Cause for concern
Only 30 per cent of Jamaica’s population seeking higher education, says UTech coordinator
Sophia McIntosh, coordinator of the University of Technology’s (UTech) western Jamaica campus, wants more of the nation’s youth to seek higher education as at present, only 30 per cent of Jamaica’s population is enrolled at the university level.
McIntosh made the call while addressing Tuesday’s press launch for the 2023 Courts MoBay City Run charity event, which is being staged to generate funding to assist students who are seeking tertiary education but who need assistance.
“I want to implore all of us in this room to encourage our young people to get a tertiary education, as that is what the Government is building its foundation on for development. You cannot have a society that is not educated, and you cannot be developed if there is no education. But we live in a country where less than 30 per cent of our population is enrolled in higher education, and that is cause for concern,” said McIntosh.
That figure is roughly two percentage points higher than 2017’s gross enrolment rate of 28.5 per cent for the tertiary-level cohort ages 18-24 years. At that time, then Education Minister Ruel Reid revealed that only 15 per cent of Jamaica’s workforce had tertiary training and certification.
In January this year, current Education Minister Fayval Williams announced that her ministry will be seeking to expand the tertiary education sector, with more financing-access options for students.
In her address, McIntosh noted that one significant hurdle for education stakeholders is convincing students that higher education is important.
“As an educator, I have had, and continue to have, conversations with students, and there are other competing things that they see as more important than higher education. I want to say to young people that the ‘quickness’ of getting things, the quick cash, is not sustainable, and the country needs people who can come up with solutions for problems. Plus, if you look at First-World countries, the importance is on education and knowledge,” said McIntosh.
“We speak of cures for cancer and other diseases, and we look at solutions for the Government and also for communities. I want you to look at access to higher education as the pillar, and on how we can work together to create access to higher education,” McIntosh added. “If you have people in your household, encourage them to become educated, to go to UTech, to HEART, to The University of the West Indies, or to Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College. Education helps you to sharpen your lenses and to see and reason differently. And if we do not invest in education, we are going to pay dearly for it.”
In his address, Homer Davis, state minister in the Office of the Prime Minister West, said that all stakeholders must come together to promote education, instead of leaving it to the Government.
“Education is everybody’s business as the Government cannot do it alone. In that context, I give my full endorsement to the 2023 staging of the MoBay City Run, as this event is part of what is needed to propel Jamaica’s education sector further up the ladder in attaining the Sustainable [Development] Goals in the 2030 master plan, which is aimed at having a well-resourced, internationally recognised, values-based system that develops critical thinkers who are productive and successful,” said Davis.