If this country is to achieve its full potential, its vision must be commensurate with the need to create societies with the capacity and flexibility to respond to the diverse needs and aspirations of the people of this region.

This was outlined yesterday by Acting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he delivered the keynote address under the theme: The Global Education Meltdown: Solutions for Sustainability at the Second International Conference on Higher Education. It was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Moreover, Mr. Stuart stressed that Barbados had emerged from its colonial past, characterised by a collection of rural, plantation-dependent villages, "to a relatively prosperous nation state, enjoying a place in the United Nations index at the number 30 out of 178 countries".??

He lamented the fact that although Barbados spends on average, 20 per cent of its public expenditure on education, it still loses many of its brightest and most expensively educated graduates to countries in North America and Europe. This occurred, he maintained, simply "because those societies could offer them the type of employment and remuneration which was commensurate with their level of education and enlightenment."

??The Acting Prime Minister indicated that even though the region as a whole continues to benefit considerably from the remittances sent back by members of the diaspora in North America, a survey on youth by the CARICOM Commission ("Eye on the Future", 2010), found that 85 per cent of the young people in CARICOM countries would migrate if given the chance.?? ??

"In retrospect, we can now see clearly that the colonial and post-colonial education to which we subscribed, has systematically alienated us from our physical and social environment and has rather been preparing us for an existence in one or other of the great metropoles, to which we have remained closely attached," he remarked.

Against this background, Mr. Stuart stated that Barbados’ National Advisory Commission on Education had been investigating these trends and its overriding concern was with the relevance of the education being provided in our schools, and by extension the function of higher education in our society.

He queried whether our institutions of higher education were capable of producing students who knew enough about their cultural, social and physical environment to allow them "to create niches in the global market place to propel us to recovery and sustain us thereafter. Are we equipping them to fulfil the dream of true ???Independence’? Can they give meaning to the concept of a genuine Caribbean civilization?"

Mr. Stuart noted that over the past 60 years, Barbados, and much of the developing world, particularly those countries that were emerging from decades of colonialism, had pursued a path to "development" that has been proving to be unsustainable.?? clashley@barbados.gov.bb

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