The George Brathwaite Column – Education and Development

George Brathwaite

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”Socrates.

Prior to 2013-2014, the Government of Barbados held an untainted view on linkages between education and development. The evidence of personal and national development in Barbados since the 1950s, points to the fact that investments in education contributed to the common good, economic growth, and nation-building. Successive governments since Grantley Adams’ 1954 Cabinet made investments on education; thereby, capitalising on the country’s human resources. Emphasis was on physical and instructional education together with adequate teacher training.

The returns enhanced Barbados’ national prosperity, redounded to support family life and well-being, contributed to community and neighbourhood cohesion, assisted in narrowing gender and other social inequalities, allowed for uplifting activities and programmes, and encouraged thinking and cognitive skills. There were deeper gains for Barbados’ institutions, systems, businesses, managers, leaders, and overall governance.

Quite correctly, the 2013 Manifesto of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) indicated that the ‘Founding Fathers understood that a nation which fails to invest in its youth is a nation without a future’. The same message was repeated in the Throne Speech of 2013. From both platforms, the assurance was that ‘we cannot rest on our laurels’. The Throne Speech also proclaimed that Barbados’ future was ‘secure’ and that ‘our education system and its achievements to date’ were renowned.

Dr Dan Carter would have recently asserted that “resources should be available to provide a curriculum that targets the multiple intelligences of students to ensure that each student gains from classroom instruction.” Indeed, the DLP had re-committed to “move with haste to create an education system that also fosters a spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurship and produces persons with the skills for wealth creation, for a more competitive job market and for effective living.” What happened?

By August 2013, the DLP through Finance Minister Chris Sinckler, floored Barbadians when he announced that “effective 2014, Barbadian citizens pursuing studies at campuses of the UWI will be required to pay tuition fees from academic year 2014/2015.” Almost laughably, the same Sinckler suggested that the Government of Barbados recognised that ‘access to education at all levels’ has been a key factor in the success of Barbados. There was a noticeable disconnect with DLP spokespersons’ words and their actions which, would herald in a new era of inequalities and fracture education as a valuable input to national development.

If funding education became problematic due to a recessionary period, then why was there a mad rush to roll back on Barbados’ commitment to ‘free education’ without having national consultations or even moving towards finding innovative ways to get around the problem? Was it an admission of bankruptcy of ideas from the Freundel Stuart-led Cabinet? Instead of moving to greater inclusiveness in education, the fallout became a tremendous burden on parents, students, and the businesses that would normally absorb graduates into their workforces.

Today, the perils of little or no economic growth for several years have gradually exposed a decaying society characterised by gross inequalities, systemic challenges, and increasing crime. Although the unemployment ratio would show a marginal decline to 9.5 %, word from the unions, the private sector, and other entities remain concerned about the nature of underemployment that nullifies the capacity to work for decent wages and salaries. Burdening taxation coupled with increasing inflation rates, without commensurate remuneration, have not helped the situation in Barbados.

The fact is, many educators and stakeholders are becoming increasingly critical of the education system. The curricula from schools to the tertiary institutions are scrutinised, and reforms are seriously and urgently needed. No child or individual should be left behind. Education has always been valued by individuals and society as ‘a consumption good’ and as means ‘to preserve and transfer cultural values to subsequent generations’. Surely, the current blotch must be remedied. Across Barbados, individuals with higher levels of education appear to gain more knowledge and skills on the job than those with lower levels of education; many of them transferred what they learned across occupations and sectors.

Yet, the DLP faced with difficulty, pulled the education rug from beneath the feet of Barbadians. A fair question that must be asked is: on what grounds can the Freundel Stuart realistically plead for a new mandate to govern? DLP Cabinet Ministers and parliamentarians have kicked the proverbial ladder away; they have single-handedly dismantled education as the most potent driving force for producing progressive individuals and a knowledge-oriented society in Barbados.

