You are here
Making GATE accountable
The enthusiasm for accountability within the government’s GATE student assistance programme expressed by Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education, Fazal Karim is, generally, an effort that’s on the right track. In his search for “slackers,” as he described them, the Minister must be careful to keep his focus on achievement and value added to the nation rather than allow himself to be sidetracked by the quirks of the education system. Programme hopping, for instance, is not an unusual circumstance among young people trying to find the right kind of alignment between their aptitudes and course offerings and shouldn’t, except in cases of outright examples of gaming the system, occupy quite so much of the Tertiary Education Ministry’s energies.
Better to spend the time investigating the results of the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses programme in more useful ways by examining the alignment between graduates and the marketplace that the project is meant to enrich. GATE, which came into existence ahead of schedule because of the natural gas bounty, was always intended to be an investment of that LNG bonus into the intellectual capital of Trinidad and Tobago. The immediate result of that investment, as well as the creation of the engineering-focused University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), was to provide the kind of well-trained manpower that would be necessary to manage the nation’s exploitation of its petroleum sector over the remainder of its natural life.
As concerns began to be raised about the apparently finite life of that natural resource, the discussion became one about diversification and the role that intellectual capital would play in a reorientation of the nation’s capacity to deliver value-added products and services. What has never been made clear is where that diversification would take us. In the short-term, much of the conversation has been about two widely divergent possibilities, more downstream industries fueled by oil and natural gas resources and the refinement and advancement of the intellectual capacity that has, for the most part, arisen as a naive cultural resource to drive our most visible cultural festivals and artifacts.
Many projects being pursued by UTT’s cultural study initiatives seek to codify and enumerate what’s been done by our creative talent to date without benefit of formal training or an educational frame of reference, to provide a basis for crafting a teaching framework for future creative endeavours and explorations. GATE is a critical part of this process, and it will be far more effective when it can synchronise its largesse with clearly stated and agreed on goals for future national diversification.
With clear end goals, manpower needs become more readily identifiable and programmes can be crafted to deliver the kind of talent that will be necessary to drive successful efforts at creating the kind of industries and entrepreneurs that are capable of moving the country from mining the resources buried beneath the land to those that lie under the skin of its people. Between 2005 and 2007, $3 billion has been spent on the GATE programme and this year, the programme will benefit from an additional allocation of $650 million.
That kind of spending, designed as an investment in the people of Trinidad and Tobago, demands not only the kind of policing of student engagement that Minister Karim is advocating but also the maximisation of the focus of the post-graduation two-year contract of service and a strategy that will keep GATE graduates working productively in Trinidad and Tobago beyond that. That’s going to mean working more closely with both the private sector and the government’s strategic planners to ensure that graduates have the kind of opportunities to work in their fields of speciality or better, to become the kind of forward thinking entrepreneurs that will build the businesses that will leverage this country’s possibilities in the future.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.