some solutions given it had "a substantial amount of resources to aid the development of research and education in Barbados and all of the other countries that will be part of the C@ribNet solution".

Mr. Jones pointed out: "And, we have to be able to utilise those resources in our tertiary level institutions starting at Cave Hill, the BCC, [the] Hospitality Institute; Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, SJPP, all secondary schools and eventually down to our primary schools because we have to start the kind of knowledge substance or base at the lower levels of our institutions so that it moves up but it moves up in a rational way where the connection to our own knowledge centres and ??to our own cognitive structures are in fact significant and real."

Meanwhile, Director of the HEDU, Dr. Patrick Rowe, noted that the symposium represented "a seminal point in the establishment of the national research and education network in Barbados". As he explained that there had been several technical meetings with CKLN, the agency that supports the development of NRENs at national levels, Dr. Rowe said, "We have looked at most of the hardware and specifications to get this network going."

He added that by the end of the symposium, it was hoped that operational aspects of application and utilisation issues would be addressed and there would be "greater clarity on the other conditions which are necessary for sustainable project implementation and how we can maximise this network".????

The CKLN project was established in July 2004 with the strategic objective of enhancing the global competitiveness of the Caribbean by upgrading and diversifying the skills, knowledge and human resources in the region through greater collaboration and connectivity.

The CKLN has been supporting the development of NRENs at the national level and the establishment of a Caribbean Research and Education Network (C@ribNET) that connects Caribbean institutions to each other and to other international networks. ??


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