Change is ubiquitous and the pace has often outstripped Barbados’ capacity to have adequate and available resources to always manage the change. Nonetheless, the secret of economic growth and national development is centred around education and knowledge facilitation. A few years ago, Dr Dan Carter iterated that: “If Barbados is ever to maintain its social and economic stability in this new world of trade liberalization and the technological revolution now sweeping the world, then it must reform its educational system,” with “the creation of a system of education and training that would facilitate a job market that will be subject to/able to accommodate constant change.”

Indeed, there must be continuous and substantial investments in Barbadians. We must learn how to contend with the forces of change, and allow the pillars of education to allow for turning positive forces to Barbados’ advantage, while blunting the negative pressures by utilising innovation and adaptation. Clearly, ‘the future of the world is a learning future’ and because we have seen the market take pre-eminence in development economic, competitiveness – the ability to compete in markets for goods or services will necessitate international standards of education and entrepreneurship.

It is heartening to read the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) – Our Covenant of Hope – which makes the pledged commitment on page 26 that the BLP will prioritise public investments to “empower our people through free formal and non-formal education, ready access to information and the bolstering of our national identity while protecting and nurturing the most vulnerable among us.”

In the last few days, Sir Hilary Beckles asserted that “we do not have enough citizens in the Caribbean who have professional training, skills development and higher education.” Linking this statement to the BLP’s pledge cannot mean less investment in education, but must mean more commitment on investments. Also, it means that education and training are key to moving the Barbados society towards sustainability and a definite higher plateau of national development. Public awareness must be shaped to encourage competitiveness for the individuals comprising our society.

Political parties must tell the electorate what type mechanisms, tools, programmes, and projects they will introduce or enhance to make that valued investment on education in Barbados. This writer, for instance, concurs with Dr Dan Carter that the DLP’s loose ploy of ‘establishing sixth forms cannot be the answer to secondary pupils who are so deficient, not merely in the academics, but in their total readiness to be effective members of society’. In fact, Carter argues that more fundamentally important, “is the will to find a strategy of allocating to the newer secondary schools a more equitable distribution of abilities” to deny inequalities and greatly reduce dysfunctionality within the society.

There must be honesty and commitment to giving people access to the knowledge and skills for lifelong learning to help them find new solutions to Barbados’ environmental, economic, and social issues and challenges.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email:

33 thoughts on “The George Brathwaite Column – Education and Development

  1. Brainwash education and miseducation of a people to completely destroy their culture in an attempt to wipe it out of existence and replace it with mental self hate, misinformation, fraud and outright lies, cannot be classified as education from the 1950s and coming forward…..nit in the true sense of the word.

    It’s objective was to confuse and destroy the black psyches of any rational thought and ability to self analyze…and it succeeded, only the extremely, spiritually strong survived that pogrom through 400 years, because of their genetic code.

    Hal is one good example of the uselessness….to black people….of that euro themed scheme classified as education, there are tens of thousands more just like him on and off the island.

  2. There are two major problems:

    1) The myth of literacy. Barbadians come out of school, boasting, they could read and write. However, reading and writing is very different from professional skills. Example: Most Barbadians working in the construction business can read and write, but they do not know how to handle the tools, to achive quality work and so on.

    2) University: 95% of the university degrees produced in the past in Barbados do not contribute to foreign currency. You do not need a local university to educate the very few locals in the declining offshore sector. You do not need a university degree to serve on COW´s Ape Hill Plantation or at Sandals. The rest of the academic jobs on the island (ministers, judges, pastors and high bureaucrats) is without any value for the country, since they do not generate foreign currency, which is most vital for Barbados.

    My recommendation: Shut down tertiary education in Barbados and limit school to the age of 12. There will be no new jobs beside tourism for the next ten years.

