Letter of the Day | Focus also on reform of tertiary education
THE EDITOR, Madam:
There has been a flurry of articles, editorials, and public discussions on the issue of education reform. The Government recently chimed in and announced the establishment of a commission to oversee another reform initiative.
To date, most of the aforementioned articles, editorials, and discussions have centred around pre-kindergarten through grade 13, with little attention given to reform at the tertiary level. Whereas education is constantly in a state of flux and change, attendant reform, if not comprehensive, longitudinal and budget sensitive, may result in a poorly developed strategic plan.
I have long held that Jamaica should follow the path of Trinidad and Tobago and create the ‘University of Jamaica System’. All publicly funded tertiary institutions would be constituent members under the leadership of a Chancellor and Super Board of governance, with each campus retaining its campus leadership structure and original charter (Mico Foundation, Bethlehem College, Moravians, Church Teachers, Anglicans, St Josephs, Catholic, etc).
Although the majority of these institutions were founded by charitable and religious organisations, a significant tranche of their operational funding comes from taxpayer dollars. Given this reality and coupled with the country’s scarce resources, it is incumbent on Government to better streamline and coordinate governance, allocation of resources, programme development and priorities, strategic planning, standards/quality assurance and accountability.
Similar to the pre-k through 13 oversight mechanism (education officers, inspectorate, etc.), tertiary institutions are in dire need of a robust and functional oversight body.
The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (JTEC), in its current make-up, is woefully inadequate and under-resourced. JTEC cannot be effective with a handful of technical staff to oversee what should be myriads of functions, notably, approval of academic programmes and new institutions, oversight tertiary institutions, including private schools; articulate the needs of education and training programmes, as well as plans for such programmes; establish minimum requirements for academic programmes; monitor established academic, administrative, facility and financial standards; craft, review and update (every four/five years) a national tertiary education strategic plan.
What currently pertains at the commission is a sham that was first put in place by a People’s National Party government and continued by the present Government.
I trust that the education reform commission will do justice to the tertiary sector by recommending a comprehensive overhaul of its governance.
DR RICHARD KITSON-WALTERS