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An education on education

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The challenges faced by some of our tertiary education providers like UTT and Costatt are a reason for concern but also an opportunity for us to reflect on the country’s educational model.

Over the past decades Trinidad and Tobago set up programmes to open up its higher education provision to a more diverse group of students, aimed at increasing social mobility. The introduction of GATE—to subsidise tertiary education for all—was a natural step in that process.

But, like other nations, T&T has seen a few problematic side-effects. One is “degree inflation”: the more graduates are formed, the more the labour market then looks at those with Masters and PhDs as a selection criteria. The other problem is a potential disconnect between funding university degrees and what the country needs to develop and grow.

Irrespective of transitionary challenges faced by some of our institutions, what we need—and urgently—is a deep review of our education strategy from early years to higher levels, so that we have a coherent and effective policy designed to make T&T the economic powerhouse it deserves to be in the 21st century.

Bridging the gap

The Prime Minister’s continuous effort to establish a communication channel with stakeholders in Tobago is to be commended. Dialogue is always better than brickbats hurled across the islands. Stakeholders’ patience has a limit, though, and the government needs to do more to support and grow Tobago’s economy.

In a highly competitive tourism industry, Tobago already has a challenge as one of the islands in the Caribbean furthest away from big tourism markets like North America and Europe. Poorly maintained or under-dimensioned infrastructure, skills shortage and perennial transport problems can hardly help the island grow its market share.

Of mounts and volcanoes

The man who brought us the concept of Mount Trinidad to show the steep drop our energy industry faces over the next few years brought us a more up-to-date version to the 2018 Energy Conference.

The good news is that, with the right policies in place and a fair wind, Rystad Energy’s Kjetil Solbraekke believes the inevitable downhill production journey may be less steep than originally feared.

He also sounded a note of caution, advising against T&T relying on Venezuela for its strategic energy plans given our neighbour’s instability. He is right: if we face the challenges of a steep mountain, Venezuela faces an exploding volcano.


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