  3. Among the many irrelevant resolutions tabled for discussion at the just concluded DLP annual meeting was MIA’s LEC issue. Was it discussed? Unfortunately the BU household was otherwise engaged with more pressing matters. We noted that minister of Culture Stephen Lashley carved out time to be present at VoB to discuss Carifesta.

  4. The two resident Yardfoels are strangely quiet on the LEC nonissue that they been pushing for months, looks like they are distracted with other things.

  5. @ George Brathwaite

    Not much to disagree with . Education is not a consumption good : it is an investment in the development our most important natural resource ,our people, especially the young citizens. It is the platform for social , economic and political progress. It earns dividends throughout the life of the individual and the society as a whole.

    @ Tron a 7:46 AM

    Contribution to the earning of foreign currency is secondary ,almost an irrelevancy. How does it profit a country to earn foreign currency and lose its own sense of what a meaningful life is about ?

    What constitutes education is and always must be under review. One must never believe that what constitutes education is good for all times. It is a work in progress.

  6. Bernard

    We are not so sure any more.

    If as we say, that education is this social investment then we also have to answer a lot of questions. These may include.

    For example, how come so many ‘educated’ people with all kinds of degrees are unemployed or under-employed, sometimes across generations.

    How come with all these ‘educated’ people around, they still rely on the ‘un-educated’ to employ them.

    And so on

    We are not at all convinced that this maxim is as true as it might have been, but are willing to be.

  7. Well Well & C at 7: 38 am.

    I do not know where you had your education, but brainwashing was not the basis of education in Barbados. We went to school to learn to be literate, numerate ,and cooperative. In the process we acquired what George describes as cognitive skills. Education gave us adaptive skills. To put it differently , we went to school to learn how to think. If one is brainwashed then we know that we did not acquire the skill of learning how to think.

    Education allows us to have an independent opinion which may differ from person to person. We do not have to agree on all issues.

  8. On a peripheral note it is with interest BU notes a news item in today’s press which advised of the death of Dr. Adele Bell. She will be remembered as the GP who was present with Dr. Dennis Bailey when Anthea Burgess bled to death. The file was turned over to the DPP eight years ago, To be expected the matter remains unattended. An indication of the quality of our education?

  9. @ Pachamama at 9 :46 AM

    Your understanding of education is too narrow. It should not be limited to those who specialized in a particular academic, professional or artisan skill. It includes those who had a 7th standard education. Once you have acquired the basics you can learn any other skill to which you have set your mind.
    In the area of economics there will be short periods when there would be an overproduction of skills e.g. Lawyers , doctors , nurses accountants etc. This will lead to unemployment and underemployment as defined by you. Nothing wrong with that. These surplus members of the labour force must retrain or emigrate to areas where there is an under supply of their skill sets. Or simply wait until the economy expands.

    @ David at 9 : 39 AM

    Education needs no “prefix”. It is just that…. education. If it needs one it is training or skill acquisition.

  10. @ David at 10:05 AM

    Thanks for sharing the news item. May she rest in peace. Her sister died earlier this year.

    No it is not an indication of the quality of our education. It is either an indication of the administrative bottle necks in the Justice system or our way of dealing compassionately with sensitive issues. Please give it a rest.

    • @Bernard

      The administrative bottle necks to use your language is an inanimate process. What lends to an efficient process is driven by good management operating within a framework of a good leadership ethos.

  11. The United States cannot afford free university education for its student population. Neither can Canada or the UK.

    But George expects Barbados to offer free university education to every boy and girl who has muddled through the CXC exams.

    What kind of education does UWI offer with the gates thrown open to all and sundry? For far too many, this “education” is mere exposure to a list of books. Which doesn’t do much for anyone who is not genuinely gifted.

    The Caribbean must rediscover the imperative of high standards. Abandon the ego-gratifying credentialing of Average Jills.

  12. Bernard Codrington. September 5, 2017 at 9:29 AM #

    Bernard, the last 50 years of education in Bim were very without economic use AND without any spiritual purpose (as Bushtea would put it).

