Government has continued to place emphasis on providing quality education to ensure that Barbadians are equipped with the skills, knowledge and attitudes required for a competitive 21st century workforce.

This was stated today by Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, as he addressed the start of a two-day workshop for representatives of key organisations involved in the development, implementation and maintenance of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), at Almond Bay, Hastings, Christ Church.

Facilitated by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, the workshop forms part of a scoping mission being conducted from April 11 to 15 between the Mauritius Qualifications Authority (MQA) and the Barbados Accreditation Council (BAC), who have entered into a partnership to share knowledge, experience and expertise for the implementation of the NQF. They are examining policies and procedures developed for this island???s NQF.

Mr. Jones acknowledged that Barbados was aware that greater emphasis had to be placed on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and pointed out that this was why work was ongoing with the University of the West Indies and other international institutions to ensure that from as early as primary school, specific attention was paid to some of these areas, as well as the humanities.

He thanked the team from Mauritius for consenting to assist Barbados at this ???critical juncture in the development of its human resources???, and reminded those gathered that the island???s key resource was indeed its human resources.

The Minister noted that the establishment of a NQF, embedded with robust quality assurance processes, would send a strong message of Barbados??? commitment to quality educational provision, and the assurance of a high quality workforce that can compete successfully in the international labour market. And, he added, this could only redound to the benefit of citizens and the country as a whole.

Mr. Jones further stressed that quality assurance would be the underlying foundation of the NQF as the public must be assured that the qualifications are well-??designed; are ???fit for purpose???; and the programmes/courses of study leading to qualifications are delivered by recognised, accredited tertiary educational providers in Barbados.

???Tertiary educational providers will therefore need to be, at minimum, registered in order to have their qualifications placed on the National Qualifications Framework which will signal they have met minimum standards to operate in Barbados.

???However, the ultimate goal will be to achieve accreditation status ??? either institutional or programmatic ??? which will provide global recognition that the institution or programme has met quality standards established by the Barbados Accreditation Council, what most likely would be the follow-through organisation to carry both the qualification framework and the accreditation process,??? he said.

Noting that there were generally many positive initiatives occurring in the quality assurance environment in Barbados, the former educator admitted that like other countries worldwide, we faced several challenges including the influx of foreign-based qualifications, some of which may be from bogus institutions, and the increasing number of distance education offerings.

???One only has to look at the local newspapers to see advertisements from foreign institutions, offering programmes through various delivery modes or agents acting on behalf of foreign educational providers.

The prevalence of fraudulent qualifications is not only restricted to the Caribbean but is noted to have reached disturbing proportions across the world,??? he observed.

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