Written on 1-Jul-2017 by Fidel A. Captain.
This paper was presented at the "First Diaspora Engagement Conference 2017" in Guyana on July 24, and is an adaptation of a previous paper I wrote titled, "Government of Guyana’s policy on post-secondary education as a tool for national economic and social development".
Developing nations need to broaden the knowledge base of their citizens if they are to survive and succeed in the new economy of the 21st century. Although Guyana has many natural resources that include gold, diamonds, bauxite, timber, rice and sugar, the human resource is one of the most vital in the 21st century and there must be robust post-secondary education policy regarding the development and use of the nation’s human capital for economic and social development. This paper describes how a robust and visionary post-secondary education policy can contribute to the economic and social development of Guyana in the knowledge based economy of the 21st century, and the role re-migrant post-secondary educator incentives can play in this development. It does so by first briefly describing the importance and role of government in creating post-secondary education policy, and then there is a discussion of the effect of the migration of educators on post-secondary education in Guyana. This is followed by a detailed analysis of what such a policy might look like within the context of the migration and re-migration of post-secondary educators, focusing on the objectives of such a policy, the environment within which this policy will operate, the boundaries and limits that would affect the policy, and ethical issues. A list of recommendations, which includes migrant and re-migrant post-secondary educator incentives, is then made that can form the framework of a post-secondary education policy that can be used as a tool for the economic and social development of Guyana.
Public policy on post-secondary education plays an important role in the long term strategic planning for the national development of any country because the most important resource of any nation is its people, and there must be robust post-secondary education policy regarding the developent and use of the nation’s human capital for economic and social development. This must be done within the context of the fact that Guyana is one of the poorest countries on in the Western Hemisphere with a high migration rate of its skilled citizens, specifically its qualified educators, and the need to attract these skilled workers to re-migrate and use their skills and knowledge to help to alleviate poverty, grow the middle class, and develop the nation’s human capital for economic and social development.
Many of our qualified educators have left for the Caribbean, North Ameirca, Europe and Africa where many have succesfully plied their trade, enhanced their skills and knowledge and helped in the development of these countries. According to The World Bank’s latest data, for the year 2000, the percentage of tertiary educated Guyanese that migrate is 89.2% (The World Bank, 2009), with an overall negative effect on the labour force and -17.9% effect on the proportion of skilled [labour] (Beine, Docquier and Rapoport, 2008, p. 647). While these numbers are distressing, the author believes that the additional skills and knowledge gained by these exptriate educators can be used to develop Guyana’s human capital, but should be done within the framework of an education for development policy. Specifically, a strong post-secondary education policy that stresses using post-secondary education as a tool for economic and social development with strong incentives for re-migrant post-secondary educators to support this development.
The author also believes that in addition to using education as a tool for economic and social development, a broad post-secondary education base is necessary in order survive and succeed in the new knowledge based economy of the 21st century. Mellow and Katopes (2009) stress that developing nations must educate more citizens to higher levels, espousing a greater number of citizens with mid-level intellectual skill sets, which they argue will lead to a larger middle class thus enabling citizens to move across income levels (p. 56). In addition, Chapman and Austin (2002) notes that governments recognize the need for their education system to produce citizens with the skills necessary to succeed in the new technological and information based economy (p.14).
This paper looks at the role government plays in creating and shaping post-secondary education policy and analyzes what post-secondary education for development policy for Guyana could look like within the context of attracting re-migrants to contribute to this development. It also briefly looks at the effect of migration on post-secondary education, and closes by making recommendations for a detailed post-secondary education policy that can be used as a tool for economic and social development in Guyana with an emphasis on using incentives to attract re-migrant post-secondary educators.
The role of government in higher education policy
In most developing countries, including Guyana, there is usually one ministry or governmental department that deals with education, and hence all public policy relating to education and post-secondary education tends to come out of this ministry or department. This policy is usually made manifest in the form of an education strategic plan, an education master plan or an education sector plan. In some countries, such as Malaysia, there is a separate ministry for post-secondary education and a separate strategic plan for post-secondary Education (Azman, Sirat & Ahmad, 2014, p. 306).
These education strategic or master plans tend to set the stage for five or ten years as to what the overarching government policy will be, the framework within which the government’s education policy will be implemented and the role the government will play in post-secondary education over that period. The role of the government in higher education policy in developing countries at any point in time is usually determined by the current education strategic or master plan, or part of a larger vision for the development of that nation. In Guyana, there is the ‘Education for Sustainable Development Policy’ and the ‘Guyana Education Sector Plan 2014-2018’; but in Malaysia, there is the ‘National Higher Education Strategic Plan 2020’, which arose out of the Mahathir’s ‘Vision 2020’ in 1991 where he envisioned Malaysia being a developed country by 2020 (Tham, 2013, p. 651). This led to education policy changes in Malaysia that would oversee the development of its human capital as part of his vision.