    95% of all academic jobs in Bim are based on the Barbadian welfare nanny-state, namely ministers, judges, high bureaucrats, doctors and pastors. These academics learnt only one thing, namely to use up the taxpayer´s money like addicts sniffing cocaine.

    The academic education also failed to serve society. The local academic education lacks any international competition, thus leading to mediocrity. It also failed as a guidance for society. Dick and Harry in Barbados are not interested in the common good. All they desire are big SUVs, products from USA, France and Germany, fast food from Chefette and a pilgrimage to Disneyland in Florida.

    Just one example: Every child in Barbados knows Thor, the ancient Germanic god of thunder, the star of many Hollywood movies. When Barbadians speak about the days of the week, they cite Wodan (Wednesday), Thor (Thursday) and other ancient Germanic gods. I do not know any child in Barbados telling African tales or citing the names of African gods. Is the African heritage inferior to the Nordic one? Surely not!

  13. @ Tron at 10 : 51 AM

    One of the bye-products of an education system is that it allows for different opinions.
    My experience of the Barbadian education over the last 50 years is diametrically opposite to yours. But from where you stand philosophically you may be right.

  14. Chadster…ya lie, though some programs were cut in US ….many are tuition frre for colleges and university…depending on program, many students still get full rides.

    …..Tuition-free college is getting bigger. Here’s where it’s offered
    by Katie Lobosco @KatieLobosco
    August 4, 2017: 11:43 AM ET

    Tuition-free college comes with strings
    Tuition-free college comes with strings
    Once unthinkable, tuition-free college has become a reality.
    Four states and one city have enacted measures in the past three years. And lawmakers in several other places across the country are considering similar programs.
    More than 30,000 Tennesseans and 7,000 Oregonians have gone to community college tuition free already. Students in New York and San Francisco are set to start on the same path this fall. And it’s picking up steam, with lawmakers in several other places across the country considering similar programs.
    The issue started drawing attention in 2015, when President Obama proposed making community college free nationwide. At the time, the idea sounded far-fetched to many — but Tennessee had already approved the Tennessee Promise scholarship, which made community college free for students graduating high school that year. (The state is now expanding the program to all adults.)…

    …Onatario is now offering a program…

    Ontario’s pledge to offer free tuition to low-income students has been met with as much skepticism as it has applause.

    ….Peter J. Thompson/National Post
    Everyone seems to have a different take on last Thursday’s announcement in the provincial budget that low-income students will soon be able to attend post-secondary education for free. By 2017/18, students from households making less than $50,000 a year will pay no tuition, and at least half of those from homes taking in less than $83,000 will also pay no tuition. Unlike current programs, the upfront Ontario Student Grant (OSG) means their initial tuition bill could be zero.

    But to many, the province’s complicated new grant system sounded too good to be true. On the right, it was slammed as an income redistribution that hurt the middle class; on the left it was decried as part of a secret plan to privatize universities. To clear up the confusion, the National Post spoke with a senior government source involved in the development of the policy. (The source asked not to be named, because he or she is not authorized to speak with reporters.) So here is how the OSG will actually work:… in Germany are free even for international students..

    ….Tuition fees in Germany. … The free-tuition system is available for all international students, regardless of their country of origin. Compare Master’s degree courses in Germany. Most of the German universities are public, so you will only have to pay an administration fee which usually costs around 100 – 200 EUR/year.Apr 19, 2016…

    ..and free for Germans..

    ….Following Wednesday’s decision to overturn tuition and fees in Lower Saxony, Germany, all universities will now be tuition free. According to The Times, Europe, Germany will now be 100% free of charge to students, national and international, as political figures call tuition fees “socially unjust.”Oct 3, 2014…

  15. WW&C

    No. You lie.

    From the Internet: In 2013, 69% of graduating university seniors in the United States left school with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt, while the class of 2014 graduated with an average student loan debt of $33,000.

