In our last piece, we delved into the potential to develop human capital through educational reform. By assessing the success stories of economically diverse, advanced and successful nations, we saw how simple initiatives to improve education could contribute immensely to the next generation’s potential. However, this is but merely one step in the right direction. While an educational system of quality would create skill and innovation across various fields, we must also tie such developments into subsequent economic policy. After all, the skill of the workforce improves the economy but the economic direction must also be one that affords opportunity and employment for such talent to properly bloom as they both go hand in hand.
The Caribbean In A Brave New World
The contemporary global economy is constantly evolving and this evolution introduces a degree of volatility. In fact, in the last decade, Job Security has shot up as an increasingly higher priority issue in national elections and job markets both in the developed and developing world. Everything from global refugee crises to AI-fueled automation and even illness such as the recent global spread of coronavirus has seen global markets buckle and shift in unpredictable directions.
How can the Caribbean region find purchase and navigate this storm? For one, adaptability should be the imperative crux of the issue. Just as we noted prior, ensuring the most well rounded and capable school leavers enter the workforce is key. To further ensure this, technology should be wholeheartedly implemented across all areas in learning. For example, according to Education Weekly and BBC, the recent global coronavirus (COVID – 19) scare has prompted numerous nations and private operators to pursue E-learning and ‘Work from Home’ initiatives. While not available for every occupation, such moves would only be possible with both access to affordable tech and a skillful, tech-savvy populace.
Crafting Digital Learning Platforms
The Caribbean should strive to achieve this level of technological competence. It can begin from initiatives as simple as replacing weighty textbooks with e-books to making homework digitally done and submitted. Regardless, its time ICT plays a larger role in our learning both as a part of the curriculum and in the equipment seeing said learning achieved. Consider making IT based subjects or even a basic programming language a compulsory subject for secondary school students for example. Finances should be geared towards gradually upgrading the infrastructure of schools at a quicker pace and phasing out outmoded forms of learning and areas of focus.
While with its merits, the traditional ‘Grammar School’ model handed down from the colonial era should no longer be seen as the regional ‘ideal’. Partnerships should be established between state and non-state actors which afford opportunities aimed at stimulating greater tertiary level pursuit of STEM-related fields as well. Consequently, beyond allowing students with varying needs to enjoy better accessibility, a piece from SecureEdge notes that tech-imbued education carries a plethora of immense advantages such as making learning more fun and enjoyable while increasing learning efficiency over shorter periods of times.
This means more can be taught in the same school day in a time where many already claim that ‘extra lessons’ are needed to fully complete educational syllabuses. For example, students will no longer be prompted towards passive learning wherein they are tasked with memory and regurgitation based challenges. Via technology, more engaging, participatory learning methods can be included that immediately prompt a student to engage in exercise, virtual representations or simulations of what is being taught. Consider the award-winning video game ‘Minecraft’ which now comes in an Education Edition that has been used around the world by Geography students, architects, and even engineers. We should not let traditionalist thinking narrow our imagination for innovation.
Some of these proposals may sound expensive or even unrealistic. Indeed, many are used to the region being reactionary rather than proactive wherein we wait to emulate that of larger nations rather than attempt to chart our own way. However, cementing education as the cornerstone of our future development is imperative if we are to prepare for future economic shocks. A 2019 report from the BBC noted that by 2019, robotics and increased automation could see up to 30 million factory jobs eradicated in the developed world. Now consider the ramifications for this globally across major skilled and unskilled sectors such as construction, retail and manual labour in general. All of these areas are heavily relied upon regionally for employment.
Through education, the greater populace can be more prepared for this inevitability and, as a result, adapt less painfully into other fields. Consequently, the above proposed reforms in education would also serve to create more jobs, particularly if it inspires entrepreneurs to be programmers and coders delving into tech or designers and domestic E-commerce based service providers. Indeed just look at the recent stock market crashes due to a combination of coronavirus fears and OPEC negotiation fallout. In as little as a day some markets lost over 30% of their value. These commodity economics are not an ideal place to secure the future of your nation and its people. Thus, both private and public entities should mount pressure to ensure, sooner rather than later, that education becomes our regional north star.