The Mighty Sparrow once scolded children to “go to school and learn well, otherwise later in life you go’ ketch real hell”. But perhaps the hundreds of young university graduates now languishing at home “seeing hell”, their aura of euphoric expectation shattered, learned a little too well for their own good.
Every year hordes of students qualified in diverse fields graduate from institutions of higher learning excitedly anticipating entry into the world of work. The lucky few are struck with the harsh reality that real world exigencies are alien to all their precious learning. Work environment socialisation is daunting and entrants need considerable re-training and reeducation to learn basic job skills.
Disenchantment and disillusion with the status quo feed a constant “brain drain” from the region. The exodus of our best and brightest intellectual capital help to develop the developed countries rather than our own.
World Bank statistics reported 80% graduates from Grenada and Jamaica migrate, and scholarship recipients “defect” to the growing diaspora expatriate population.
The genesis of our troubles is an archaic, anachronistic education system comfortable with business as usual while global influences constantly bombard us with new evolving workforce dynamics. But the system seems stuck in a “time warp” delivering inflexible, impractical, and outmoded curriculum content generation after generation.
As Education Minister Boatswain recently stated, the situation evidences “a serious disconnect between the real life exigencies of the labor market and the education system”.Our education stands in stark contradiction to our agriculture-oriented economy but beauocratic rigidities impede all attempts to bridge this dichotomy and institute systemic structural reforms.
Some observers see a dysfunctional system at serious risk of becoming irrelevant. Education is a leading prognosticator of change, not a lagging indicator. It pioneers change in response to the demand contingencies of society and reflects it in the socioeconomic construct.
As custodian of our intellectual capital education embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of the nation.
Our education system cannot exist in a vacuum blind to the wants and needs of society. It nourishes the minds that brainstorm new ideas to solve our problems. Thus, the university campus is often the breeding ground of mass social engineering and technological revolution, a base template society draws on going forward.
Education is functional. It is oriented in the exigencies of real life equipping its charges for productive roles in nation building, hence, the Imani initiatives and the resurgence of vocational training in the reconstituted curriculum. As sociologist Emile Durkheim noted “education trains the skills required for our socioeconomic needs”.
But our education system is based on an infrastructure of false premises that influence impressionable minds from their early formative years. It perpetuates the psychosocial false perception that university diplomas solve all life’s problems and are imperative whatever the cost.
This fallacy is ingrained in the cultural upbringing of generations brain-washed and pre-conditioned to believe it is a cure-all panacea. For the naive and uninitiated a degree is instant success in life.
Hypocrisy, double standards, and paradox are institutionalised and systemic. Example, bond agreements strictly obligate scholarship students to serve their country first after graduating abroad. Yet, the graduate that dutifully returns home without experience working in an international institution like the World Bank becomes a pariah in his homeland. He is sidelined, totally marginalised.
Our education system fails on several fronts. It fails to advise that Grenada is not a meritocracy, your livelihood and whole destiny depend on the whims of a few elite powerbrokers. It fails to warn that Grenada job qualifications require an academic university degree and a second university degree majoring in popularity or several years of job experience; that inside connections are often the only qualifications that leverage personal marketability.
Recently, our Prime Minister declared Grenada an “information economy” implying nationwide free flow of information. The conceptual underpinnings of an information economy are universality of ideas and unlimited information access unbounded by philosophical and ideological paradigms. However, many man-made impediments deliberately frustrate information access and kill intellectual initiatives in Grenada.
Government bureaucratic “red tape” stonewalls research endeavours and companies hoard public information like top secret. Statistics, rarely accessible, are often unreliable and out-of-date, example, the long-overdue 2010 national census. And notwithstanding decisions to strike Criminal Libel Laws from the books, the media is still threatened by lawsuits.
The biggest fallacy perpetuated by the system is equating education with success. Education is not success, money is success. Success is a function of money and society defines you by your money, nothing else. Millionaire crook and conman Sir Allen Stanford was knighted by the Queen.
Without prejudice to functional literacy, the merits of education are grossly overrated to the detriment of real life skills. For thousands of successful education dropouts the only classrooms were real world skills learning.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln received eighteen months schooling. Dropouts include Peter de Savary millionaire investor tycoon, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, Princess Diana, James Bond 007, and science genius Albert Einstein.