Greater interest in a university education, even at the level of the Open Campus, is what Education Minister, Ronald Jones, would like to see shown by this island???s male population.
The Minister alluded to this recently as new Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Luz Longsworth, paid him a courtesy call, at the Elsie Payne Complex.
While noting that 38 to 40 per cent enrolment by males was minute, the Minister expressed concern that even with increasing numbers on either the Open or Cave Hill Campus; males were still projected to be lower in number.
???The format of Open Campus while still muti-mould in delivery calls for a high level of discipline. So the question is how do we get young men into whatever area of study? It doesn???t have to be a BSc or BA but can be a diploma in business management??? in particular areas of activity. That is what we want to achieve. How do we market the Open Campus to attract a larger number of males, whatever the age ranges are?
???And, then ???how do we support these males against the background of some not working????; ???How do we support them for given periods when their attention span is different???? asked the Education Minister as he explained that these had to be answered as one sought to build male self-esteem at each stage of their study and ???to arrive at a better male product in the society???.
He also stressed the need to explore possible ways of funding specific programmes which were customised to suit males and pointed to opportunities for such under the Human Resource Development Strategy. He said these could be arrived at through joint discussions with his Ministry as well as Labour and Youth to see how courses could be developed with the Open Campus.
Acknowledging his support for the campus and Dr. Longsworth???s tenure, Mr. Jones said: ???I know that you have the capacity to continue the work and to add your own level of understanding to that broader dynamic.
“I know that, particularly, [within] the countries in the OECS and also Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, there are still many persons who would want to access the offerings of the Open Campus for their own personal development???and to enhance their saleability within the economies of these respective countries. So there is a journey still to be made or continued.???
The Education Minister also noted the financial constraints that existed and said, ???I???m sure that with resolve and working together we would be able to, sooner than later, get through all of these challenges because our own financial challenges will impact on the Open Campus.???
Dr. Longsworth who was accompanied by her Executive Assistant, Wendy Nurse, and Marketing Coordinator Sandra Griffith-Carrington, said that her experience with mentoring young men, who had dropped out of the regular school system, showed that they actually liked the Open Campus system because it provided the flexibility required.
Recalling that many males had been successful in their programmes, she added: ???They want to be able to work and make their money but many of them realise that they need to improve those skills and I think it???s just that they haven???t been targeted but we are going to work on coming up with more programmes that attract them.???
The new Principal lauded Government???s support for the campus and said: ???We are very aware and very sympathetic to what is facing all of our Governments. For the Open Campus, we were really set up to become a lot more independent of Government funding. So we would be developing programming that would eventually reduce the level of Government funding.???
As she outlined her vision for the future, she said, that like her predecessors she was intent on ensuring the concept of the Open Campus stayed alive and fulfilled its mission. ???The Open Campus is really the concept of the future for the university??? We recognise how the University sees the Open Campus, as leading the change that must happen in university because we can???t continue to do things the way we were.??
“Our governments cannot support that and so this kind of approach has to permeate not just Open Campus but the entire university; so we work with our colleagues in the other three campuses. We are really trying to come up with innovative ways, recognising that cost is primary now for persons and that we have to bring the university to persons. It is not about bringing the persons to the university for they have choices. They can go on the internet and find a programme.???
The two also discussed the Campus??? continuing and professional education programmes as well as elements of that institution???s prior learning assessment that allows persons with work skills and experience acceleration to programmes at the campus. Additionally, the Ministry was urged to meet further with the Open Campus to discuss opportunities for customised programmes for its own staff, schools and educators.