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Bannister: More Focus to be placed on Education

FREEPORT-Following comments made by Polymers International CEO Gregory Ebelhar on the lack of educational qualifications among Bahamians to meet the requirements for most companies, Education Minister Desmond Bannister said that more focus is being placed on education with the creation of an experimental school to examine what works.

At the recent Grand Bahama Business Outlook, Ebelhar said that one of the challenges for long-term growth in Grand Bahama and the rest of the country is the constant push for Bahamianization when the educational qualifications of the workforce do not meet the requirements of many companies.

With the current state of its education system, The Bahamas cannot compete against the world or even in the Caribbean, he said.

“When coupled with Bahamianization, companies that must compete in the world market are being asked to compete with one arm tied behind their back, mostly at the general labor level,”Ebelhar said.

When questioned on the matter, Bannister said that nowadays students that complete school in The Bahamas are competitive with those anywhere in the world.

“They(students)are highly competitive, they can go into universities anywhere in the world and they have been and are doing very well. That does not mean though, that we are going to be complacent in education. In September we will open our experimental school in the capitol to see what works in The Bahamas, how it works and what are the ways that we will change education over the years to come. We are going to do it based on data and scientific measures not just guessing what should be done,”he said.

“The ability of Bahamians to do any job I believe in an unqualified way is where you have to provide specialized training for jobs. We have to be able to provide that type of training.

“The Ministry is developing the Inspire Program to ensure that our high school education in the public sector has an element of technical education that we did not have previously. We are looking to continue that develop program, but I do not see young people coming out of schools anywhere else in the world who have any qualifications that Bahamians do not have. I don’t see it and I would like anybody to show or tell me otherwise.”

Elebhar had charged that there are many talented Bahamians who have amassed educational credentials, but who have never returned home, while there are so many more persons that remained in The Bahamas and have not been able to acquire a quality education.

“Bahamianization has insulated the Bahamian worker from the real world for too long,”he said.

Pointing to the many Bahamian athletes who have excelled internationally over the years, Ebelhar put the question to the audience that if they were able to compete against others in the world and succeed, why is it believed that the Bahamian worker needs protection.

“Why do we not aspire to making the Bahamian worker the best in the world?As stated before, the key is changing behavior and attitudes. Instead of,’I should have this job because I am Bahamian,’would it not be more empowering to be able to say,’I am the best at this job and I earned it’?”he said.

Meanwhile Bannister said that the Ministry of Education is developing more avenues for technical education, especially in Grand Bahama.

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