Government of Guyana’s policy on post-secondary education as a tool for national economic and social development - Ethical Considerations
The BBC (n.d.) describes ethics as “a system of moral principles… concerned with what is good for individuals and society” (para. 1 - 2) that provides us with a moral map helping us to navigate difficult issues. With regard to the aforementioned policy, 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
Over the last two decades there has been a meteoric rise in the demand for post-secondary education and with this rise in demand an influx of post-secondary education entrepreneurs to fill this demand. 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 or private post-secondary education institutions only respond to the demand for the education product and are generally not interested in the public good education serves or a country’s development goals in relation to education. Thus, public 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. The 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.
It is difficult to find a complete definition of what quality post-secondary education is, but Bogue (1998) describes at least four systems for quality assurance in colleges and universities: (i) accreditation and program reviews, (ii) assessment-and-outcomes (iii) total Quality Management (TQM), and (iv) accountability and performance indicators (p. 9). Any policy regarding post-secondary education must address at least the first two of these four systems in a manner that protects students ensuring that the quality of the education they receive is of an acceptable standard.
As a moral and ethical imperative, any national post-secondary education policy should speak specifically and concisely to the quality of education delivered by post-secondary education institutions and received by their students. It should ensure that proper quality control mechanisms are in place and adhered to by post-secondary education institutions, ensuring that students get the quality education they pay for and deserve.
Equal Access to Education
The increasing demand for post-secondary education means that many persons that fall into the lower income bracket would be trying to obtain a post-secondary education. Any education policy should ensure that no post-secondary education institution discriminates against its students in their admittance policy with regards to income levels. Everyone should be able to apply for and obtain admission to any post-secondary institution regardless of his or her income level.
As a developing country, many of Guyana’s citizens will not be able to afford the tuition and other costs of post-secondary education, but the policy should ensure that measures are put in place so that this is not a deterrent to those aspiring to post secondary education. The aforementioned policy should facilitate loans, grants and scholarships to students of public and private post-secondary education institutions.
The cost of education should not be prohibitive, putting it out of the reach of the majority of those who need it most. While taking into account the need for post-secondary entrepreneurs to profit from their education ventures, the aforementioned 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 not putting a price cap or price controls on the post-secondary product, the aforementioned policy should ensure that the prices charged are fair for the product delivered. The policy should 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.