In the ‘Guyana Education Sector Plan 2014-2018’, “The Ministry defines education as more than the instrumental activity for supporting greater national development or reducing poverty” (Ministry of Education, Guyana, n.d., p. v) and that in recognizing the changing economic and technological climate it “requires that the Ministry commit to a policy of providing continuing education and training opportunities for the adult population” (Ministry of Education, Guyana, n.d., p. v). This outlines the role the government intends to play in driving and supporting higher education in Guyana over the next few years, and also the way it sees education as contributing to national development.
In the 2015 draft of the education for sustainable development policy (ESD), there is a plan to introduce the tenets of sustainable development into education at all levels in Guyana. It “seeks to introduce the principles of sustainability in all aspects of the formal, non-formal and informal education system in Guyana” (UNESCO, 2015, p.6). The policy recommends that post-secondary institutions focus on implementing “the teaching of Education for Sustainable Development and lead the research, development and application work needed to inform and realize sustainability in Guyana” (UNESCO, 2015, p.35). As is usually the case, the policy’s successful implementation will depend on the level of the Government’s commitment to it, how well they embrace it, and how it fits into their current political agenda.
The effect of migration on post-secondary education
The population estimates from UNICEF (n.d.) show that between 1990 and 2013 the population of Guyana grew from approximately 725,000 to 800,000. However, the total net migration ranged from -76,000 between 1985 and 1990, and -33,000 between 2010 and 2015 (UNICEF, n.d.). The data shows that there has never been a positive net migration in Guyana from 1985 to 2015, and many of these migrants were skilled workers - educators. In essence, over the last three decades Guyana has suffered catastrophic ‘brain drain’.
“The term ‘brain drain’ designates the international transfer of resources in the form of human capital and mainly applies to the migration of relatively highly educated individuals from developing to developed countries” (Beine, Docquier and Rapoport, 2008, p. 631). This is what has happened to Guyana over the last three decades and is supported by data from The World Bank (2009), which indicates that for the year 2000, the percentage of tertiary educated Guyanese that migrate is 89.2%. The Beine, Docquier and Rapoport article Brain drain and human capital formation in developing countries: winners and losers (2008), shows that there is an overall negative effect on the labour force of -94,604, a negative effect on the skilled labour force of -85,811 and a negative effect on the proportion of skilled [labour] of -17.9% (p. 647).
A breakdown of the categories of skilled migrants is not available, but having lived in Guyana during the 1980s and early 1990s the author is sure of a mass migration of educators to places such as The Bahamas, St. Lucia, The British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, and Bostwana because the effects of their loss was felt as it directly affected the number of teachers that left his secondary school during the mid to late 80s and early 90s. This migration of educators combined with unattractive salaries has also severely affected the faculty levels of the University of Guyana, where the Registrar in 2010 gave a conservative estimate that “there were at least 10 to 12 courses without lecturers at the Turkeyen campus” (Kaieteur News, 2010). While post-secondary instututions including the Guyana Technical Institute and the Cyril Potter College of Education are most likely also similarly affected by the migration of qualified educators, there is definitely a shortage of qualified educators in the technical and vocational post-secondary programs (Ministry of Education, Guyana, 2013).
Analysis of proposed post-secondary education for development policy for Guyana
The following provides an analysis of what an ideal post-secondary education for development policy for Guyana might look like within the context of migration and re-migration of post-secondary educators and conducts this analysis within the following context:
- Objectives of the policy
- The environment within which the policy will operate
- Boundaries and limits that would affect the policy
- Ethical issues impacting the policy
The main objective of an ideal post-secondary education for development policy for Guyana would be to provide a framework for the advancement of post-secondary education as a tool for national social and economic development. Guyana is a developing country in the 21st century and its most important resource is its people, therefore a policy advocating the advancement of its people’s intellectual skill set as a means of development is of paramount importance. This is supported by Mellow and Katopes (2009) who state, “in order to respond to the burgeoning global knowledge economy, each nation must educate a greater number of people to higher levels than ever before” (p. 56).
Such a policy would also guarantee quality, affordable post-secondary education that is equally available and affordable to all Guyanese citizens. It would ensure that students who are qualified and would like to pursue post-secondary education can do so and are not deterred by the cost. It would allow for the development of private post-secondary education institutions alongside government-funded institutions, but in a way that does not promote education commodification and protects the interest of the Guyanese education consumer.
