Higher education has been the most catalytic and significant game changer and maker in the development of our region, as well as the most important factor in the personal lives of many.
This was underscored recently as Ambassador of Barbados to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Robert Morris addressed the official opening of the 13th Annual International Conference of the Association of Caribbean Higher Education Administrators, being held at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, July 10 – 12.
Noting that since 1948, higher education had been the greatest contributor to the economic, social, cultural and political development of our region, Mr. Morris said: ???I am extremely pleased that our economists at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies are currently engaged in quantifying the economic contribution of the University to Barbados; and we recognize that such a project, extended to the entire region would encourage a better understanding of the role of higher education, especially if the analysis is extended not just to the university but to all our higher education institutions across the region.???
However, Mr. Morris maintained that while higher education could be considered the roof of our educational structure, at the same time it builds on the foundation of early childhood, primary and secondary education, and is constrained or facilitated by the quality and efficiency achieved at the foundational and mezzanine levels of the educational structure.
Alluding to its impact on economies, he said: ???Those of us who speak for higher education recognise its immense importance in fostering the competitiveness of our countries. A perception is gaining ground that educational systems in many countries could better respond to the needs of the labour market, help economies to avoid skills gaps, and ensure that adequately trained human capital is available to support business activity, as well as to develop innovative capacity and entrepreneurship.???
The CARICOM Ambassador noted that the Global Competiveness Report for 2013/2014 listed health and primary education as basic requirements for achieving competitiveness; higher education and training as significant efficiency enhancers and also indicated that technological and non-technological innovations were vital to achieving the highest stage of competitiveness, that of innovation and sophistication.
???Higher education plays a critical role in helping a nation to reach the level of innovation, competitiveness, and enhances the well-being and quality of life of all our citizens,??? he declared.
The point was also made that while one spoke of the importance of higher education at the national and regional level, it was necessary to also emphasise its importance at the personal level.
???Let us not misunderstand or undervalue the importance of higher education to the individual in terms of career options and opportunities, social benefits, higher earnings and the general enjoyment of a good life,??? said Mr. Morris, a former career trade union official and external collaborator for the International Labour Organization.
Acknowledging that he was an example of a baby-boomer who had benefited from higher education, and whose entire nuclear family, spouse, and children had all been beneficiaries, Ambassador Morris told those gathered for the Conference: ???It is a matter of equity and social justice that no one should be left behind in the quest for higher education.???