Mauritius has been able in the past to provide an education system which responded to the aspirations of the people for a better future. Small planters, artisans and labourers wanted their children to move up the socio-economic ladder and the way to achieve this was through education. Our education system has evolved during the years to respond to these aspirations and to make Mauritius achieve a level of competencies that other countries, particularly in Africa, could only dream of.
But the world has not remained static, and countries which were behind Mauritius in social and economic development are fast catching up with us. If we do not today take into consideration the new challenges facing the world, and the new technologies that will help us overcome them, our future will be bleak.
Let me be blunt. We cannot continue to wear blinkers. We have to change our mindset and stop fooling ourselves that the highly competitive end-of-primary examination based on bookish knowledge is the only passport to future success. We cannot put a premium on academic education to the detriment of skills required in the world of work. We cannot continue prioritizing the setting up of universities with a few hundred students and ignore the need for middle-level technicians and managers.
In the light of the economic crisis facing the world, particularly Europe, many countries have woken up to the fact that they have not given the required impetus to the development of skills. The Australian government has this year announced an ambitious plan to make all Australians of working age have access to skills development. The plan will cost A$ 9 billion over the next five years. What is implicit in the plan is that continuing skills development is a must in a fast changing ICT driven world environment.
Singapore is keeping abreast of developments in the new technologies to make its enterprises competitive in a world economy dominated by cut throat competition. In its education system, which it appropriately terms ‘education journey’ it shows how it channels its students along three main routes with only 26% moving to Universities and 43% to Polytechnics which have more and better resources than our Universities.
Today no young person who starts working in a particular job will remain in that job all his life if s/he does not upgrade her/his skills regularly. Continuing training has become a must for the worker, for industry and for the country. We quarrel over petty things and do not notice that the ground is shifting under our feet. ICT is now the guiding force in education, in the home and in industry at large. It is one of the basic life skills like mathematics and an appropriate language. We will be wrong if we think that a car mechanic or even a carpenter/joiner or a plumber does not need to have a working knowledge of ICT. As  Eric Schmidt,                the Executive Chairman of Google said, British economy will thrive if ICT becomes like child play. The proposal of the MMM to provide free skills development opportunities to all children between the ages of 16 and 20 who are not at school or in employment should be given serious consideration as school education is already free up to the age of 20.