|The Courier N° 123 Sept - October 1990 - Dossier Higher Education - Country Reports: Barbados - (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)|
Higher education and the related aspect of training have been the subject of many a study in the ACP States, but it is a problem for which no really satisfactory solutions have been found and one might well wonder about the various ways it is tackled. It is a vast question and the size of it is reflected in the range of reforms adopted in these countries and the varying fortunes they have known.
Roughly speaking, the ACP education systems have continued with the types of education and training they inherited, perforce, from the educational institutions of Europe. There have been attempts to break away here and there, of course, but they have failed either to adapt education to the economic needs of the States or to improve its form or substance in the way the Governments were quick to say they wanted. And for three decades, the ACPs have concentrated on administrative studies , to the detriment of science and technology.
But the constraints and crises of the modern economy are such that more and more Governments are beginning to revise their traditional higher education policies. Parents, worried about an uncertain future, are encouraging their children to go in for technology and this also helps to enhance the technical element of higher education in the ACP States, particularly those in Africa. However, it would be wrong to make too much of this trend towards technology, as it is still far too small to be general.
But it nevertheless prompts a number of remarks. First, there is a need to recast the content and organisation of higher education, and of primary and secondary education at the same time, which means a lot of help from education and training experts and a fundamental debate on the targets in the States and regions of the ACP countries. The technical trend in ACP training courses also has a perverse effect in that it acts as a further cause of the brain drain in which people go abroad because they feel they are not being used (effectively) in the economy or indeed the civil service of their own countries. So higher education and training are faced with a twofold problem - that of their standards and usefulness in the present (or forthcoming) economic situation and that of the functioning of the States.
Another factor is the large amount of finance which uncompetitive universities and training institutions lead ACP States and families to spend on establishments in the developed countries - whose diplomas guarantee the holders a wider market in the professional world.
The answer to problems of higher education and training in the ACP countries is by no means an easy one. Many a developed country has similar problems when it comes to changing systems and outlooks and bringing establishments more into line with the demands of the modern economy. But before coming to the internal resistance which interferes with certain trends in the developed countries, ACP universities and training establishments will have to espouse the spirit of healthy competition which makes for emulation. This is still a long way off in many ACP universities, where the slack approach to recruiting students and staff and the system of awarding diplomas is damaging to the future of training in general. It is by putting priority back on educational standards that the universities in most ACPs will be able to play their rightful part in training people for the needs of the economy and society. They have to raise the standard of teaching if they are not to discourage the best elements and they have to improve conditions of access and of study for potential undergraduates if they are not to put students from poorer backgrounds at a disadvantage.
Our Dossier aims to generate thought on the various issues in higher education and training in the ACP States. Applicants are increasing constantly, but the universities are offering fewer places and lower standards all the time. And the safety valves provided by establishments in the developed world are ever more costly and inaccessible to ACP families and States.
The effort put into education and the progress accomplished are of course considerable, bearing in mind the extent of the problems at the outset, but, as the various articles in this Dossier show, the quality of the whole system has to be improved.
Community aid to the education and training sector has of course kept pace with needs - but without closing the gap. And LomV makes it a priority.
Is there any need to point out that the nations with the best performances are those with the higher education and training systems which make the most efficient job of meeting economic, social and cultural targets?