April 16, 2015
Only 17 percent of the country's population has received tertiary education qualifications, according to preliminary results from National Development Plan (NDP) studies.
Dr. Nicola Virgil-Rolle, director of financial services and incoming director of economic development and planning, told Guardian Business that while the results were significantly smaller than many other countries and should not reflect the relative wealth of The Bahamas, the national focus should go toward the process of increasing the national rate.
"The preliminary numbers reflect about 17 percent of the surveyed persons, and that's representative of the population. I think what it reflects is that, irrespective of our high income, we're a developing country and you're putting emphasis into education but that takes some time to grow.
"I'm not as concerned with the number itself right now but the process of how do we move the number. We're going to do comparatives of countries of similar levels of development to see where we are. Obviously there are OECD countries with higher numbers, but we have to look at where we are now and begin the process of moving," she said.
Virgil-Rolle pointed out that while index mundi data indicated an upward slope for tertiary education rates in developing countries, with enrollment rates of 60-70 percent in some OECD countries, The Bahamas had experienced a decline in tertiary enrollment in recent years. She said that the NDP was currently investigating the gap between high school and college to better understand whether the preliminary results indicated a general lack of interest in tertiary education or whether current secondary school education did not adequately prepare students for higher learning.
The data, which came from a 2010 Department of Statistics report, assessed the number of Bahamians achieving an associate degree or higher. While Virgil-Rolle said that her group was still compiling regional averages for tertiary education, she noted the implications that the figured had on the country's workforce and The Bahamas' regional competitiveness.
Virgil-Rolle noted that the NDP was still in the diagnostic phase. A State of the Nation report is scheduled for publication in June, which will include a chapter on education as part of its social policy review.
"We know that the labor force is all about education, the quality of labor, and training as well. It's not just about the academic subjects, but also vocational subjects to inform your labor work," she said, noting the need for more skilled workers, which hinged on a strengthened push for both tertiary and vocational education.
Speaking at the Second Annual Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Conclave yesterday, Virgil-Rolle argued that assessing The Bahamas' regional competitiveness remained one of the primary goals of the NDP. She noted that growth projections for The Bahamas had remained steady in recent years while regional competitors have experienced substantial GDP growth, which was partly the result of implementing NDPs to steer national growth.
"While we understand that a National Development Plan doesn't explain everything its is a disciplining force in development and promotes a transparent approach to how a country goes about choosing its development course," she said.
BCCEC chairman Gowon Bowe welcomed the NDP's progress in identifying areas of needed improvement, stating: "If you're standing still you're actually moving backwards."
When asked how the private sector could become more closely involved in contributing to the NDP, Virgil-Role said that she expected the NDP steering committee to identify the key sectors of the economy before establishing private sector consultative groups between June and October.
"It's not so much about where we start, but about how we get to where we want to be," she said.
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian