23 de Julio de 2018
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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993

2. How would you describe the economic imperatives that affect education in the Caribbean?

With regard to economic imperatives, we are countries that are not particularly rich in natural resources. With the exception of Guyana, we have very limited natural resources. I do not know what is to be discovered in Belize, but generally speaking, we are not richly endowed with natural resources. However, we have a history of educating our people; our populations have levels of education that rival those of the industrialized world, especially in terms of basic education.

In addition, we are looking at a world that is increasingly information oriented, and therefore, we should have a chance to be competitive in this new age. We were less able to compete when manufacturing dominated the world economy because we were not industrialized, and we lacked the technology and natural resources necessary to support that kind of activity. But in a world that is increasingly dominated by information and services, we should be able to compete. However, this will require that we adjust our educational systems.

In that regard, I think that we have to pay particular attention to tertiary education because we have universal primary education throughout the English-speaking Caribbean, and several countries have universal secondary education. We have a broad base of primary education, but less than 10 percent of our students go on to university or college. In an information-oriented world, however, this is precisely the area that will help to keep us competitive. I think, therefore, that a human resource development strategy has to be a key component of our economic policies.

We also have an advantage in that the world is becoming increasingly high tech. As the world becomes more high tech, I believe it will also need to become more “high touch.” By high touch I mean treating people as persons—treating them with a certain amount of intimacy and recognizing people as people. In that regard, the people of the Caribbean have a unique contribution to make. First, we are small societies; everybody knows everybody. We are accustomed to intimacy, which is something that the world is no longer accustomed to. Secondly, we are a people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I once said that we are Chinese without dynasties; we are Indians without castes; we are Africans without tribes; we have lost those distinctions of the Old World and somehow have come to an understanding of our common humanity. Now, in a world where ethnicity and racial conflict are increasing, especially where material progress has not been realized, I believe that these little islands can show how people of different backgrounds may live together with some unity and some harmony. In treating people as persons, regardless of ethnicity, we can contribute something to the world that I am calling “high touch.”

To a degree, our tourism is based on this. Tourism in the Caribbean is not only looking at the sights of the islands, but it is also a kind of pampering and recognition, an ability still to enjoy the simple things of life. In that sense, I believe that we have something to be developed.

We have to become more high tech, too, but we do not want to become an anonymous society. Often, when you are communicating with each other only through technology, there is an impersonality and anonymity; it doesn’t matter who you are, you are standardized in the information process. The identity of the person on either end of a communication is quite immaterial because contact takes place through impersonal machines. Yet we must maintain our sense of intimacy—of high touch—as I am calling it. We have to become multicultural in a different sense from the way in which we usually understand this term.