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Ministry of Education launches EPA/CSME standby facility project

Ministry of Education launches EPA/CSME standby facility project

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“Education is a very important anti-poverty pillar and weapon, and I am happy that the mechanisms being put in place are dealing with education as an important aspect; not only of national development but of regional development.”

This was the sentiment of Minister of Education St Clair ‘Jimmy’ Prince at the launch of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME){{more}} standby facility project at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conference room on Tuesday.

He noted that as a newly-elected parliamentarian, he has seen just how easy it is for persons to just tip over into poverty.

“Vulnerability and poverty is maintained by low social development indicators that affect some population groups disproportionately… Some 53 per cent of the unemployed are women, while the unemployment rate of the poor was 25.3 per cent; and groups at greatest risk included persons in rural communities including the banana farming population, members of large households and members of single parent households.”

Prince noted that programmes such as TVET are contributing to the alleviation of poverty. He stated that at the four technical institutions across St Vincent, the programme is currently training over 80 unemployed youth.

“All these initiatives are not happening by chance; it is a deliberate effort to enhance the education revolution and eliminate the scourge of poverty and indigence.”

He further explained that since the Treaty of Chaguaramas has been revised and now provides for free movement of persons across the Caribbean, Vincentian nationals can now take advantage and, once certified, can access job markets everywhere in the CARICOM region.

Prince stated that the CSME recognised a need for harmonisation of standards and quality assurance for tertiary level certification across the region.

Hence, mechanisms were put in place to regulate educational institutions and their accreditations — such as the Further and Higher Accreditation Act , which was passed in 2006, and the National Accreditation Board which was established and became functional in 2008.

“The accreditation board or unit acts as independent authority to safeguard the quality of training offered; it has no remit for content. To fulfil this mandate, the accreditation board should have the capacity to determine the bonafides of post-secondary training institutions operating in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” the minister explained.

However, the board does face a few challenges — one of which is the need to have the information technology system updated to ensure greater efficiency and delivery of service.

“The challenge with the further and higher accreditation act is that it does not address the issue of registration, and registration is mandatory to the process of accreditation,” he added.

According to Prince, the Government has already received some US$212,520 from the CSME for capacity building to support the drafting of our standing accreditation, building legislation and enhancements to the post-secondary assurance and certification system in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Also speaking at the launch was director of the National Qualification Department Dwight Lewis, who stated that the project is expected to positively impact the accreditation board and the agency which offers the TVET certificates.

“The planned outcomes of the project are… to enhance quality assurance system for post secondary institutions in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and to enhance the TVET certification system through the use of the CVQ.”

Lewis pointed out that the intended outcome would include having a fully operational system of accreditation for post secondary and tertiary institutions in SVG, to have enhanced capacity of TVET systems to issue the CVQ, and enhanced capacity of agencies to communicate effectively.

He disclosed there is currently a para-learning assessment taking place that allows for the certification of skilled workers without having them go back to a particular institution.

“We can certify their prior learning and skill on the job, hence the process PLAR.”

Additionally, they are in the process of developing a curriculum for the different occupational areas offered at the different training institutions.

“As it is now, we are not operating from the basis of curriculum, we are currently using the occupational standard for teaching. In an effort to standardise what we do across the various institutions, it is important that we have curriculum in place,” Lewis added.

There will also be the introduction of a consultancy board to raise awareness of the existence of the boards and the services that they offer.

Director of Trade Cuthbert Knights noted that the project intends to build capacity within SVG to enhance the ability to export; and will focus on improving the skills and abilities of nationals to be able to move throughout CARICOM to gain employment.

“This project will bring a much more co-ordinated approach towards the development of our services sector. So, one of the key deliverables we should see under this project is a services sector strategy which will help us to better organise our services sector,” Knights said.

He noted that there are a number of skilled Vincentian artisans and noted that they have a responsibility to put these persons in positions where they will be able to enhance said skills.

“This project will not only provide training to enhance skills through our Tec. Voc. institutions, but this project is also intending to provide training to our accreditation units.” (CM)

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