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Only five post-secondary institutions registered to operate in SVG – Gilchrist

Only five post-secondary institutions  registered to operate in SVG – Gilchrist

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Chief Education Officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist is once again imploring persons to check with the National Accreditation Board (NAB) before embarking on studies with post-secondary establishments here.{{more}}

Gilchrist told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that while there are five post-secondary institutions registered to operate in St Vincent and the Grenadines, there are other establishments operating here without being registered, a matter she says that is causing a problem.

“When it comes to education at that level, we have to be sure that the certification that is offered is conferred by an accredited institution, whether this institution is based in St Vincent and the Grenadines or abroad…,” Gilchrist said.

Declining to name those establishments which are operating without being registered, the chief, however, stated that the institutions in question offer a range of programmes, leading to associate degrees, diplomas and even doctorates.

The five post-secondary institutions which are registered by the Accreditation Board are: The St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College, the National Centre of Technological Innovation (NCTI), the Trinity School of Medicine, All Saints University and the St James School of Medicine.

According to the chief, when an individual invests money for a qualification, that qualification must be authentic, portable and come from a certified, accredited institution that is recognized world-wide.

“We have a growing problem here in St Vincent, in that, given the thrust in the education revolution and the thirst for higher education, we have a quite a number of our citizens accessing post-secondary or tertiary level education. I have to admit, not all persons seeking education at that level, do so with the prudence and diligence that is required,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist said some persons embark on courses of study without even having the prerequisites for entering such program.

“How can you, let us say, if you have four or five CSEC passes, reasonably believe that you can be accepted into an accredited MBA programme and in three or five months gain an MBA… You have to be diligent when seeking an institution of higher learning,” Gilchrist beseeched.

“It would be a waste for our nationals to invest in programmes that are not accredited nor have no value. I’m sure if you check online there is no end of programmes being advertised. The way that these programmes are advertised, attracts your attention. Some people might think they have three CSEC passes and, feel they can get a Masters degree in five months from these programs for just $50, 000. It is too good to be true,” she added.

Meanwhile, senior education officer responsible for Accreditation Decima Hamilton told SEARCHLIGHT that quite a number of persons have been duped by these establishments.

“There are establishments with a physical presence here in St Vincent and the Grenadines operating. The qualifications from these institutions do not have any currency. Upon looking at the certification issued, the supporting documents, when we investigated, we have been advised that the origins have been questionable,” she said.

While these questionable establishments are prevalent both here and online, Hamilton said the persons have who commit to these establishments, have invested and lost large sums of money.

“We do have people who have invested quite a bit. There are a number of sad stories we have encountered and the onus is now on us to see to what extent we can assist the public in making more sensible decisions,” she said.

“We can’t give you back that cash nor can we take that person to court. The best thing for you to do is to come and check with us, please!”

Hamilton said just last week, one person attempted to register with one of these establishments here and was given a quotation of $13,000, just to commence the programme.

Hamilton said background checks on these institutions sometimes take a while, but noted that very often, her office is able to respond to the prospective student within less than 24 hours. She said the waiting period sometimes entails them checking with their colleagues around the region.

Hamilton said some of these questionable institutions have a physical presence in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and aggressively market their services.

The senior education officer said registration and accreditation of an institution do not happen immediately, but follow a process.

“We move from registration and then to the accreditation phase. You can have a facility that is seeking registration and are already offering courses that are accredited by recognized and reputable institutions, and that will make it easier for us. When it comes to their full accreditation, half the work is already done,” she added.

“If the institution that you are currently conducting your studies [at] is not among these, you need to come to us so we can tell you whether the person has submitted an application to be registered,” Hamilton advised.

Gilchrist stated that the Accreditation Unit is working earnestly to ensure that the institutions that operate in this country are registered, so that they know who they are in order for them to provide advice to the public as to the quality of the programs they offer and as to the quality of the institutions overseas, with which they say they are affiliated.

She further stated that the accreditation board is nestled in the Ministry of Education and includes representatives of various entities, including the Ministry of Education, the Bar Association and the Medical Association, among others.

The National Accreditation Board operates under the Further and Higher Education Act (Accreditation Act), number 35 of 2006. Under the Act, the Board has the power to accredit institutions and programmes of study in St Vincent and the Grenadines and elsewhere.

Gilchrist stated that the Act governs the operation of any provider of further and higher education services in this country.

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