Dr. George Brathwaite

The George Brathwaite Column – What Kind of Society Do WE Want?

UWI,Cave HillAgainst the background of numerous political, economic, and social issues grabbing national headlines and our concerned attention, this past weekend was very heartening. As a proud graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI), I became washed with positive emotion while taking in the two graduation ceremonies. The graduating students were splendidly dressed not only in terms of their apparel, but more poignantly they wore consummate smiles reflecting anticipation, happiness, satisfaction, elation, relief, and that wonderful joy of overcoming.

My sincerest congratulations to the graduating classes of 2016, and to the academic and administrative staff of the UWI for reminding all and sundry that we are collectively ‘a light rising from the west’. Worthy acknowledgement is also extended to the several sponsors of students, their projects, and the accompanying events inclusive of the graduation ceremony. Without their cooperative inputs, Saturday could possibly have been somewhat dulling. Fantastic presentation, job well done!

Arguably, the collection of one’s certificate will tend to remain with the individual for a lifetime. However, I am convinced that the most conscious and awe-inspiring moment at the graduation ceremony came when the Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir George Alleyne, requested the graduates to turn to their loved ones – parents, guardians, spouses, and friends – and give them the biggest applause they have ever given to anyone. Profoundly remarkable!

It is precisely this grand act of appreciation for the loved ones and supporters, many themselves may not have graduated from university but were willing to sacrifice their time, financial and other resources, in order to make possible a positive difference in the lives of whom they supported did not go unnoticed. The mere exposure to higher education, inconsequential of class of degree, would bring a tremendous sense of achievement to the graduates.

The graduates will go back into their communities, the workplace (some for the first time), and the society with a ‘newness’ for which all advanced and developing countries strive. Their ‘enlightened’ impact will be very telling for generations to come. Indeed, the recognition of this synthesis presents quite an opportune time for us in the broader society to contemplate: “What kind of education do we need in Barbados and the Caribbean?” Attempting to respond to this simple question elicits very complex answers which fittingly encourage us to consider a different question: “What kind of society do we want?”

According to three academics, higher education exists “to create and disseminate knowledge, and to develop higher order cognitive and communicative skills in [mostly] young people, such as, the ability to think logically, the motivation to challenge the status quo, and the capacity to develop sophisticated values,” and more recently, as “a training ground for advanced vocational and professional skills”. Surely, these composite benchmarks are instrumental for building the type of society we imagine, and achieving the platitudes of investment contributions which are necessary for national development.

Furthermore, another group realising the challenges in the contemporary world assert the view that: “Today’s knowledge economy requires highly skilled personnel at all levels to deal with rapid technological changes,” in addition to meeting the “current societal needs.” In fact, Barbados and the Caribbean are grappling with issues as these relate to ensuring that higher education institutions are accessible and that wider sections of the population are exposed to programmes which are edifying for the individual and the society on a whole.

In Barbados, numerous arguments have been put to state officials by multiple stakeholders. For starters, there is now an urgent necessity to reconstruct curricula at all stages of the educational construct – inclusive of primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions. Key to this route of reform is the willingness and capabilities for attracting the best yet most cost-effective pedagogy, and the political will for implementation and assessment of policies “to ensure that all students,” by the end of their relevant classes of instruction, have attained the desired attributes and competencies for moving upward to the next level, or for entering the workplace with the enlightened capability to contribute meaningfully to national development.

A closer examination of the competencies required, reveal that subject specific and generic training and practical exposure are vital cogs for the fertilisation of attitudes and aptitudes in order to effectively build capacity in national development. As a developing society, Barbados’ labour force needs competences in a broad range of disciplines. The broad area of the natural sciences inclusive of the range of new technologies and strands of physics, chemistry, and engineering for example are particularly useful points of take-off.

Notwithstanding emphasis on the natural sciences, there is a real need for the social sciences, the arts and humanities, and importantly, the development of persons with the ability to cooperate across discipline boundaries by putting their choice discipline into a broader context. The reality is that knowledge, understanding, and the ability to act are crucial to the era that we live in.

Accompanying these points of interaction and engagement are the shaping and manifestation of the appropriate attitudes within the framework of national society and international settings. The productive and competitive spaces that characterise today’s workplace, mean that increased levels of awareness and initiative are likely to increasingly feature with regards to hiring. Research has demonstrated that people consistently identify work in one of two ways – being primarily about personal fulfilment, and serving others or about status, advancement, and income.

