Caribbean academic Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has lamented the region’s low enrollment in higher education, declaring it the lowest in the entire hemisphere.
“We have a problem,” Beckles asserted as he delivered the Independence Lecture on Thursday night at the Finance Administrative Centre in Castries.
” If you take our hemisphere from Alaska in the North to Argentina in the South and you take the age cohort young people 18 to 30, that’s the age cohort – 18 to 30, we in the Caribbean, we have the lowest enrollment in higher education in the entire hemisphere,” he told his audience.
“Now less than 20 percent of our young people are funded to go on to education beyond secondary – professional training, skills training, academic training,” the regional academic stated.
And he explained that it was impossible to build a modern economy under those circumstances.
Beckles observed that Barbados and the Bahamas were at the top within the Caribbean, with some 50 percent of young people leaving high school for college or university.
He said Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica were in the middle, and the Windward Islands were at the bottom with less than ten percent.
The UWI Vice Chancellor observed that every economic development model notes that human resources are the key to transformation.
In this regard, Beckles urged major investment in OECS human resources.
“The OECS nations I believe, need to find a strategy to have a massive investment in the human resource,” he said.
He said human resource investment in the OECS was vital.
In the case of Saint Lucia, Beckles observed that the services economy the Island could implement in a short time will require an ‘education revolution.’
“Those Saint Lucians I have taught over the decades – the children of Arthur Lewis and all of those who have been inspired by the poetics of our laureate – we have to unlock that potential. It is there. It has to be unlocked,” he declared.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has promised that its education policy will ensure at least one university graduate in every household within a reasonable time.