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Caribbean Academic Urges Measures To Address The Region’s Low Higher Education Enrollment


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.

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  1. About a year ago, I wrote an opinion post on this forum stating why Barbados was more progressive than Saint Lucia…and one of the points I raised has been made by this new editorial concerning the lack of educational attainment in Saint Lucia and the wider region……and of course I raised some other fundamental issues with Saint Lucian society….I wish I could find that post and repost it here. Far from it of me to go on about issues in Saint Lucia and portraying Saint Lucia in a not-so-positive light…in fact, being a proud Lucian, I always want the best for my country and want to see it grow and progress in the right direction…and criticism…harsh criticism even, is part of growing up… Saint Lucia has so much going for it but there are no concerted efforts to consolidate those advantages. There seems to be a kind of lackadaisical approach to things…a kind of it will happen when it happen. One of the ideas I posted in this long gone post about a year ago was…an educated Nation would make better political decisions…and won’t have politicians taking them for a ride every five years…. education gives one the ability to see through the fog of nonsense in being able to use one’s intellect to reason with logic, to read and see between the lines and understand the nuances of language used by politicians. In other words, going to school exercises the brain in mental and arithmetical gymnastics building neural pathways that gives one the ability to problem solve..and even though one cannot teach common sense, combining common sense with the mental and arithmetical gymnastics of education gives one a superior advantage. One can now see how this poor educational attainment affects GDP, literacy rates, national development, higher rates of domestic violence, it even affects the health outcome of a nation among other things. Compare these markers just mentioned between Saint Lucia and Barbados and you will get the picture…. Saint Lucia is failing in all these markers compared to Barbados…that’s is not to say Barbados doesn’t have issues… is imperative that the government take steps to address this sad state in our country…it is an act bordering on criminality that we do not have a dedicated University in Saint Lucia by now, nor do we have a purpose built National Theatre, the one fought for so hard by the esteemed Sir Derek Walcott…the great man fought tooth and nail with government to get a National Theatre built to serve the Arts… Trinidad who are again more progressive than Saint Lucia took Derek on and seems to worship him and his ouvres more than we Saint Lucians….they have festivals in his name…and his ouvres are the main course in their theatres…but of course I am proud to share Derek with our Caribbean brothers and sisters but the Saint Lucian government past and present have failed miserably when it comes to building on the gains Sir Derek has made and left us… It shows again the effect of poor educational attainment on the island…it is only recently that works of Sir Derek have been made a staple in schools but I fear it is just a band aid applied to deal with a lack of forward movement… Obviously government only sees the link between arts and tourism when it come to carnival, Saint Lucia jazz and other similar activities…but what about the link between the arts(Literature) and tourism? They, the government don’t seem to see that link…and to have a man like Derek known globally and not capitalise on that legacy is point blank ignorant….but then again, here is the GRAND IRONY, not because you have men and women with degrees in government means you are educated…

  2. Every day there are thousands of jobs being lost what is the point of throwing money away on a degree that would only make you “over qualified “as most companies would tell a matter of fact economies were doi g much better when we had little degrees. Look at JQ and Valmont the minute the parents let their educated kids take over the business crumble. Why can’t schools guarantee jobs to graduates upon completion after paying so much money for the piece of paper.
    Higher education is a money making business.

  3. UWI aren’t offering programs suited to the new economic climate. You’re competing with not only just international market of schools but also inflation and social issues made worst by a pandemic.


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