Harris wants focus on vocational training
VICE-CHANCELLOR AT the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Nigel Harris, has said the region risks being left behind if emphasis is not placed on technical and vocational education.
"I cannot imagine any Caribbean country thriving in today's world without large numbers of technicians in a variety of areas, as well as other individuals with high-level skills in technologies that underpin production and instrumentation common in today's world," Harris said.
The senior education administrator was delivering the keynote address at a Teachers' Colleges of Jamaica development workshop held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on Monday.
Harris pointed to several proposals from Dr Halden Morris, a faculty member in the School of Education at UWI, for an expansion of teacher training in technical and vocational education.
"I believe that we need to send talented, able and interested young people who have the basic technological and engineering backgrounds to spend periods of time at major technical colleges in the world today," Harris said, arguing that places such as Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan would be ideal for the training of such persons.
"I envision that persons will return to become educators in the TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) system in the Caribbean. I believe that the countries mentioned - Germany, Japan, South Korea - would not be averse to giving scholarships to study there, albeit the problem of language may be a barrier," Harris added.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites agrees with Harris.
"Professor Harris is most correct. We have been educating our students in areas and with competencies that reflect a previous age and not necessarily the demands of the human resource market in the 21st century. As a result, the competencies that are described as technical and vocational in character have to go alongside, and no longer as the second cousins of pure academic disciplines," Thwaites told The Gleaner yesterday.
As a matter of policy, Thwaites said no student, as of 2015, will be allowed to graduate from high school without a technical or vocational subject under his or her belt.