Again, considering higher education in the context of what kind of society do we want in Barbados and in the Caribbean, it is useful to reflect upon an essay first published in 1929 by A.N. Whitehead who wrote:

“The university imparts information, but it imparts it imaginatively. … This atmosphere of excitement, arising from imaginative consideration, transforms knowledge. A fact is no longer a bare fact: it is invested with all its possibilities. It is no longer a burden on the memory: it is energising as the poet of our dreams, and as the architect of our purposes. Imagination is not to be divorced from the facts: it is a way of illuminating the facts. It works by eliciting the general principles which apply to the facts, as they exist, and then by an intellectual survey of alternative possibilities which are consistent with those principles. … The development of students’ intellectual and imaginative powers; their understanding and judgement; their problem-solving skills; their ability to communicate; their ability to see relationships within what they have learned and to perceive their field of study in a broader perspective. [It] must aim to stimulate an enquiring, analytical and creative approach, encouraging independent judgement and critical self-awareness.”

In conclusion, the call is for all Barbadian and Caribbean peoples to embrace the value and significance of allowing for as many individuals as possible to have access to higher level education. At 50 years, our work is clearly not done, and realistically, the country and region have both progressed in other stages of development which require belief and delivery in all of our instructional institutions.

In particular, although not a statement of exclusivity blocking out vocational, technical, and professional institutions of instruction, the urge is for us to celebrate the 2016 graduates of the UWI. Let us embrace the pedagogical work and research contributions being made by the UWI on all of its campuses. There is no doubt that the deep and phenomenal significance of higher education to the national and integrated development of the Caribbean region rest with the graduates being produced and their sometimes underestimated contributions to humanity.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a part-time lecturer in Political Science at the UWI-Cave Hill Campus, a political consultant, and up until recently, he was editor of Caribbean Times (Antigua). Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com )

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98 Comments on “The George Brathwaite Column – What Kind of Society Do WE Want?”

  1. chad99999 October 19, 2016 at 1:46 AM #


    BTW, don’t forget the context of my remarks.

    I was rejecting Codrington’s foolish justification of a passive (low budget) approach to student education at UWI. His notion is that you just need to expose teenage students to a few good books, because they are mature enough to learn on their own.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Piece Uh De Rock Yeah Right - INRI October 19, 2016 at 2:06 AM #

    @ Dr. GP and Colonel Buggy.

    All I have to tell the two of you upstarts is this.

    “But we will have to keep at bay those who born with a cane bill in their hands and whose only purpose in life is to cut down…”(credit one Bernard Codrington he whom has sole divine licence to denigrate Harry Husbands or any other Democratic Labour Party inept or for that matter anything Bajan.

    By wunna comments wunna show wunna selves as dangerous can bill me who would seek to BREK down Barbados which “he who has a heavenly telephone has been told dat “Barbados going rise again” possibly under Fumbles Fools but he does not say that because Bernard Codrington is a dissembles and does not want to offend the DLP

    Love may he live this self appointed President of Pooch Lickers international

    Neither of you genuflected to he who went to UWI and have two children who went to UWI and who taught at two universities overseas.

    Wunna is real can bill men.


  3. David October 19, 2016 at 2:17 AM #

    An IDB official has commented in a local newspaper today that Barbados’ education system is not up to scratch. She based her conclusion on 2012 research.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pachamama October 19, 2016 at 5:31 AM #

    It cannot be ours to posit that there is no role for public education at the centre of our culture.

    It cannot be fair for some to presume that unless poor people are paying for an education it has to be essentially of no merit.

    Barbados has had a sizable number of private sector secondary schools in the past and the people produced were no better than from public schools.

    It is true that there has long existed a gap between public perceptions of what an education should be and what is actually produced at public and private institutions.

    It would be useful for those of us who berate current standards to consider that the perceived gaps between public education and places like Harvard, Yale, Brown and the London School of Economics lie in just that, perceptions, marketing, a reliance of foundation funding largely derived from involvement in slavery

    So profits from slavery have the potency to influence perceptions 250 years on.

    The bottom line is that there are no gulps in curriculae, just a public perception of such. A misconceived perception that one could be cued into a wealthy network after graduation.

    Yes and there are several variables within and outside the school setting which are predictive of ‘achievement’

    Are there fundamental changes needed in education? Yes

    However we cannot agree with those who seem hell bent in assuming that unless poor people are to pay for education, good standards will always be elusive.

    Critiques of public education or perceptions of quality seem to be standing in for a deeper societal malady

    The question should then be, are we expecting too much from a system created to educate ‘former’ slaves? And will there be a juncture where another mindset could be made to emerge?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. David October 19, 2016 at 5:53 AM #

    Here is the link to the BT article.

    > > http://www.barbadostoday.bb/2016/10/19/low-grade/ >


  6. Well Well & Consequences October 19, 2016 at 6:25 AM #


    I did not want anyone to say I was insulting the education system as I said, I am not familiar with the public system lower than the 6th form level, only heard some family members before they left in the 80s complain about the cracks that were appearing then in the primary, high and highers school which am told has deteriorated to extreme levels today…they do need to vet and more properly train some of the teachers, some are gems but there are too many riffraff just looking for a monthly salary.

