Acting Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Senator Lucille Moe, has praised the contribution of the island’s post-secondary institutions to the country’s human resource capital.
However, she emphasized that further strides needed to be made to ensure that the quality of Barbados’ education system produces critical thinking decision makers who could contribute to “building a nation that is economically sound and that competes with distinction in the global economy”.
Senator Moe was speaking at the closing ceremony for the Sixth International Conference on Higher Education (ICHE), held under the theme: Modern Education and Economic Stimulation: Innovation, Praxis and Sustainability. It concluded yesterday at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
“Within the Barbadian context, our efforts must coalesce around maintaining considerable levels of public and national investment in education at all levels, to ensure the maintenance of noticeably impressive returns on our investments. Currently, our TVET provision does not sufficiently meet the demands of matriculation and we turn away many students every year seeking spaces to study,” the Senator told the gathering of educators and students.
Adding that there was a need to expand capacity and access in our existing institutions, she said this would bring greater course diversity in diploma and degree offerings, broader apprenticeship offerings and a critical rationalisation of how and where resources are deployed to meet the emerging needs of the society.
Senator Moe also noted that the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, the Barbados Community College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology and the Barbados Vocational Training Board had completed the registration stage for accreditation with the Barbados Accreditation Council and were collaborating towards securing Institutional Accreditation.
She proffered the view that the focus for higher education institutions needed to be on education for sustainable development. That is, developing knowledge areas which addressed the vulnerabilities that threatened small-island developing states like Barbados. Two such areas, she pointed out, were environmental protection and disaster risk reduction.
The ICHE also examined the potential for economic growth through the renewable energy sector. The Senator said programmes in photovoltaic installation and maintenance were now being offered and students were being introduced to new high-level techniques and skill sets. This would also provide opportunities for entrepreneurship, she explained while producing skilled craftsmen and technologists for the energy sector.
“This is a start! But, we recognise the importance of building this sector to provide services to the Caribbean region by offering scores of programmes from the Skills Training Programme all the way through to UWI. We did it with an innovative solar water heating industry and we can push on to position ourselves to put a substantial dent in our fossil fuel bill and CO2 emissions,” Senator Moe emphasized.
However, the Acting Education Minister said that in order to deliver this level of new training, “a fresh mind-set and a commitment to continuous professional development” was necessary in addition to new teaching and learning strategies.