Addressing the opening ceremony of the Fifth International Conference on Higher Education here on Sunday night, Stuart said he had heard well-meaning persons state that the education system should prepare young people for work.
However, he noted that there were parents in societies throughout the region who could not cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life, in spite of the fact that an education should have put them in that position.
“We have somehow lost sight of the fact that man is not just created to work. He has to work, but any time an education system gets to the point where all it prepares people for is to work, then something is fundamentally wrong in the society and the society is going to pay a very, very high price for it.
In fact, some of our societies are already paying a very high price for it. While we do not want to de-emphasise the importance of the relationship between education and the job market, equal emphasis has to be placed on other aspects of our citizenship,” he said.
Prime Minister Stuart said it was not enough to go to work, noting as an example, the father who went to work, faithfully came home and provided money for the maintenance of his children, but did not take time to sit and bond with them.
He said this was allowing “the means by which he lives to outdistance and outpace the ends for which he lives”. He stressed that was the kind of citizen that Barbados and the Caribbean could do without.
“We don’t want people educated in that one-sided kind of way; we want an education for good citizenship in the Caribbean,” he insisted.
The three-day conference is being held under the theme “Pride & Industry: Celebrating 50 – Vision, Leadership, Engagement: Transforming Education in Barbados” and Prime Minister Stuart, called on stakeholders to communicate that education is for their personal empowerment.
He told the audience that persons were empowered by education and they should never lose respect for the creative power of learning.
“A concern across the Caribbean is that because we have had to play so much catch up after slavery, that what has had to be fought for by our fore bearers, is now being taken for granted to such an extent by the beneficiaries of their efforts, that we are in danger of losing our capacity to sensitise them to the importance of what it is we are enjoying. That is not a luxury that small, struggling countries here in the Caribbean can afford,” he said.
Stuart stressed that the message which must be sent to students at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels was that education would put them in positions where they could exercise greater control over their lives and be responsible, to a greater extent, for moulding their own destiny.
He said that every child in Barbados was entitled to a primary and secondary education, even if it was through home schooling. He added that even though tertiary education was optional, successive Governments had tried to make sure that those who opted to access it could do so without much difficulty.
The Prime Minister noted that his government was committed to children accessing nursery education. He pointed out that a significant number of nursery institutions were being strategically built across Barbados to make it easy for parents to have access to them.
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