  16. The primary and secondary educational system in Barbados is not fit for purpose; it never has been. Think carefully about it: a little child heading to school for the first time tomorrow will not be retiring until 2080, if then. None of us knows what challenges and opportunities they will face over their career, but we can guess that changes will probably be faster and more far reaching than the ones we have experienced over the past 63 years.

    The best we can do is to equip them to adapt to whatever life throws at them, but there are a couple of trends that we should at least make them aware of:
    (1) The era of having a profession is drawing to a close. Any task or job that can be expressed as a set of instructions will become computer code to be performed by an app and/or a robot. This applies to lawyers and eye surgeons just as clearly as it does to bus drivers and assembly line workers.
    (2) The only people likely to be able to exercise a reasonable degree of personal freedom will be entrepreneurs; Corporations will be larger and more powerful than governments or unions and they will increasingly simply purchase the outcomes they want for the democratic process. Note that by “entrepreneurs” I don’t mean “businesspeople.” Entrepreneurs are those who are capable of actually innovating in any field (the word “entrepreneur” originally referred to theatrical producer).

  17. Chadster…if you going to a top university to study combinatorics and optimization., an IVY League university….do not expect to get it for free unless you have a full ride…which is available through all universities including Princeton, Columbia, Stanford…Waterloo in Ontario, Guelph and a multitude of othe top universities, although all of them do not carry that program….maybe 4 or 5 worldwide.

    Certain progams have to be paid for, unless you are full ride candidate.

    You quoting from 2013, my quotes are 2014, 16 and 17…ya living in the past.

    Many people with exceptional abilities get full rides, not a penny gets paid in university, tuition.

  18. PLT

    “The era of having a profession is drawing to a close.”

    Nonsense. As one small example, in the United States, the rules for financial accounting proliferate every year. The subject matter for the CPA exam is monumental in scope and stupendous in volume. The “instructions” for consolidated financial statements involve potentially thousands of judgments and financial statement preparers and auditors must achieve and maintain mastery of thousands of pages of accounting standards.

    Do you think all this can be reduced to computer code?

    Or consider this: the technology for “continuous auditing” of corporate transactions by the computer has existed for decades. Has it led to a reduction in the number of auditors? Of course not. It leads to the hiring of more auditors, because specialists have to review and follow up on all the exception reports generated by the computer.

    In virtually every field, from taxation to psychotherapy to marketing to economic forecasting, the number and complexity of judgment calls required from professionals and other specialists keeps multiplying.

  19. “The only people likely to be able to exercise a reasonable degree of personal freedom will be entrepreneurs; ”

    Particularly those who studied encryption, programming, iformation technology the quantum computer studies and can write code.

  20. Chadster…if ya are aCPA accountant, ya are about to become obsolete….this is from Forbes 2016..

    “In the accounting industry, where I’ve worked for more than 20 years, we’re already experiencing incredible leaps in tech; bots and cloud accounting solutions make it easier than ever for small business owners to manage their accounting and bookkeeping tasks with the efficiency that only their larger counterparts formerly enjoyed.

    With these changes, there is a shift in the role accountants play in working with their business clients. This shift will accelerate as more businesses jump to the cloud. Many accountants are riding this wave and will thrive, but many others may suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs.”

    Ya will be reduced to teaching and research…lol

    Ya seem to be 3 years behind,

  21. WW&C

    As usual, your reading comprehension skills are below par.

    The commentary you cited is about BOOKKEEPING FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. It has nothing to do with financial accounting for corporations, or about AUDITING.

    Even in the small business sector, most business owners do not have the brains, the time or the inclination to rely on cloud accounting solutions. Just as many people are too tired, too stupid or too lazy to use tax software to do their own simple tax returns.

  22. So wait…you really think the large accounting firms when they are ready to restructure, oh how they love to restructire and downsize, will not or have not started to use bots and cloud accounting…

    Chadster….deceitful as you are, I see why you conveniently overlook this sentence….as I knew you would…..

