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The pursuit of growth — Part 2

Overcoming obstacles and creating the conditions for sustainable growth

Canute
Thompson

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

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In Part One we established the relationship between education, especially quality higher education, to the attainment of economic growth. We continue the conversation with the impact.

Brent Radcliffe, in a July 28, 2019 article entitled 'How education and training affect the economy', reminds of some very basic facts, such as the relationship between an excess supply of workers working in industries with low entry requirements. The result will be low wages. This is the reality being lived by high school graduates who serve as pump attendants, cashiers, chambermaids, and porters. The entry requirement is usually three to five Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) passes. Individuals holding these jobs are not producing or selling a product or service of high value.

According to Radcliffe, it is beyond dispute that the education and training of a country's workforce are major factors in determining how well the country's economy will perform. The more highly trained workers are, the higher wages they can command and, therefore, the more they can consume (because consumption drives economic growth) and the more they can save and invest (savings and investment drive economic growth).

In an article published in the Jamaica Observer on September 2, 2018, entitled 'Irrefutable correlations: Economic growth and the education system', I reviewed the economic transformation of the Chinese economy and highlighted the fact that in 1977 there was only one institute in economics and finance in China, but in 1987 there were 74. I further noted that in the areas of politics and law, the number of higher education institutions moved from one in 1977 to 25 by 1987. I noted that in total, the number of higher education institutions in China had increased by over six and a half times (660 per cent) in the 40-year period between 1976 and 2016 — from 392 in 1976 to a whopping 2,596 as at 2016.

 

Imperatives for Government

If the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or People's National Party (PNP) intends to make a lasting impact on Jamaica, to make Jamaica and Jamaicans truly prosperous — a term first used by Norman Manley — then the task is simple: Put billions of dollars into improving the early childhood sectors, strengthen the primary sector, resource and equip the secondary sector, and expand access to the tertiary and training sectors, while funding research.

Students must be grounded in the skills of critical thinking from an early age and must be enabled to commence their personal journeys in entrepreneurship and innovation at the primary level. The human relations skills of cooperation and collaboration will be vital, and the personal capacity of problem-solving should permeate all areas of development and training.

The New Standards Curriculum introduced by the Ministry of Education is a start, but just a start. The 'absence' of a minister of education for six months is inexplicable. Why didn't the prime minister appoint a replacement? This 'interim' assignment suffers the pall of temporary. There is work to be done.

The loss of teachers to other countries must be corrected through better salaries and better psychological and physical working conditions. The skills of technocrats in the Ministry of Education and the universities must be harnessed far more creatively and the entire education apparatus must be taken outside the realm of politics. The national allocation of funds for research needs to be increased exponentially, and lecturers at colleges and universities need to show far greater commitment to relevant (meaning “in demand”) and responsive (meaning “sensitivity to policy and practice needs”) research. Greater space must be given to promoting successful practice models. In all these areas Government must play an enabling role.

With massive investments in higher education will come the need for less investment in managing violence and crime. There will also be need for seed capital and easy access to credit to support the creative industries, youth entrepreneurship, health and wellness, high-tech agriculture, and technology innovation. Our location remains competitive. These are some of the reflections to be done as we enter an election season.

 

Dr Canute Thompson is chair of the People's National Party's Policy Commission, as well as head of the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning and lecturer in the School of Education, and co-founder and chief consultant for the Caribbean Leadership Re-Imagination Initiative, at The University of the West Indies, Mona. He is also author of four books and several articles on leadership. Send comments to the Observer or canutethompson1@gmail.com.


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