BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MARCH 11TH 2014 (CUOPM) – An urgent call has been made to transform education and human resource development in the Caribbean, has come from the region’s leading statesman and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas.
Dr. Douglas was at the time on Monday afternoon making a presentation to the Presidents and Prime Ministers at the 25th CARICOM Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in St. Vincent on “Redefining Caribbean Education – an Urgent Imperative.”
Dr. Douglas, the Lead Prime Minister for Education, noted in his introduction that CARICOM recently established a Human Resource Development Cluster which brings together all of the key CARICOM Agencies whose mandate centers around education and human resource development. The inaugural chair of the HR Cluster is the Caribbean Examinations Council.
“Colleague Prime Ministers, we are invited to receive a presentation that speaks to the current state of education and human resource development in our Caribbean today and the imperative of transforming our current systems for human capacity development,” said Dr. Douglas prior to the presentation submitted on behalf of the HR Cluster by Dr. Didacus Jules, the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the CXC.
He told fellow Caribbean leaders that the presentation speaks to the urgency of the need to transform education and human resource development in the region for several reasons.
“Build the capacity of Caribbean people to create regenerative societies, forge a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, eliminate the significant wastage occurring in the education systems,” said Dr. Douglas, pointing out that education in most of the Caribbean countries is the largest single investment made through national budgets and more is spent on education as a percentage of GDP than many developed countries.
“Historically education has been the most important mechanism in the fight against poverty and in the struggle for national development. It has been the principal agent of social emancipation and the main lever for the emergence of a stable middle class as we painfully emerged from Colonial rule and walked to Independence,” added Dr. Douglas.
He said the presentation is a multi layered argument that speaks to the urgency confronting the Caribbean to transform the entire education and human resource enterprise in the region.
“This urgency is conveyed by several means: it paints a very disturbing empirical and statistical picture of systemic failure – that tells us that business as usual is not going to bring the performance improvements that we so fervently desire; it warns us that education is rapidly becoming a contributor to deepening social stratification in contrast to its earlier historical contribution to social emancipation and equality of opportunity, notwithstanding the eminence of these dark clouds overhead, it points to a different horizon of possibility that we can embrace if we exercise the decisive political will required to make the change,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.
He said Heads of Government are beset hourly and daily with problems, urgencies and challenges and said the focus should be on the solutions being presented at the Inter-Sessional.
“We are accustomed to receiving proposals for improvement which invariably require more money. This presentation both challenges and promises to enable us to do more with less, create efficiency in the use of human capacity building resources and improve performance. Let us be clear that what is being proposed here is nothing less than a revolutionary change of approach to education that is based on a restorative vision of what the capacity to think and to do can mean for our societies in this brutally competitive world,” said Dr. Douglas, who added: “The challenge to us is clear – that we can no longer tinker with piecemeal changes on the margins and expect to get different results.”
He stressed that what is required of the Heads of Government is a whole systems approach to educational transformation involving seven deceptively simple things: Creating a seamless, globally competitive education (eco) system; filling the provision gaps… with equity; addressing the quality imperative; improving performance with gender and socio-economic status sensitivity; creating sustainable efficiencies to guarantee the future; aligning and rationalizing higher education: Caribbean innovation, entrepreneurship and development and setting our own agenda by asserting Caribbean priorities in the face of multilateral prescription.
“Education is too important a national development imperative to overlook by assuming that it will be alright in the evolutionary course of things. I urge that we – at the highest levels of government – point clearly in the direction of the change that we want,” said Prime Minister Douglas.