By Joy-Ann Gill
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (BGIS) -- While the commitment by successive administrations to education in Barbados, since independence has been unstinting, there are still a number of concerns.
This observation was made to over 50 participants at the National Consultation on Literacy and Adult Education by Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, as he addressed its opening. The event was convened under the theme: Harnessing the Power and Potential of Literacy and Adult Education for a Sustainable and Viable Future.
Deeming literacy "a pre-requisite for the development of personal, social, economic and political empowerment", Jones reminded participants that Barbados had for some years spoken about its high literacy rate and the provisions made for the education of its citizens.
He said: "Consequently, while some countries struggle to meet the UNESCO dictate of spending at least six per cent of its Gross National Product (GNP) on education, Barbados exceeded this target some long time ago. We spend about seven per cent of our GNP on education, a per cent which equals about one fifth of the national budget each year. Yet as a country, we recognise that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, especially in the face of declining standards in some areas, and also where other countries are advancing as quickly as possible in order to be part of the total global arena."
Alluding to the Barbados Secondary Schools' Entrance Examination, where out of the 3,970 students, 722 of them scored below 30 percent overall, Jones said the country could not be content.
He said: "We still cannot be happy with 18 per cent who scored below 30, and neither can we be pleased when some of our students exit secondary school without an adequate set of marketable skills, competencies, knowledge -- cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual."
The education minister contended that while we celebrated the fact that students had universal access to education, and most of them complete secondary school, his ministry also remained concerned about "the quality of graduates and the extent to which some of them seemed unable to transition successfully from secondary school to tertiary education or the world of work".
He noted that given the persistence of these challenges, it was imperative that efforts be redoubled in areas of literacy, numeracy and adult education, and he pointed out that to address it further the ministry had conceptualised a second-chance educational system as part of its human resource development strategy.
"The overarching objective of this system is to address the needs of school leavers, and other youth and adults who want to improve their qualifications in order to make them employable and enhance their chances of lifelong learning," said Jones, a former teacher.
According to him, programmes under this scheme were designed not only to provide second chance opportunities for those who had not satisfactorily completed their secondary education, but also to cater to those who were desirous of transitioning or re-qualifying for a change in career; those who want to enhance their literacy, numeracy, and technological skills; and those who want to upgrade their knowledge, skills and occupational qualifications.
"Through these efforts, the ministry hopes to situate Barbadians on a learning trajectory that will ensure them a sustainable and viable future," the education minister said.