Government will continue to place great emphasis on the educational development of its citizens.

This was underscored yesterday by Acting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he delivered the feature address at the Second International Conference on Higher Education at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre.

Speaking on the theme The Global Education Meltdown: Solutions for Sustainability, Mr. Stuart said: "I do not think that our governments can afford to ignore the need to educate, at no cost to the beneficiary, our most precious resource, the human resource, at the highest level.?? But there is a limit to what governments, by which I mean, the taxpayers, can afford."??

He revealed that over the years, government had invested heavily in educating its people, at a considerable cost.

??"At the end of December 2009, the overall fiscal deficit stood at $408.4 million. Barbados’ Medium Term Fiscal Strategy commits this nation to balancing its budget by 2014. The question that arises naturally for discussion is: Can Barbados continue to provide free tertiary education – at a cost of $161.7 million this year – at a time of severe fiscal constraint, when the received wisdom is to intensify austerity measures as a means of moving towards recovery??? Those who preoccupy themselves solely with numbers will answer this question in the negative but I am not so disposed," the Acting Prime Minister stated.

However, in spite of the benefits in education, he lamented the fact that there were areas of concern that needed to be addressed.

??"Many people have been commenting on the low standards displayed by the increasing numbers of graduates coming out of our institutions of higher learning, including the University of the West Indies. The claim is that we are compromising standards in the misguided rush to produce more graduates.?? This is not a concern which I think we are entitled to ignore and every attempt must be made to inculcate a culture of excellence in education if we are to measure up to the bureau of world standards," the Acting Prime Minister pointed out.

He further added that it was detrimental to the society to have increasing numbers of unemployed university graduates and those who had to acquire more and more qualifications in order to find a job.

"Our education system will not have served us well by producing well qualified young people who are unable to assist in solving the social and economic problems that confront us," Mr. Stuart remarked.

The Acting Prime Minister was of the view that "more than ever before we need the imagination and intellectual input of educators at every level if we are to craft solutions that will sustain us in the second decade of the 21st Century and beyond".

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