The policy would ensure that systems are in place to measure the quality of post-secondary education being provided by private and government-run institutions and to ensure that quality control measures are in line with existing policies for national social and economic development. It would outline the role quality control councils or bodies play in ensuring that the quality of the education provided to the Guyanese people by both private and government-run post-secondary education institutions are in line with this policy.
The policy would also clearly outline how the gap between secondary school and university and between secondary school and the work force would be bridged. This is a problem faced by most developing countries and Guyana as noted by Spangler & Tyler (2011), “a missing link in most countries is the community college role that facilitates the transition between high school and skilled employment or the university—an institutional mandate to enhance skills of young adults” (p. 43).
The policy would also use various incentives to attract migrant and re-migrant educators to the post-secondary education system. These could include competitive salaries with generous allowances for relocating, housing and transportation, easily available work permits with a path to citizenship, cheap land for housing development, and duty-free concessions.
Since Guyana is one of the poorest countries on in the Western Hemisphere with “a GDP per capita of US$ 4,053 (2014)” (The World Bank, 2016), policy regarding social and economic development should be the top of the government’s agenda. This proposed policy would promote post-secondary education as a means of social and economic development.
The current post-secondary education system in Guyana includes technical and vocational institutions, a teacher training college, a government run university and other newer and smaller universities and continuing education. However, the education system does not include a community college which can enhance the skills of the Guyanese workforce and help to bridge the gap between secondary and tertiary education, and between secondary education and the workforce as noted by Spangler & Tyler (2011).
In Guyana, the Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing all education in Guyana from nursery to university, which includes TVET, teacher training and adult and continuing education. This means that all policy regarding education emanates from this ministry, therefore this ministry would play a principal role in the development and implementation of the proposed policy. In addition, the role of the government as a whole cannot be understated because it would need to outline a clear vision of how education would be used as one of the tools for national social and economic development, with the Ministry of Education being responsible for the implementation of that aspect of the government’s vision.
At present, the environment for post-secondary educators in Guyana is not hospitable because of poor salaries and the low numbers these professionals available resulting from the high migration rate of qualified professionals on the whole. Any new policy on post-secondary education must address this environment in an effort to stop the hemorrhaging of qualified post-secondary educators.
Boundaries and limits
The knowledge base of a country’s human resources, in addition to its natural resources, determine the nature and direction social and economic development takes in any nation, especially developing nations. Therefore, human resources place a serious limitation on the pace and type of development of any nation, regardless of what natural resources the country has at its disposal. The 21st century economy of a developing nation is heavily dependent on the knowledge base of its human resources and places a serious limitation on its social and economic development.
Developing nations need to broaden the knowledge base of their citizens if they are to survive and succeed in the new economy of the 21st century. Although Guyana has many natural resources that include gold, diamonds, bauxite, timber, rice and sugar, the human resource is one of the most vital in the 21st century. This is because the human resources can help determine how efficiently the natural resources are used and can effect how many people will benefit from the knowledge based sector of the economy created from the spin offs from using natural resources. The large Guyanese diaspora of qualified professionals that resulted from over the three decades of migration can, with the right incentives, be a pool that can be used to repopulate our skilled human resource pool with the skilled labour that is so vital in the 21st century.
The agenda of the political party in power is also a key limiting factor. This is because if the development of the nation’s human resource capital via post-secondary education is not on their agenda then such a policy would not be pursued by the government.
There are four moral principles concerned with what is good for individuals and society regarding post-secondary education:
- Education commodification
- Education quality
- Equal access to education
- Education cost
Post-secondary education is now a major commodity and societies and nations have to decide how this commodity is traded and how to protect the consumers of this commodity. “The forces unleashed on higher education have propelled universities to function less as institutions with social, cultural and indeed intellectual objectives and more as producers of commodities that can be sold in the international marketplace” (Naidoo, 2007, p. 3). The post-secondary education entrepreneurs respond mainly to the demand for the education product. Therefore, post-secondary education policy should be used to protect the consumer of the education product, but should not be to the detriment of the post-secondary education entrepreneurs. Such policy should ensure that these education entrepreneurs adhere to nationally and internationally accepted moral and ethical principles regarding the supply and delivery of the education commodity.
As a moral and ethical imperative, any national post-secondary education policy should speak specifically and concisely to the quality of education that needs to be delivered by post-secondary education institutions and to the quality of education received by their students. It should ensure that proper quality control mechanisms are in place and adhered to by these institutions, ensuring that students get the quality education they pay for and deserve. It can do so by encouraging accreditation of post-secondary institutions, reviewing the programs offered at post-secondary institutions, and the validating of the outcomes assessments of the students at these institutions.
