Senator the Honourable, Fazal Karim, MSTTE - Feature Address, Launch of ACTT's On-line Compendium - October 12, 2011

REMARKS
BY
SENATOR THE HONOURABLE FAZAL KARIM, MINISTER OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND TERTIARY EDUCATION
AT THE
PRESS CONFERENCE TO LAUNCH THE COMPENDIUM OF REGISTERED, ACCREDITED AND RECOGNISED INSTITUTIONS/AWARDING BODIES AND PROGRAMMES 2011-2012
AT
ALGICO PLAZA’S PENTHOUSE
ON
WEDNESDAY 12TH OCTOBER, 2011
AT 10:00 A.M.

 

PROTOCOLS
Mr. Jaggernauth Soom, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Science Technology & Tertiary Education
Ms. Angela Sinaswee-Gervais - Deputy Permanent Secretary – in the Ministry of Science Technology and Tertiary Education
Dr. Michael Dowlath, Chairman of the Board of Directors - The Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago, ACTT
Members of the Council’s Board of Directors
Mr. Michael Bradshaw, Executive Director, ACTT
Members of the Council’s Management Team
Chairman NIHERST- Mr. Jwala Rambaran
Chairman NESC- Mr. Feeroz Khan,
Chairman MIC- Mr. David Lee
CEO NTA- Mrs. Elphege Joseph
Other CEO’s and President’s MSTTE Agencies
Institution Heads and Managers
Fellow staff members
Members of the Media
Students

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The objective of education today, and is to prepare us to educate ourselves throughout our lives.


Education indeed paves the pathway for both the young and not so young to continually learn to do things differently, but making improvements every time. A good foundation helps to broaden perspectives and enrich knowledge to face a globally competitive era.


Making the right choices though remains a challenge. Today many of the world’s graduates from the tertiary and post secondary sector continue to have difficulties in finding the right jobs.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters in the UK polled over 200 firms including Cadbury, Marks & Spencer, JP Morgan and Vodafone and found the number of applications per vacancy had risen to 68.8 this year, the highest figure recorded. The most hotly sought after sector was the personal services sector where there were 205 applications for each job.

Carl Gilleard, the association's chief executive, said graduates needed to be more flexible in their career choices. "They need both short-term and long-term career goals because you're graduating in a very tough climate. It doesn't mean you should be put off applying for the profession of your choice.”

While employers continue to raise the bar by taking less graduates – those that excelled in their studies - the importance of having work experience and internships on your CV is also rising.


Graduates that can best showcase their talents and skills and possess the right attitudes usually gained from their exposure to society through the means of volunteerism, quickly springboard within the job arena. We would expect a greater presence from the University’s Careers Service in this regard.


Ladies and Gentlemen, we now exist in a global environment with a culture that values quality, quantity and demands options, which effectively reduce the shortage of information and opportunities, and products and services available.  We see it in the ubiquitous smart phones – whether it is in the Far East, Latin America or Australia – it is also available here. With very little cost, and in real-time we chat and share information on BBM with our colleagues anywhere in the world. We also witness it in the plethora of blockbuster films that dominate the silver screen month after month (some of which do not even have actors physically portrayed within them).


So to within our local tertiary education system, where we have hundreds of public and private tertiary level institutions offering certificates, diplomas, degrees and doctorates in a vast range of disciplines.  Within global institutions such as the Khan Academy changing the way we learn, with free access to over 2600 e-learning videos that support learning - from maths to physics, history to finance - just about 80 Million lessons have been delivered – all free of charge.

The insistence on quantity however, does not override the intrinsic need for quality.  After all, if given a choice, we would not purchase a smart phone plagued by a defective signal, we would not pay to view a movie that received poor reviews and we certainly would avoid enrolling in a college or university that was reputed to perform well below par.  We have been socialized to expect the best, and as we seek to implement best-practices throughout Trinidad and Tobago’s higher education system, our students, lecturers and employers are fortunate to have a vigilant watchdog in the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT).

Making Good Choices with Expanded Access


The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has set the lofty but attainable goal of a sixty percent (60%) participation rate within the tertiary education sector by 2015 (I am advised that we are currently over 30% with about 10,000 tertiary education spaces available in institutions such as UWI, UTT and COSTAATT). We are also now seeking ways of implementing a Universal Post-Secondary Education and Training Scheme.

As we strive to increase access to higher education, we will increasingly be dependent on the ACTT to conduct the necessary monitoring and evaluation. In expanding the capacity of this esector, we acknowledge the ACTT as a reliable partner to the public, committed to ensuring that our scholars are receiving quality assured instruction from schools that effectively cater to the diverse needs of our population.  

In Trinidad and Tobago, we are blessed with educational institutions supported by enthusiastic faculty members who are passionate about – and well-learned in – their fields.  Students enrolled in programmes locally are participating in some of the region’s leading curriculums – a fact that we have had our students enrolled in post graduate work in every prestigious University in the world and citizens employed by major multi-nationals across the globe.  

It was only last December that the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the College of Science, Technology and the Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) were awarded accreditation from the ACTT, confirming that they are indeed of the right calibre and can hold their own.  

These first three to receive the official ACTT stamp of approval have paved the way for others such as the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI), the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) and the Metal Industries Company Ltd (MIC), to name a few.   It is no wonder then that decision-making has become an integral part of the application process for enrolling in post secondary and tertiary institutions and programmes.  

