The following article was submitted by the provocative Bush Tea. BU hope that our readers will enjoy the points offered as much as we did. We have attached the Nation Article which provoked Bush Tea to his submission.
The single biggest mistake made by those of us living in this unprecedented era, is to not factor the now exponential levels of change into our everyday decisions. The result is that we continue to expect that what worked ‘yesterday’ will work ‘tomorrow’, and to compensate, we have become extremely creative at devising and spinning excuses for the numerous failures that we continue to accumulate.Case in point is the University of the West Indies, specifically the Cave Hill Campus.
Now I am a graduate of UWI, and a proud one too, even more significantly, the current Dean, Dr Beckles has to my mind, already paid significant dues to this country in educating the large majority of us about our history, our rights, our true potential as Bajans and about the power of education. It seems to me as though Dr. Beckles’ stint as national educator ended when he became Professor and Dean. The current focus of the Cave Hill Campus and of Prof Beckles, with their focus on mass results and billion dollar expansion projects, boggles the mind in terms of its expected cost, returns, and intentions.
In the first place, it must be obvious to anyone who cares to look, that the modern ‘degree’ is largely a meaningless scroll handed out to anyone who can find the money and time to register, who turns up to class occasionally, who can actually read, and who have access to the internet. The ‘lecture format’ is a system adopted directly out of the early 1900’s. Some overpaid academic stands in front of a mass of students spouting incoherent gibberish and setting course work (which is easily downloaded from the internet). Eventually they set completely predictable ‘exams’, which mostly test short-term memory. In 2007, This is so outdated and irrelevant a system that it would be funny if only we were no paying so much for it… The general quality, and mostly female composition of the graduates produced by the institution speaks volumes about the system.
How will it benefit this country to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to extend this level of ‘education’? Or to achieve the goal of ‘one graduate in every household’?
In an environment where any student preparing for 11 plus is savvy enough to use computers, cell phones and even ipods to access and manipulate more data in a hour than a UWI honours graduate of 20 years ago would have accessed in a full term – where have we really come with an educational approach that has not changed substantially in 40 years?
The final reality of the ineffectiveness of our university system is the current level of management in Barbados. The fact that most of our large institutions are managed and controlled by NON UWI educated (and by many NON-Barbadian) managers is instructive. What is UWI’s real role and legacy? A classic case in point has been the dramatic turn-around achieved by the BNB immediately after years of mediocre local management was ended
Where is the cutting edge research and development?
Where is the leadership in political; theological; cultural and sociological thought?
Where is the leadership in sports development?
Where is the level of human development that justifies the huge expenditures in university education over the last 4 decades (over and above similar jurisdictions) without such high levels of expenditures?
How is it that far from exporting ‘educated’ assets (apart from the few organisations like GEL and COW) in 2007, our Government could actively be offering incentives to attract foreign investors, managers, consultants and such to this country?
In my humble assessment, far from investing a further $110M in to the current UWI mess this country needs to fundamentally review and re-engineer the whole concept of ‘Education’ in the 21st century. This should begin with radical change at the very top. I blame Dr Beckles and his predecessors for the poor performance and loss of BS&T and indeed for the general loss of leadership in Barbados to the far more effective and obviously ‘prepared’ Trinidad management machine. I certainly would not reward such a performance record with a 100 Million dollar campus expansion project. UWI would be a near perfect institution if only we were back at 1975. In fact our whole education system ($400 Million per year or over $10,000 per year per student) is outdated, unfocussed and inefficient. Everyone knows this but no one seems to have the vision to initiate change (clearly where we need new ideas in Barbados is at the political leadership level)
In reality the leadership and the Policy makers for our education system need to be replaced with persons who understand the realities of meeting the challenges of the twenty first century. This can be achieved either by changing the people presently there, or by changing their minds and their current approach. Education is no longer a charming process used to differentiate the elite from the masses. It is a vital and dynamic national tool that is essential to the long-term survival of a culture, a country and a nation.
It is too vital to be ignored or even delayed.