By Ilio Durandis
WE LIVE IN A CHANGING WORLD; one that is extremely competitive. The disparities between advanced nations and those lagging behind have never been wider at any point in human history than they are today.
Within developed and industrious nations, the gap between the haves and haves-nots are continuously growing. This trend is even more pronounced in the third world and underdeveloped countries.
There are many reasons for such divide, in a world where the majority of people believe it is a moral duty to reduce these disparities and render our world a more just and equitable place for all. There cannot be any denying that one of the best tools available to achieve this goal is a sound investment in education across the board.
As we approach the year 2015 with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in sight, many countries will be tempted to proclaim that they have achieved most of these goals, especially that of providing universal primary education to the youth of their respective countries.
As much as the MDGs must not be ignored past the year 2015, it is certainly necessary for third-world countries to take the goal of universal education to another level.
As mentioned in the beginning, the world is changing — and, at the same time, the rate of competition is rapidly expanding. In order for countries of the developing world, in this case, Haiti, to become competitive and emerge as developed nations within the next decade or so, a colossal investment in higher education is needed.
The age of digital revolution in which we are now living is redefining literacy. It is no longer about knowing to read, write, and do basic arithmetic, but, in this digital age everyone should be able to navigate the internet, understand what a search engine does, and, at the same time, have the ability to discriminate and evaluate the influx of results.
The digital revolution is making the tools for education accessible to people who might have otherwise been forgotten or left behind. Those of us already on the cusp of this digital revolution need to advocate not only for universal education, but also for an education that will lead to jobs and personal empowerment in this new era.
Haiti, as a country, has all sorts of issues to deal with, but finding tangible solutions to reform its educational system should not be one of them. And the national budget alone cannot respond to the massive investment needed to bring the country at an adequate educational level. Haitian leaders and thinkers need to be more creative and innovative regarding the ways to upgrade education in the country.
Too often education in Haiti is simply a matter of how many children are able to be in a classroom, without considering the quality and relevance of the education. This approach to education won’t lead to development, nor will it lead to making the country an emerging market by 2030.
A proposal to reform the educational system in Haiti must include the following:
1 – Strict guidelines for teachers’ licensure and training
2 – Upgrades of the didactic materials to render education more relevant to the country’s needs
3 – Setting a reasonable ceiling for the teacher/student ratio
4 – Encouraging extracurricular activities, such as sports, volunteerism, tutoring and mentoring
5 – Placing more emphasis on the practicality of “STEAM:” science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in the curriculum.
6 – Modernizing the classrooms to 21st century standards
The advance of technology has made it possible to reduce class sizes significantly, while at the same time making it possible to tailor specific educational materials based on students’ needs and interests. This is by far the best weapon to fight poverty, exclusion, and social marginalization.
If Haiti’s leaders are serious about addressing the societal issues at its core, reforming the educational system should not be used for political purposes, but rather should be the launching pad of a new Haiti.
A higher percentage of Haiti’s national budget must be allocated for education. It’s great to focus on the primary school level, but secondary and professional education must not be neglected in the process. The government alone cannot do it — Haiti must also foster an environment that will make it attractive to the private sector to invest in education as well.
A partnership between the state and the private sector could create an educational fund for university and professional studies. In that way, more Haitian youths would have access to financial means to attend post-secondary schools or trainings leading to jobs that would pay livable wages.
A better-educated nation will lead to more buying power and a better-prepared workforce. It is in the interest of everyone to promote education and to make sure that everyone has access to it. The tools of technology make it cheaper, faster and more reachable to provide education to the masses and reduce the inequality gap considerably.
Ilio Durandis, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is the founder of Haiti 2015, a social movement for a just and prosperous Haiti. He is also a columnist with The Haitian Times.