RATTAN KHUSHIRAM

Our laureate system is illusory. It is just the tip of the iceberg, the upper crust, the cream that hides the rot that has spread to the whole system below. After the dismal PSAC and SC results (where just a bare minimum was able to obtain 5 credits at one sitting if we exclude the star schools), we have now the yearly laureate show that camouflages the true state of the present education system and succeeds in fooling the gullible public.

Indeed, the education is in a complete mess. And what a fine mess, the educational reform is making of it!!!  Our elitist education system is failing us all – even the elite.  BUT, a huge but, at one level, it is a success. We are succeeding in subsidising the rich countries in terms of the international transfer of human capital resources (the toppers of the laureate system) to these countries. This transfer is however having a large impact on the skill structure of our labour force.

There are the powerful dynamics that are reshaping the education system to expand skills, broaden horizons and hold a competitive mirror against world standards, especially the fundamental changes in the approach to education with more emphasis on teaching people to think creatively and critically responding to the imperatives of a new economy. Equally significant are the life-long learning possibilities that will allow a succession of re-trainings and further training to equip people with the multi-skilled flexibility for the rising requirements and periodic changes that will be the characteristic of work in the coming decades.

The authorities do not seem to be aware of these developments that have not been taken on board in our education reform.  The way that the authorities are going about the reform at their own pace and in a piecemeal manner, bits and pieces, makes us doubt whether our reformers are prepared for such needed changes to overhaul the whole education system. This demands huge investment in human resources. It is indeed a formidable challenge. We doubt whether they are getting ready for the future when they don’t seem to see the future coming to them.

If we want to succeed in our reform programme and move to a higher growth platform, it has to be supported by an appropriate education and training system, we have to be sufficiently visionary in our current reform plan to realize our economic ambitions. Otherwise, it will not generate the level of skills and social cohesion necessary for not only attaining but also retaining the High-Income Economy (HIE) status.

PS: Some rectors and teachers praise themselves for their achievements, for so many laureates, for so many HSC passes, for so and so. Without undervaluing their efforts in a system that is competitive rather than collaborative, these achievements pale into comparison with a system where a collaborative effort is made to bring up the average. “Everybody is average but we ensure that the average is very high.” – Raising the average for the bottom rungs would have a profound effect on the overall result but here we are still bothered about competition and focus mainly on scores of the few at the very top and we are still not conscious of the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of our education system. Equity should be driving quality improvement not the other way round.