    Then there is the jackass prime minister Fruendel with his slave mold acting as though school is a prison, school is supposed to be enjoyable, no regimental dictatorship should be involved outside of discipline, which should be a well thought out form and program., not via the slave whip.


  7. Well Well & Consequences October 19, 2016 at 6:45 AM #

    Who wants to take it as an insult, based on a few degrading high schools, who some believe are exceptional, that is their problem, the eduation system is backward and need a drastic and radical uprade as we been saying on here for years before I came along…maybe now it’s been xpos or the wold to see, the backward government and ministry officials will believe they have been for decades and still are stagnating generations of their children. Again dump, upgrade or modify the stupid common entrance exam, in 10 years it will be even more useless.

    “So you have a segregated system by assigning the students who have higher test scores to the better performing schools.

    “It is an assignment mechanism that maintains inequality, and maintains that performance gap that is observed at the entrance in the [secondary] system,” Alfonso argued.

    She said while the Ministry of Education was currently seeking grants and other assistance for the 12 underperforming schools, “there is a lot of work to be done here”.

    The IDB official went on to show that the problem was not only one of poor education, but also a lack of preparation for entry into the workforce.

    “We’re seeing that students are not necessarily well prepared to support an economy that is based on knowledge and innovation, because most of the [CXC] passes are not done on, for example in science and technology. There is still a large share of students who are doing, for example, electronic document preparation, office administration,” she said.

    Alfonso, who has a PhD in Education, also said, based on a 2012 survey, Barbadian employers shared the same complaint as their Latin American counterparts that school leavers lacked necessary soft skills – “the ability to work with other people, the ability to lead, to think critically, to respect authority, to be punctual to work, to be on time for a meeting”.


  8. peterlawrencethompson October 19, 2016 at 6:55 AM #

    I went through the Bajan education system in the 60s and 70s. It was crap. The emphasis was on behavioural compliance and rote memorisation. Any attempt at critical thinking was rigourously suppressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Exclaimer October 19, 2016 at 8:03 AM #

    UWI carrying out a ‘national values assessment’
    Added by Marlon Madden on October 19, 2016.

    In today’s Barbados Today

    A National Values Assessment is currently being carried out to determine, among other things, the views of the population on the island’s development.

    The study is being carried out by the University of the West Indies (UWI), through the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies.

    Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made the announcement today at a media conference, at which he announced plans for the remainder of the island’s 50th anniversary year of celebrations.

    “You may recall that at the launch of the independence celebrations I posed three questions to the nation. Those were: what are those features of Barbadian life that we have lost and that we need to reclaim? What are those features of Barbadian life that we have not lost and need to retain? What are those features of Barbadian life we have not lost but we have to try and discard as quickly as possible?

    “I am happy to inform you that those questions have formed the basis for a national values assessment, which is being conducted by the University of the West Indies through the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies. It is entitled Barbados At 50: The Barbados National Values Assessment 2016,” he said.

    Stuart did not give details of the study,
    stating that some preliminary results would be made public next month.

    “That primary research study will inform us of the views of the population in relation to where we are as a people at this juncture of our 50th anniversary as an independent nation. It is my hope that this seminal research will be the platform for a series of in depth studies that will inform our policy formulation, development and implementation over the next 50 years and beyond,” Stuart said.


  10. Bush Tea October 19, 2016 at 8:22 AM #

    Bajan students are EXACTLY like students everywhere else.
    ..A few are as dumb as a rock
    ..Many are barely able to discern that sugar is sweet
    ..The large majority are mediocre brass bowls at best
    ..A small number are above average and can actually do decimals correctly
    ..and a small number are world class brainiacs

    It is the NORMAL distribution bell-curve that defines all random occurrences.

    The role of a meaningful education system is to bring each of these sectors to the top of their inherent capabilities. The top class braniacs would naturally take up the challenging leadership positions and, based on merit, everyone would seek to operate at peak capacity.

    University should PRIMARILY be about refining exclusive, world-class talent to high-quality, world-beating standards…..

    What we have done instead, is find ways (by lowering standards) to hand out certification to as many people as possible – including thousands of brass bowl morons, , and then hand CRITICAL positions of responsibilities to jackasses who should really be low rate functionaries. This is why we now have top finance operatives who CANNOT explain decimals, and ‘qualified accountants’ who CANNOT complete audits.

    How the hell can someone take 7 years to complete a 3-year degree and still be considered a successful ‘graduate’ …to compete with a true genius for critical jobs?