Equal access to education
There is an increased demand for post-secondary education because more persons that fall into the lower income bracket of society are trying to obtain a post-secondary education as a means of elevating themselves out of poverty. Therefore, any post-secondary education policy should ensure that no post-secondary education institution, in their admittance or any of their policies, discriminates against its students with regards to income levels. Any qualified individual should be able to apply for and obtain admission to any post-secondary institution regardless of his or her income level and enjoy unfettered access to all of that institution’s facilities.
The cost of education should not be prohibitive, putting it out of the reach of the majority of those who need it most. Any post-secondary education policy should ensure that the cost of this education product is not so exorbitant as to restrict access to only the wealthy or those with sure means of paying for it, while taking into account the need for post-secondary education entrepreneurs to profit from their ventures. Such a policy should ensure that the prices charged are fair for the product delivered and ensure that measures are put in place to monitor and, if necessary, regulate the cost of post-secondary education so that it is not exorbitant and out of the reach of the majority of persons who need it.
The large Guyanese diaspora of qualified professionals would have been exposed to these ethical issues either as students or as educators, and if allowed, will bring their experience and knowledge regarding these issues to Guyana. However, such a policy would need to ensure that only desirable ethics are incorporated into Guyanese post-secondary education culture, such as, quality, accountability, equal access, and affordable cost; and should mitigate the threats posed by education commodification.
A current analysis of the current Government of Guyana policy on post-secondary education’s role in economic and social development shows that it only attracts two lines in its ‘Education Sector Plan 2014-2018’. It states, “The Ministry defines education as more than the instrumental activity for supporting greater national development or reducing poverty” (Ministry of Education, n.d., p. v) and that in recognizing the changing economic and technological climate it “requires that the Ministry commit to a policy of providing continuing education and training opportunities for the adult population” (Ministry of Education, n.d., p. v). There is no mention of the resources available from the diaspora or of the possibility of utilizing these resources to develop post-secondary education in Guyana.
While work has been done in 2016 to inquire into the sate of education in Guyana with a view to “inform the administrative, policy and legislative processes” (GINA, 2016), based on the foregoing analysis the author proposes a more detailed post-secondary education policy that can be used as a tool for economic and social development in Guyana. Such a policy would entail the following:
- Provide a clear 10 to 20 year vision for post-secondary education in Guyana.
- Provide a framework for the advancement of post-secondary education as a tool for national social and economic development.
- Safeguard national economic development by broadening of the intellectual base of its workers through post-secondary education.
- Guarantee quality, affordable post-secondary education that is equally available and affordable to all citizens.
- Facilitate the transition between high school and skilled employment or the university.
- Facilitate private sector education entrepreneurship and development while protecting the country and its citizens from education commodification.
- Cognizant of the public interest that post-secondary education serves, both public and private institutions and ardently protects this interest.
- Cognizant of the role of that the knowledge base of the nation’s human resources plays in the 21st century economy.
- Cognizant of the ethical issues affecting post-secondary education in the 21st century and address these issues in a morally and socially acceptable manner.
- Cognizant of migration issues and take steps to mitigate the migration of qualified post-secondary educators.
- Cognizant of the resources available from the diaspora and make efforts to use these resources to improve and enhance post-secondary education in Guyana.
- Create an environment to attract and retain qualified post-secondary educators through migrant and re-migrant post-secondary educator incentives.
- Provide systems to manage and monitor the quality of post-secondary education being provided by private and government-run institutions, ensuring that they are in line with international standards.
A sound and prudent post-secondary education policy can be used as a tool for economic and social development in Guyana. It can lead to the advancement of the intellectual skill set of the Guyanese people by having a larger number of Guyanese being educated to higher levels, thus enabling them to lift themselves out of poverty leading to a larger middle class and a booming economy. Great post-secondary education policy would ensure that quality, affordable post-secondary education is equally available and affordable to all Guyanese citizens, and that qualified students who would like to pursue post-secondary education can do so and are not deterred by the cost. Such a policy would facilitate the transition between secondary school and skilled employment or the university, thus bridging of the gap between secondary school and university and between secondary school and the work force. This policy would also foster private sector education entrepreneurship and development while at the same time protect the country and its citizens from education commodification. Finally, a great post-secondary education policy would be cognizant of migration issues and of the resources available from the diaspora, and take steps to mitigate this migration while creating an environment to attract and retain qualified post-secondary educators through migrant and re-migrant post-secondary educator incentives.
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