Saluting our promising top achievers

Congratulations to our latest batch of Barbados Scholarship and Exhibition winners who shortly will begin a new phase of their academic journey when they enter university to pursue degree studies that will establish the foundation of future careers.

Based on the results of this year’s Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), the Ministry of Education yesterday named a total of 45 scholarship and exhibition winners. Queen’s College and Harrison College took the lion’s share – 42 altogether. The Barbados Community College (two exhibitions) and the Christ Church Foundation School (one exhibition) took the remaining three.

Congratulations too are in order for those students who naturally may feel disappointed, having studied just as hard but who, despite achieving highly admirable performances, fell short of the objective of being among the 2017 scholarship and exhibition recipients. They too are winners since they would have given of their best. They must not allow this disappointment to dampen their enthusiasm because they still have the opportunity to be the best that they can be.

Announcing the scholarship and exhibition winners, Minister of Education, Ronald Jones expressed overall satisfaction with this year’s CAPE results, noting that they were in the “high nineties among those students in unit one and unit two”. Interestingly, he noted that about ten exhibition winners had just fallen short of capturing scholarships because they got Grade 2’s in Communication Studies and Caribbean Studies. To win a scholarship, students must pass all subjects with Grade 1’s.

“That’s the only Grade two you got,” he said. “When it comes to the finances, there is a massive difference between a scholarship and an exhibition, and therefore, by not paying that deep focus to those two core or compulsory subjects, your mummy or daddy or both will have to give you some extra resources because we’re not.”

Barbados scholarship and exhibition winners have traditionally gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields of endeavour, which range from politics and public administration, medicine, the legal profession to business, among others. As the dividend on their substantial investment in public education, Barbadian taxpayers no doubt have the same expectations of this latest batch of academic high achievers following the completion of their studies in another few years.

However, it is of the utmost importance that opportunities exist for them to apply their newly acquired skills in the service of national development after they return home. Speaking at another ceremony recently where this year’s batch of National Development Scholarship winners was announced, Mr Jones reminded them that they were bonded to return home upon completion of their studies to contribute to national development, instead of accepting job offers and staying on in the mostly developed countries where they are going to study.

Otherwise, he said, they or their guarantors would have to pay back the public monies invested in their education. Presumably, the same applies to scholarship and exhibition winners. It must be said, however, that a frustration for many graduates on returning home is the lack of opportunities sometimes to apply their skills. If this happens to a scholarship winner, what then are they to do? Settle for other jobs which can amount in some cases to underemployment which can be most frustrating? It would certainly be better in such cases if the students can take up opportunities to work abroad, sharpen their skills, and earn foreign exchange, some of which will undoubtedly be sent home in the form of remittances.

As Barbados is highly respected internationally for the quality of its education, Barbadians find it easy to get work. It is a tribute to the fact that since the 1960s, when the progressive policy of free or, more appropriately, taxpayer-funded universal education was introduced, a central pillar in the modernization of this country has been the development of its human resource.

The freedom of movement provisions of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) for university graduates present an alternative for Barbadians who cannot find opportunities here but with almost every regional country experiencing some kind of economic challenge, these are likely to be limited. In the circumstances, the Ministry of Education should exercise some flexibility where bonded graduates are allowed to stay and work in developed countries if suitable opportunities are not available locally or in the region.

Besides contributing to the island’s foreign exchange earnings, they also will have a better chance of remaining of the cutting edge of technology in their chosen field so that when they eventually return to the region, they will be in an even better position to contribute to national development.

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