    “Put a fool in charge and you can quickly convert heaven into hell”
    Bushie 2016

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Vincent Haynes October 19, 2016 at 8:43 AM #

    Bernard Codrington

    Could you explain

    ……why after 50 odd years with the majority of the Primary and secondary school teachers having UWI degrees,the standard of english and mathematics have not improved?

    ……. the Low grade

    Education system not up to mark – IDB spokeswoman
    Added by George Alleyne on October 19, 2016.
    Saved under Local News

    Barbados’ education system has come for severe criticism from a senior official of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), who has warned that even though the island is considered a leader in Latin America and the Caribbean, its overall level of learning is still way below par.

    ……….Why the PM requested an assessment and made the following statement…“That primary research study will inform us of the views of the population in relation to where we are as a people at this juncture of our 50th anniversary as an independent nation. It is my hope that this seminal research will be the platform for a series of in depth studies that will inform our policy formulation, development and implementation over the next 50 years and beyond,” Stuart said.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Exclaimer October 19, 2016 at 8:55 AM #

    “Can a new sweet potato help tackle child malnutrition?”



  13. Exclaimer October 19, 2016 at 9:23 AM #

    @ Colonel Buggy,

    Don’t worry Sir, i have no intention of living in Barbados. I have toiled and struggled all of my life.

    The Barbadian diaspora (especially those coming from the UK) will never be welcomed back in Barbados. Their experiences and beliefs which they would have gained and honed in a competitive and an open foreign environment would be bottled and shelved.

    The continent of Africa is where i will be relocating in the near future as i will have more room to develop and execute my ideas.


  14. ac October 19, 2016 at 10:03 AM #

    Barbadians are living in a state of denial having high expectations and standards that goes hand in hand with enormous financial support much of which barbadians are not ready to give or cannot afford.
    Our educational system would remain below par as we continue not to accept the realities and the challenges that are all tied into global standards and at high cost
    The medocrity of our education would continually be tested until the realities of those resources which are necessary enabling us to reach our highest goals
    Teachers are at the lower tier of international pay scale yet expected and demanded to achieve at optimum level.
    Govt financial resources can no longer give in a way that is beneficial to all
    Those who have benefit from the system pull only a small percentage of the desired amount for overall success


  15. Simple Simon October 19, 2016 at 10:58 AM #

    @Vincent Haynes October 19, 2016 at 8:43 AM “the standard of english and mathematics have not improved?”

    CORRECTION: You should have written, the standard of English and Mathematics HAS not improved.


  16. Vincent Haynes October 19, 2016 at 12:47 PM #

    Simple Simon October 19, 2016 at 10:58 AM #

    Chuckle…..thank you for emphasising my point as I am part of the 50 years of schooling and you are not.


  17. Georgie Porgie October 19, 2016 at 1:12 PM #

    Exclaimer October 19, 2016 at 8:55 AM #
    “Can a new sweet potato help tackle child malnutrition?”




  18. Colonel Buggy October 19, 2016 at 6:29 PM #

    Exclaimer October 19, 2016 at 8:55 AM #
    Could this orange flesh sweet potato, the same as the type commonly available here under the name of ”Carrot Potato,”among others.


  19. Simple Simon October 19, 2016 at 8:05 PM #

    The same. I had some with my coo-coo today.


  20. peterlawrencethompson October 19, 2016 at 8:17 PM #

    @Simple Simon October 19, 2016 at 10:58 AM #
    “@Vincent Haynes October 19, 2016 at 8:43 AM “the standard of english and mathematics have not improved?”
    CORRECTION: You should have written, the standard of English and Mathematics HAS not improved.”

    Actually, it should be “the standards of English and Mathematics have not improved” since there cannot exist a single standard of both English and Mathematics.


  21. Well Well & Consequences October 20, 2016 at 6:55 AM #

    Ah guess yall ain’t getting no Hystt anytime soon, no money, no cement…when swimming with the sharks, ya need a lot of bandaid. ..lol

    Hard knock


    Hahaha. .lol.., now the small time, petty crook that is Mark Maloney will know what it feels like to swim with real sharks, he could only talk down to bajans him and Bizzy, but these bad boys will let him know who is what and what for…lol

    The locally grown leeches, parasites and welfare rats in the minority community needs to be taught a valuable lesson that bajans are not equipped to teach them….lol


  22. Vincent Haynes October 20, 2016 at 9:21 AM #

    As a secular country we should have reached this stage as advocated by Joseph long ago.



  23. Vincent Haynes October 20, 2016 at 1:21 PM #

    “We need to teach our citizens, give them the basic tools to give those judgements for themselves, to come to well thought-out ­positions which they can then vote on. That gives you the government and ­determines the future trajectory of our country and the world.”


    Good thinking.


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