Changing Mindsets for Better Futures
There is a shift in Education policy in St. Kitts and Nevis and that shift seeks to change mindsets about the value of Technical and Vocational Education and Training. Traditionally such subjects were seen as alternatives to academic Education for underachievers but global trends have dissolved this outmoded view. Young persons are realizing more and more the value of gaining these sought after skills, not only for their socio-economic advancement but towards an improved standard of living. In fact, it is now being advised that every student regardless of their academic inclination sign up for courses in Technical and Vocational Education and Training to make themselves more marketable or at least to be able to assist themselves when the need arises.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis set out on a campaign to raise awareness and engender a candid assessment of the Education System in light of the perceived need for a change in policy. This they hope would support and promote more empowering subject choices for students. It is clear that the stigma associated with Technical and Vocational Subjects could not stand if the Federation was to move forward and become competitive outside of these borders. Additionally, employers were raising concerns that graduates were not filling the gaps and did not have the necessary skills to function in the working environment in the Technical and Vocational field. The Ministry of Education turned to UNESCO for support.
Over the following months, UNESCO dispatched a technical mission to the Federation (2011) which engaged key stakeholders in Education, the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). Frank discussions lead to the knuckling out of brass tacks issues with the sobering reality that the road ahead would be an uphill yet necessary battle. Not only would the challenge of changing mindsets be gargantuan but the physical structure of institutions had to also be upgraded to compliment the new thrust. Additionally the requisite equipment had to be procured.
“The rethinking, re-marketing and repackaging of the TVET Programme is all about expanding options, it is about inclusion; new and improved opportunities; and it is also about seeing strengths and positives where we did not allow ourselves to see them before,” Prime Minister Douglas said.
Education Specialist from UNESCO’s Cluster Office based in Kingston Jamaica, Mr. Robert Parua saluted the Federation’s foresight in coordinating fragmented arrangements and aligning efforts by drafting a TVET policy which places TVET in a wider development context.
The ministry’s commitment became evident as the wheels of change began turning with the implementation of a National TVET secretariat which was put in place to manage the process. A Principal TVET Officer was named in the person of Mr. Fritzroy Wilkin. Since then a draft TVET Policy has been launched; new equipment has been put in place and some institution’s infrastructure upgraded. The new policy also emphasizes proper testing procedures and International standards of certification. As such, the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) has been implemented at relevant institutions. A TVET Council has also been established under the Leadership of Mr. Clyde Christopher.
The road ahead for changing mindsets is accepted as something that will take time but it is believed that the demand and proper education and awareness will eventually and naturally result in a change of perceptions about TVET.