Our Readers' Opinions
March 7, 2014


Universal secondary education has unquestionably been a sound policy. As the world becomes more technical, a secondary education is extremely useful, if not absolutely necessary, in coping with its complexities. Some may say that there has been a high dropout rate from the schools and the students are not learning the relevant subjects.{{more}} All this may be true. It must not, however, be forgotten that in attempting to provide universal secondary education we are taking on a lot in a short space of time with meagre resources. The result was bound to be less than perfect. But that is no reason for not trying.

Parents are right to insist that the students achieve high standards in English. After all English is the global business language and mastery of it can be advantageous. We are lucky to have been born in a country where English is the only language. Too much dialect should not be encouraged. When you emigrate, as so many of us do, who is going to understand your dialect? My own experience indicates that reading a lot is the most effective way to improve one’s English.

In the case of university education, the issues are somewhat different. University education has generally been regarded as a ticket to higher earnings. This has been the case in SVG for some time. Fifty years ago the only graduates in the civil service were doctors, lawyers, engineers, agronomists and a few teachers at the two secondary schools. As we moved to fill the senior and middle ranks of the public service with graduates many opportunities opened up. Graduates of the rapidly expanding UWI, as well as other institutions, were afforded the possibility of relatively well paid employment. Presumably, we now have a smarter, more disciplined and better organized public service.

For the public service to continue to recruit additional graduates, however, our economy will have to grow quite rapidly. It would be nice if we could say that the employment of more graduates leads to a faster rate of economic growth. Matters are not that simple. There is some link between tertiary education and economic development. In a previous article we mentioned Messrs Boyea, Coombs and Layne, the university-educated sons of businessmen who went on to build even bigger businesses. There is, at least a fourth, Dr Sir Frederick Ballantyne whose businesses are in the critical foreign exchange earning fields of hotels and medical education. From this small sample we can say that in some cases graduates coming into existing businesses can expand them. The problem is that we do not have many big businesses, only a few family firms for the most part.

To expand our economy we need to start new businesses. Understandably, it will not be easy for someone just out of university to do so. Starting a successful business is extremely demanding. That is why National Properties is right to celebrate those who have done so in a series of articles by Luke Browne in this newspaper.

Even if university education does not lead to more economic development it remains extremely important. It helps people to live more fulfilling and independent lives. Moreover, even now careful choice of subjects can lead to better employment prospects, if not in SVG, elsewhere. Interestingly, one of the changes originally put forward in US Immigration Reform was giving an automatic greencard to anyone gaining a Master’s degree or Doctorate in science, technology or mathematics from an American university.