The questions abound: Diploma or degree?  Liberal arts or the sciences?  Fulltime or part time?  Thankfully those about to be faced with this seemingly endless selection can gain further support from the ACTT that is presenting the nation with a very concise publication that provides a detailed snapshot of our local higher education landscape.

Even as the agency continues to construct a rationalized and harmonized industry-led system that demands quality, the ACTT has delivered an invaluable resource in the form of the “Compendium for Registered, Accredited and Recognised Institutions/Awarding Bodies and Programmes 2010-2011”, which I am proud to launch today.  

The content of this booklet will result in many more of our students making more diligent choices about the school they select, as well as the fields they opt to pursue, resulting in more competent and compatible graduates entering the workforce.  As such, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the agency for this public service and congratulate the Accreditation Council on behalf of the People’s Partnership Government, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education and of course, the students who stand to benefit a great deal from this project.  

Now accessible through various portals, including online, via the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), as well as secondary school libraries, this compendium has launched higher education in Trinidad and Tobago into the international arena. Within these pages, secondary school students in this nation, in this region, and most remarkably, high school students from around the world, can search the World Wide Web and access a comprehensive listing of dynamic and challenging programmes right here in our twin island state.

As it stands, we host an assortment of courses that would attract an impressive group of competent and qualified candidates from overseas.  It is my hope that the convenience of this document means that we can look forward to the day when Trinidad and Tobago experiences a healthy, two-way cultural exchange with countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.  Just as scores of Trinbagonians relocate to these – and other – nations to pursue their studies, I foresee Trinidad and Tobago aggressively positioning itself to cater to a similar exodus of foreign nationals to our shores.  

Such a diversification of our classrooms and campuses will provide our academic circles with critical international exposure and sufficiently prepare them for the challenges of the demanding world of work.
There is no reason why Trinidad and Tobago cannot be the home of the next Steve Jobs, who as we all know, revolutionized the way the world views and interacts with technology.

There is no reason why a research and development lab on this island cannot be the birthplace of the next miracle drug to cure an ailment that has plagued humanity for decades.  And there is nothing preventing one of our Performing Arts programmes from producing the next Tony Award winning actor or actress to take Broadway by storm.

While we have some ways to go, we must look towards areas of best practises. Countries like Singapore – an island nation with just close to 5 million denizens – consistently outperforming prominent developed nations, I am hard-pressed to believe that Trinidad and Tobago cannot aspire to do the same.  Only two weeks ago I had the pleasure of returning to Singapore.  Having participated in the 25th Annual Conference of Asian Association of Open Universities, in Malaysia, it was not difficult to see why these countries have a high ranking in Higher Education and Training.

While the Government continues to invest significantly in education and training, as evidenced by over $8 Billion allocated to the sector, we know that we must make a greater effort. This fiscal year will see the start of design and construction of several new administrative and students facilities including the UWI South Campus in Penal/Debe, the COSTAATT Campus in Chaguanas, the Ministry’s own Administrative Complex in Endeavour and the National Science Centre in Pt. Lisas. Special focus will also be put in the ICT sector where the demands for a large number of workers will be required in Government’s plans to bring electronic Government services – services of all Ministries - closer to the people – making it more accessible and efficient.

Many of the programmes under the Ministry have received an increased budget to support our education and training initiatives. The OJT Programme has received a $10 million increase, the GATE Programme a $25 million increase, the MuST Programme a $15 million increase, the National Training Agency a $10 Million increase, NESC a $2 million increase, YTEPP a $7 million increase, MIC an $8 million increase, NIHERST will get an additional $5 million to support more developments in the Science, Research and Technology fields, the University of Trinidad and Tobago a $16 million increase, the Higher Education Loan Programme a $3 million increase, COSTAATT will also be expanded at the pre-university sector with a $15 million increase within its budgetary allocations for fiscal 2012.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not by any measure of chance, but based on strategic outlook by your Government led by our Honourable Prime Minister, Mrs. Kamla Persad Bissessar.

Following a meeting with all the Chairmen and CEOs of the eleven public entities under my Ministry, we are in a process of implementing several new and innovative models in tackling key challenges in the higher education and training sector such as:

  1.  Providing higher quality education without higher fees
  2. Efficiently using of our finances to improve both the teaching and learning process and the requisite facilities within the institution
  3. Training our  young people to succeed as entrepreneurs
  4. Empowering future generations to be more creative and meet demands of a more sustainable and competitive diversified economy.

You will hear more about these initiatives being undertaken by the Ministry within the next few weeks.


Conclusion


Ladies and Gentlemen, the time has come for us to take our place as a leader in this region and the world in the fields of education and training.  We are a nation burgeoning with talent, and populated with brilliant scholars and talented artists.  We are a nation on a steady course defined by productivity and we boast an educational system that is becoming increasingly seamless in the articulation of our students from nursery right through to tertiary.  The ACTT has now presented us with The Compendium that not only illustrates the organisation’s dedication to quality education, but also highlights the emphasis that this Government continues to place on the educational advancement of each and every one of our citizens and I would again like to thank the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago for this tremendous contribution.   

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to invite all secondary school students and their parents to capitalize on this year’s edition of the Compendium for Registered, Accredited and Recognised Institutions/Awarding Bodies and Programmes as they begin the tedious but invigorating process of mapping out their academic futures.  It will indeed serve you well.

God bless.