Cost of Education In Barbados

We present and encourage progressive Caribbean views of Caribbean and world affairs.
by William Skinner

Dr. Marion Williams
Ladies and gentlemen, our educational system has been a beacon in The Caribbean and the developing world. However if we are to cope with the pressures for change which lie ahead, the cost of educationwill be immense, if we are not to be left behind. In order that we are on the right side of the divide, the new requirements will necessitate that we restructure and find ways to deliver relevant and high quality
Education which meet the needs of the 21st century without altering the basic social principles which have got us this far.”  Dr. Marion Williams formerGovernor of The Central Bank of Barbados, 14th Rudolph Goodridge MemorialLecture & Education Awards Ceremony Tuesday, December 7, 2004. 

Those who support the abolition of what we commonly refer to as our free education system , are quick to defend their position by saying it is not really free because it is underwritten by the taxpayers. At first this appears to be a strong defense of their position but on closer examination, it is fatally flawed.
The whole concept of free education really means that those who are pursuing the education do not have to pay. In other words it is free at the point of delivery. It is based on the principle that no one should be denied an education because they are unable to pay.
If we endorse  the position of those, who argue that we already pay for it via taxation, it could then be countered that if it is no longer” free” we would be paying for it twice: Once when we pay our taxes and  when we have to pay the school fees.  This also applies to all services we now enjoy free of cost.
A person earning under 12000BDS. per annum, having to pay fees for three children at any of our public institutions of learning, would be bankrupt almost instantly. It also questionable if a couple earning a joint income under 75000BDS per annum would be able to pay for two children at any of our older grammar schools. Question: Do we really know what a prestigious institution such as Harrison College/Queens College will cost per term for one child? Conservative estimates are, as high as $4000BDS per term.  It is widely believed the newer comprehensive schools could cost a minimum of 2700BDS. per term. It is therefore not difficult to conclude, that those who are supporting the abolition of free education are totally unaware of its cost.  We can also speculate that a year at UWI, depending on the field of study, could be at least 45000BDS.  How many poor citizens can actually afford such costs? Pray tell, which financial institution in Barbados, is going to give unsecured loans to poor students to finance their education.
The question is: What percentage of our population can meet such costs? I daresay a very low percentage, taking into consideration, that many parents even with free bus fares and no school fees still have great difficulty meeting the daily costs of sending their children to school.

There should be a greater flow of information regarding how the education budget is dispensed. The public should know what it costs to educate each child from kindergarten to the University of the West Indies. Perhaps if we had the information there would be a more balanced approach to the debate.
 The former Governor as quoted above stated  : “………..that we restructure and find ways to deliver relevant and high quality education which meet the needs of the 21st century without altering the basic social principles which have got us this far.”   She was absolutely correct.  To implement changes without “altering basic social principles which have got us this far” must be foremost in the minds and planning of any serious/progressive government.

William Skinner is a commentator on Caribbean social, political and cultural issues.


Read Dr. Williams' speech at the link below:

http://www.centralbank.org.bb/Publications/speech_7dec2004.pdf 








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