    …”bots and cloud accounting solutions make it easier than ever for small business owners to manage their accounting and bookkeeping tasks with the efficiency……. that only their larger counterparts formerly enjoyed.”

  23. @Chad99999
    The key word is judgement… monumental scope and stupendous volume are what computers do best, it is what they are built for, it is human judgement that eludes them (for the time being). Auditors keep being employed mostly because the legal regulations require them. It’s just a matter of time before the corporations that own the legislators get around to rewriting those rules.

  24. Peter Lawrence,
    You have made an interesting point. The reality is that youngsters going to school for the first time this week, when they graduate from university will be confronted with new skills and technologies not known to most us.
    So, a form of education that is looking back, will be so far out of date that it will be a pale distance. Many of the professions we now have: accountancy, law, teaching, medicine, etc, will be done by distance. Radiologists in the US, or Africa or Croatia, will be carrying out X-rays, scans and other forms of physical examinations remotely and prescribing medication. There is no evidence that we preparing for these changes.
    A few months ago the minister of Labour, Byer-Suckoo raised the issue of the future of work; I thought it was an opportunity for trade unionists to lead the national debate. They remained silent.
    But they were quick to march against new forms of taxation, and one even went as far as tackling the government about rising crime. Although laudable, that is not core.
    We must raise the quality of the debate, and stop rabble rousing.

  25. Chad99999

    I have to agree with your comments.

    The marketing strategy of accounting software manufacturers is to tell the business owner he can adequately maintain his/her accounting data without the help of an accountant.

    But the reality of the situation is you cannot learn accounting by simply using accounting software.

    Many of the accounting software provide basic bookkeeping instructions, such as, for example, creating invoices and “writing” cheques, which are recorded as income and expenses, thereby creating a simple “profit & loss statement.”

    Similarly to QuickBooks, which boasts about not needing an accountant, these programs have features that creates an “accountant’s copy” to facilitate various accounting functions that are beyond the scope of a layman.

    And although accounting packages have been in existence for several years, and make it easier for entrepreneurs to have a basic understanding of their finances, as you correctly mentioned: “Even in the small business sector, most business owners do not have the brains, the time or the inclination to rely on cloud accounting solutions.”

    However, the “testing of the pudding” comes when the business owner prints his/her financials and goes for a loan, then to be told by the bankers he/she needs to provide them with AUDITED financial statements.

    This is when these “big accounting firms” that are “pushing” specific accounting software will “make a killing.”

  26. @Artaxerxes, you are proving my point. “This is when these “big accounting firms” that are “pushing” specific accounting software will “make a killing.””

    Note that “make a killing” is using technology to enable a handful of auditors to do the work of thousands, effectively killing thousands of auditing jobs.

  27. Was that Minister of Education Ronald Jones heard on the 5:30PM evening say as follows:- “The bulk of school will be opened for the new school term…”

  28. @chad. If you think that the profession of accounting or other judgement call professions are free from technological disruption, you are either delusional or simply in denial. It’s only a matter of time. And on another note, it is these same judgement call professions that need less human interactions. Case in point, the auditing industry has always been culpable in most financial crisis worldwide.

  29. 40 Acres

    I didn’t say free from technological disruption. I said the number of jobs in the field is still expanding. Robits will hit jobs in manufacturing and retail before they hit financial professionals.

  30. George Brathwaite shut yuh mout do , yuh sound sooo foolish picking on govt because govt asked citizens to help pull the economic weight in harsh economic times, Look around the world and see how many countries with greater wealth than barbados make all and sundry pay for their education. Now after fifty or more years when bajans old and young received free education and many have given little of what knowledge they earned through the educational system to the development yuh got long mout feeling a sense of entitlement, Guess what it is time those who have gained mightly give back to the development of this country , You get it

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